I admittingly was one of those cynics. As I needed more resources to study, the library seemed like the most cost effective solution to this problem. I found a few of my local branches ample in finding information and being a great place to work(free wifi!), but they could only go so far in having everything I was looking for. When I searched their computer system, normally I’d find a copy of a particular book at a random branch in the valley, but also another at the Central Library. Always.
Last week, I washed my big boy pants and after they dried I headed downtown to give it a real look. I’ve been to the Central Library before, but just in passing. This time, I was determined to wander.
That was my first mistake. Our main library is one that is worthy for a city of our magnitude. You wouldn’t guess that it’s the third largest public library in the nation as its size is deceptive from the outside. The three symmetrical entrances that funnel you into a darkly lit lobby adds a bit to the disorientation, but this is actually your leaping off point.
You can branch off into many different directions, but your eye immediately gets drawn to the large expanse of the eight story atrium of the Tom Bradley wing. Even though the volume created from the enclosed stacks makes the space look utilitarian, it’s a welcoming contrast from the space you just left.
You have your choice of levels to enter from here, but you’ll choose based on need, not the aesthetic possibilities. Every floor has virtually the same layout. While the main downside is a lack of natural light, the one thing you’ll note are the number of information desks on every floor. What it lacks in beauty, our library makes up for in purpose.
Roaming the books, you’ll instantly notice the variety you won’t see in your local branch. There is such a depth, that keeping track must be a herculean job. The librarians do a remarkable job, as I have been pretty successful finding the title that my old friend Mr. Dewey Decimal pointed me towards.
It seems a bit overwhelming at first. I realize I could spend hours here. All it takes though are a few precious seconds to open a book. Recognizing that within this morass of information that you can hold something physical that’s so specific and unique to you is calming.
Once you’ve caught your breath, there’s even more space to explore. Heading back to the original core, you’ll find more unique spaces upstairs. First, you’ll witness the main atrium. It’s tall, domed and filled with mosaics and artwork depicting our city’s history. The lighting is very pleasing to the eye. You wish there was seating to enjoy this opportunity, but the acoustics of screeching chairs moving might negate it.
Some of the rooms off to the side have a similar coziness, also giving a nod to our missionary past. They tend to be darker, which dignifies the spaces more. Makes me feel like Will Hunting.
If there is one large disappointment on my trip, it was the children’s space. Not for it’s design or content, but that it was void of people. I came by a little after four on a weekday. In all the other branches I’ve been to, I’ve always seen children, especially after school has let out. For a space with that amount of resources, it should never be completely empty. I’ve heard people refer downtown to a stroller community, so hopefully kids will arrive in near time.
Ultimately, I spent almost two hours roaming the library. It seems like a lot, but I still feel like my review is incomplete. That may be the point. There’s too much there to truly appreciate it all. You shouldn’t be there to think, but immerse. Enjoy.