11 May 2008

List:: Libraries-- The Hot and the Fugly

As a graduation present to myself, I am dishing the dirt on awesome and not-so-awesome libraries as I've witnessed them over the past year.

Some of these libraries I've frequented over months. Most of them, I just happened to visit for one day, so I am by no means an expert on them. Some of the negative experiences I had were inevitable and not entirely influenced by the libraries themselves. This is mostly a look back on the fun and the crappy things that have happened during my travels. To protect the libraries where I've had bad experiences, I've omitted the name and location in the text I've written.

The Hot Library Mamas!

~Sexiest Overall Library~

Thomas Jefferson Building @ Library of Congress
Washington DC

So... sexy... Couldn't... breathe...
Thomas Jefferson's books!... Hot!

~Hottest Teen Section~

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh - Main
Pittsburgh, PA

I mean, I know I work here and all... But it really is a glorious space with plenty of computers, lots of happening programming, and an awesome staff.

~Most "Sad but Awesome" Teen Section~

Washington County Free Library
Hagerstown, MD

This library does not actually have a teen librarian but they do have a pretty sweet teen loft with all types of materials for teens.

~"Warmest Atmosphere" Library~

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh- Homewood
Pittsburgh, PA

The first time I went, a teen told us, "Welcome to the best library in town." The second time, I got a tour from the teen librarian. Good times!

~Most Personally Inviting Library~

Martin Luther King, Jr. Library
Washington DC

I got kicked out of this teens-only area. However, being invited to apply for a position in their system because I'm multilingual-- now that's hospitality!

~Most "In a Touristy Area With No Parking So Let's Do This Quick" Library~

Free Library of Philadelphia - Independence
Philadelphia, PA

This one was taken while our ride drove around the block. A true drive by shooting!

~Most Beautiful Natural Light Library~

Julia Yates Semmes Public Library
San Antonio, TX

Glass windows. Access to a park. This is the first library I worked at and it really nurtured my teen librarian spirit. Thanks Semmes!

~Most "I Can't Believe I'm Here!" Library~
Gettysburg Library
Gettysburg, PA

Yup. The Gettysburg. As in the Address. And this is their library! Wicked.

~Most Surprising Library~
Avalon Public Library
Avalon, PA

A former Christian Science church. Nice. This is a small library and a lot of moolah went into it. Fancy chairs, fancy earth globe, fancy grandfather clock.

~Most "It's Freaking Cold Here But Gotta Have My Jumpy Picture" Libraries~

Alderman Library @ University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA

Good god! So *cold*! I may never have been this cold in my life.

~Most Nurturing Library~

Coates Library @ Trinity University
San Antonio, TX

I first debated going to library school when I worked here as an undergrad. Look at me now!

~Most Awesome Surroundings Library~

Wilderness Branch Library
Orange County, VA

It's in the wilderness! Aaaaaaaahh! Being swallowed up by trees! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

~Most Majestic Library in a Small Town~

Greensburg Hempfield Area Library
Greensburg, PA

This library is so big that this is the best picture we could take without getting me run over!

~Most "Icon of Modernity" Library~
Central Library
San Antonio, TX

My future home!

This library is very special to me. When it was first built, many people didn't like it so much. They started calling it the "enchilada-red library." I always thought it was a very cool building, though it is a bit of a space hogger.

The Inevitably Fugly

~Most Aesthetically Challenged Library~

Man, we have seen some fugly library buildings in our time. But geez. This one. Like an unfortunate dog whose front looks much like its rear, we could only assume that this was the entrance to the library.

Not much to see here, folks.

~Most Disappointing Library~

This library is housed in a building that's not quite atrocious. The service, however, has much to be desired. Not only do they not have Wi-Fi, but at least one staff member appears to be largely unaware that there is such a thing as wireless internet. They just may, in fact, call it "the internets" on the rare occasion that someone asks for help.

~Most "What? You're Closed Already? It's Not Even Five Yet!" Library~

We drove a long, long way to see this library only to... have it be closed when we got there. Before it was even supposed to be closing time, it looked dead dead dead. Thanks for the info, library!

~Most "What? You're Never Really Open, Are You?" Library~

The "Bibliotheek" sign in the picture here should give you a clue that this one is not located in the States.

And it was open 2 hours a week. Weekdays only. At different times. It was so easy to show up on the wrong day, wrong time, wrong planet!

As much as I loved it there, I pretty much figured that I couldn't really be a librarian if I were ever to move there.

~Most Elusive Library~

Where is this library? We printed out maps... We drove around for a while... We found the address... It was completely gone... It just... disappeared...

~Most Predatory Library~

I know I look happy in the picture, but this was before the $17 parking ticket we got in the shady parking lot next to it. A sign made it sound like one does not have to pay after 6pm but we were wrong to hope that a parking lot close to the library would be at least straightforward.

~Most Obnoxious Red Tape Library~

The librarians I spoke with personally were helpful. When I showed interest in their library and they saw my camera, I was basically told that I would make some people very unhappy, since it is a popular library for a peculiar cult following. There was just so much red tape so that I could take a picture of their library-- a major setback to the feeling of warmth. This is the worst experience I've had, I'm afraid to say.


As a whole, I do try to see the positive. These fugly libraries are-- well, let's face it. They did not harm me permanently or anything. I'm positive that there are things that they must do very well that I did not see at all. I just have to describe my experience the way I saw it. After all, being on the other side of the desk-- a patron like any other-- helps me see what works and what doesn't in libraries. I'm always on the lookout for ways to help patrons have pleasant trips to the library, whenever possible.