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Archive for November, 2009

Hooray for the New Cambridge Library!

Posted by samgr on November 17, 2009

So I’m taking a couple weeks of vacation to get my affairs in order.  Thought it would be a good time to give the old blog some love.

Basically the most important that has happened in the recent past is the much-awaited opening of the NEW CAMBRIDGE MAIN LIBRARY, which is amazing. The old Richardsonian brick building was completely fixed up, and a new super-green, super-glassy, super-modern wing was also added. Here are my impressions, in no particular order.

1) IT IS HUGE AND BEAUTIFUL
The combined building is really gigantic now, which is awesome. Lots of great spaces for reading and browsing, nice open shelves. The renovated old building is particularly gorgeous, with dark wood-paneling and restored WPA murals that tell the story of the history of books and printing. The new wing is very nice, too. Spacious, with lots of great view to the park outside through gigantic windows which basically make up one huge wall of the building. There’s a great kids section which takes up the whole top floor of the new wing and totally would have been my favorite place in the world when I was 10 or something. There’s also a gerbil cage built into the info desk up there, which I’m sure is great for kids, but possibly not the best thing for the gerbils.

2) BOOK ARRANGEMENT IS SLIGHTLY WONKY
Don’t get me wrong, I love the building and layout, but there are a few exceptions. Why banish adult fiction to the windowless basement, along with graphic novels and sci-fi? That’s kind of sad, since that’s where I’ll be looking the bulk of the time. I think I read somewhere that one of the head librarian’s conditions for the building was not to squirrel away the kid’s section in the basement. I’m all for that, but why do it to fiction instead? Why not put fiction in the nice old building’s second floor, which is now given over to office space that visitors can’t go up to?
The old building also has a big beautiful reading room, which for some reason is where the large print books are. Maybe this is so there won’t be much traffic there to disturb readers (and what traffic there is will be quiet elderly people), but it still seems a little arbitrary. There is a big YA section in the old building, which is a great idea.

3) TEN COMMANDMENTS
The old building also has a truly gigundous ten commandments taking up one whole wall, which is problematic for obvious reasons. The library’s solution is that they have sort of a screen-curtain-thing that they pull over to cover it most of the time. This seems fine, although I wonder how they decide when to pull it down and when to leave it up — just in response to alternating complaints? I almost would rather they just let the ten commandments stay, it’s part of the building and is more or less a historical artifact. But I understand the issue. Maybe they could have put up things from other belief systems to contextualize it? I don’t know; it’s a tricky line to walk.

4) NO BULLETIN BOARD, SAD
The library doesn’t seem to have any kind of community board or wall-space for info about performances and such. This seems like a lost opportunity for a such a great community building.

5) THAT’S ALL FOR NOW
Basically the library is amazing and I’ll be spending a lot of time there. Congratulations to the city and the librarians for putting together something so awesome!

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