Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Public Libraries I've Loved

First of all, I should say how much I love public libraries; getting a library card is one of the first things I do when I move to a new place. This isn't meant as a dig at awesome university libraries, the Library of Congress, etc. But public libraries are something special. So here's a list of places I've held library cards:

1. Emma S. Clark Memorial Library on Long Island: where it all began. Their quiet little periodicals room with the stained-glass angel, the mural of a carnival hanging in the children's section, the dictionary their staff bought me for volunteering at the summer reading program. I still have my first library card, circa 1988.

2. Northampton, Massachusetts: home not only to the typical public library-ish things, but to the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library!

3. Missoula, Montana: Despite not knowing anyone when I moved there one summer, I had a very pleasant couple months-- when I wasn't at work I did a lot of walking my landlady's dog, riding my bike (the bike was a story in itself--yellow with pink spots, cruiser handlebars, no gears, back-pedal brakes) around town, visiting the farmers' markets and cooking stuff, and--most of all--lying on various riverbanks and reading.

4. Arlington, Virginia and Washington, DC (twice each): DC libraries are the only ones I've been to where you go through a metal detector on the way IN. But the selection is very good (especially if you request books online so they can be shipped to your home branch), they have great, free, ASL classes, and they provide such a community hub. Arlington libraries are a little less gritty, but serve the same role and have books in so many languages! One day, I'd really like to serve on the Board of Trustees for the DC library (Mayor Fenty, if you read this, call me!).

5. Ann Arbor District Library: They're doing a great job--serving substantial populations of immigrants, students, young children, long-time Ann Arbor residents, homeless folks, etc. Their director has the BEST southern accent. There's a vending machine section by the periodicals so you can have hot cocoa while you read magazines. They stay open til 9 most nights and have free wireless. The buildings are beautiful, and the main one is right across the street from the city's central bus station so it's easy to get there by public transit. My only complaint is that they put some copies of popular books as "zoom lends" which cost a dollar to take out--I know it's probably a great revenue stream for them, but it seems so undemocratic and I won't do it, on principle. It's not like there aren't great books in the non-zoom section to read while I wait.

I also love the new central library in Minneapolis, the Del Ray branch of the Alexandria libraries, and the fact that the Clayville, NY library let a couple get married there.

And you? What libraries do YOU love?

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