A Different Kind Of Cool Library

Human Library, Living Books


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Have you ever been to a Human Library?  Here you can check out Living Books, and on Saturday I did just that. The Salt Lake County Library System gathered a variety of people, i.e., books who were willing to share their life experiences and brought them together with readers who wanted to hear their stories.

A Muslim Raised in Apartheid                                     A Non-Tiger Mom

I chatted with a retired soldier who had been involved in every American conflict since Viet Nam.  One man, a Muslim, told of being raised in apartheid South Africa, and another who was known as the Tom Brokaw of Iraq, recalled fleeing for his life after speaking up one too many times. I talked with a woman about the terror and the joy of escaping a life of polygamy, then discussed educational theory with a non-tiger Mom. There was an urban farmer, a polio survivor who climbed mountains, as well an author, a songwriter an artist,  a member of the LGBTQ community and many more.

Musician                                                                 LGBTQ Community

The Living Books festival originated in Denmark in 1993. The city had experienced a strong societal shift due to a large number of immigrants,  and the new and old members of the population were not getting along. The first Human Library was aimed at giving people a chance to sit down together as neighbors. It was an opportunity to break down barriers and prejudice, and it serves the same purpose today.

“This event gave people a chance to talk with someone they wouldn’t ordinarily meet,” said the Imam of the Salt Lake Islamic society. “When you bring people from opposite ends of the social and political spectrum together in a  non-judgmental setting, a lot good can come of it.”

“We’ll do this again next year,” said Liesl Seborg,  coordinator of the event.  “Hopefully everyone will come back and bring their friends.” And that’s what it’s all about – friends.  The people who attended today have some new friends to show for it, and judging by all the animated conversations and smiling faces, the event was a great success.

DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER

National Library of Spain

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One of the Largest Cool Libraries

This is the largest library in the country of Spain, and also one of the largest in the world. Don’t miss it when you visit Madrid.

The National Library of Spain was founded in 1712, and like the Trinity, in Dublin, it’s a patent library, which means every printer in Spain is required to donate a copy of every book they publish. Think about that for a minute . . . every single book since 1712. Needless to say, the library now has a  collection of over 26 million items, which includes 15 million books, 30,000 manuscripts, as well as music scores, newspapers, and maps. It’s the brick and mortar version of the internet!  

The National Library has been around through good times and bad. In the 1930s, during the dark days of the Spanish Civil war, the librarians were called upon to house and preserve over 500 thousand books that were confiscated from churches, palaces, and private residences. I can’t imagine this won them any popularity contests, but they didn’t have much choice. Continue reading

Spectacular Libraries of Paris

Most people don’t go to Paris to see the libraries . . . but maybe they should.

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The Mazarine

When you think of Paris, what comes to mind? Is it Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre  . . .  the libraries? If that last one wasn’t at the top of your list, maybe you should think again. The City of Lights is home to some of the most spectacular libraries in the world, and the fact that they’re all packed into a relatively small area makes library hopping a fun and unusual way to experience this amazing city.

For an interesting glimpse into Parisian culture and history, try touring some of these monuments to creativity and architectural genius.  Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne

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Sorbonne University maintains one of the most beautiful libraries in Paris. Located in the 5th arrondissement, the Sorbonne Library is known for its stunning architecture and elegant décor. The result is a peaceful atmosphere, the perfect place for reading and study.

Visiting hours are Monday-Friday and one Saturday per month
17 rue de la Sorbonne 75005
Check out the website here

St. Genevieve Library

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This amazing space was created by French architect, Henri Labrouste.  Known for its light and airy feel, its delicate iron arches give it a French Quarter, New Orleans feel. St Geneviève is a public, and university library which inherited much of its collection from St. Genevieve Abby. The building was completed in December 1850 and opened to the public on February 4, 1851.

Location:10 Place du Panthéon,
75005 Paris, France

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Trinity Library in Dublin

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Walking into the long room of the old Trinity library is like stepping into a Harry Potter Movie. In fact, many people believe the scenes in Hogwarts library were filmed at Trinity,  but it was actually the Bodleian at Oxford University.

My mother and I were visiting Trinity Library to see the Book of Kells, a famous illuminated manuscript from the year 800 A.D. As we made our way to the display area, so did about a thousand other people and we felt like we’d been dropped in the middle of a K Mart on black Friday.  We managed to get a cursory glimpse at the famous book, before deciding we’d had enough.  After extricating ourselves from the mob, we made our way upstairs where it was quieter and where I’d been told there was a nice library.

Continue reading

National Library of Ireland

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Is this a beautiful Library or what?  Like Trinity, the National Library of Ireland is also located in Dublin, so this city is the lucky host of two cool libraries.

Established in 1877, this is a research library rather than a lending library, and it holds a large quantity of Irish and Irish-related material which can be consulted without charge.

There’s a quiet air of study and concentration here and I didn’t feel we should wander around and disturb people, so we just stuck our heads in and ogled this breathtaking space. Also took a couple of pictures.

If you’re in the neighborhood, check it out!

National Library of Ireland

By YvonneM – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,