Posted by: ktzefr | October 9, 2012

On Libraries — a thing of the past?

The odor of libraries, especially old ones, lingers in my memory.  A few years ago I went back to my college library and found a spanking new interior with considerable open space and a circle of computers.  The building was much brighter than I recalled and it seemed as if all the dark, quiet hiding places amongst the stacks had been obliterated.   It didn’t smell the same.

This was disappointing, but then I realized that one of my favorite libraries doesn’t look, smell, or feel like a library at all.  Biblioteca Publica de San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato, Mexico is unusual in a number of ways.  It’s the second largest bilingual library in the country with more than 60,000 volumes divided equally between Spanish and English, and there are free classes in music, art, English, and science.  The library’s colonial building has a central courtyard where you can grab a book from the shelves and sit in the sun and read beneath the trailing bougainvillea.  There’s a gift shop, too, and a small theater used for both movies and live performances.  An open-air cafe serves breakfast and lunch, has wireless internet, and even offers a daily happy hour.  La Biblioteca’s book scents are sometimes overpowered by those other wonderful smells — good food and flowers. 

Stop by any afternoon and you may find a lively chess game in progress; on Sundays the local house and gardens tour begins at La Biblioteca  with live entertainment.  Now, that’s my kind of library! 

At La Biblioteca Publica, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett


But the way we borrow books is changing.  Check out these 65 New-Age Libraries — from LED-lit to book-lending trucks.  In the end it’s the reading that matters, but I still love the old scents and/or the odd scents of a building full of books.

Do you have a favorite library?  Do you use the library these days or has the internet taken its place at your house?



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