I Can't Stop Looking At Library Porn

We stalk the latest and hottest libraries, hoping for a glimpse deep inside, and like paparazzi, we swarm around gala openings and ribbon-cutting events in the hopes of that ephemeral perfect shot.

Mar 20, 2012 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

I spend a lot of time looking at library porn, when I’m not perusing tiny house blogs.

I’m not particularly fussy about the kind of library; I’m an equal opportunity library objectifier. I love looking at well designed public libraries, like the Seattle Public Library, which has this amazing and intense structure:

image

I’m also partial to secret libraries, or restricted access academic libraries, which may be a holdover of smugness from the days when I, too, was an academic and could boldly march into libraries where others could not, swanning through special collections like I owned the place1.

Old libraries tend to be especially cool with all their architectural flourishes and ornamentation and cool floors. These things may not be terribly practical for the people actually working in those libraries, but this is not my concern. My concern is whether things look pretty.

image

Seriously, library designers 100 years ago (and more) knew how to party. They understood that books need a showcase equal to their excellence, convenience and usability be damned. They knew about the impact of an epic sweeping staircase and a collection of weird gothic globes and mysterious sconces and weird alchemical symbols on the floor. Building materials were comparatively cheap and aesthetics tended toward the baroque, which dovetails handily with my interests. Why gild one lily when you can gild two?! 

The library should be a deep, mysterious, intriguing place to reflect the contents of its amazing collections. Modern library design is sleek and beautiful in its own way, and I do enjoy looking at it, but I get a little nostalgic looking at stuff like this:

image

I mean, come on. Seriously. That’s amazing. Tell me that’s not amazing.

I know that for librarians and archivists and related professionals, old buildings are a huge pain in the butt to work in, and I totally respect that they want renovated facilities to offer better services to patrons and protect the collections more effectively. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop looking at library porn, though, because it’s just too darn beautiful.

And of course I look lustfully at home libraries. I’m unlikely to ever need something this intense for my own personal collections:

image

Even I’m not that ambitious, you know? But something like this, now, I could totally get behind:

image


OK, actually, that's pretty ambitious. But whatever.  

It’s so excellent! I would love to have a workspace like that. Lots of natural light, plenty of room to spread out projects in progress, lots of shelving and access, and what looks like multimedia access as well, which makes sense, because this particular library/studio belongs to a filmmaker. This is the kind of thing I dreamed of when I was a small child.

Some people dreamed about the fancy houses they’d buy when they grew up and/or won the lottery, but I never really thought about what the rest of my house would look like, only the library. My father found a drawing of mine from early childhood that apparently reflected my idea of a dream home...and all it contained was a library. A really big cool library with a tower and windowseats and lots of squashy furniture and tiled floors that would click satisfyingly underfoot. And, of course, fireplaces.

image

So yeah, I’m totally not ashamed of my porn habit, or the thousands of images of libraries from around the world I have squirreled away on my hard drive. Or the fact that when I visit new places, I usually have two things I really want to do: Hit the local cemetery, and check out a library or two. Luckily most of my friends know me well enough to oblige, but sometimes other people think it’s deeply, deeply weird.

A library can tell you a lot about the people who use it, though. Stuffy academic libraries attached to ancient institutions versus sleek, light-filled hipster libraries trying to represent the cutting edge in library science. The home library with uniformly bound books that look suspiciously like they were bought by the foot versus one covered in a colorful array of books exploding from every crevice, each one showing signs of hard use.

I’m always looking for new sources of library porn and my brethren are too. We furtively slip each other links or email each other pictures in the dead of night with our latest finds. We stalk the latest and hottest libraries, hoping for a glimpse deep inside, and like paparazzi, we swarm around gala openings and ribbon-cutting events in the hopes of that ephemeral perfect shot. Our money shots may be filled with books and architectural ornaments, but they’re still pretty damn satisfying.


 

1. Not really. I had to ask the librarian like everyone else and wear the little gloves and everything. Fun fact, though: Not one but TWO academic libraries have broadsides that I produced. Neat, eh? Maybe you’ll stumble across one of them someday, students! Return