Magazine article American Libraries

The Lofty Goals of Architecture

Magazine article American Libraries

The Lofty Goals of Architecture

Article excerpt

Carnegie library. Maybe I'm a sentimental old fool, but just the sound of those two words brings back memories of my childhood in Armada, Michigan. The Carnegie experience was for me a classic mid-20th-century rite of passage. Ascending those steps to the house of knowledge. Guided by the bespectacled and kindly librarian to the right books at the right time. The whole spiel.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

For many of us who had that kind of library experience as children (and I'm well aware that there are many--librarians and public alike--who did not), there is a soft spot in our hearts (and maybe our heads) for those venerable old buildings. Is it foolhardy to think that Carnegie libraries can be made functional in the 21st century?

I remember going back to Armada as an adult and being disappointed at the price the old building had paid for progress: a modern addition that had at least doubled the space of the old library but that had been slapped on with little regard for the architectural integrity of the original. The children's room where I'd learned to venerate the life of the mind was being used for storage. The steps I had ascended with pride were unused in favor of an accessible but boring entrance at ground level. …

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