The Week(s) in Library Land: July 21 - August 3
Two weeks in one! What is that all about? It’s about time getting away and being super-busy. Besides, The New Yorker does two-week Summer Reading issues, so here’s ours!
Waaaay back on July 22, there were visits to two libraries in Brockton (So-called “City of Champions” for Rocky, Marvelous Marvin, and high school football). The Brockton Main Library is pretty amazing. The original building is a Carnegie library that was renovated in the early 2000s. It has a really nice history room, lots of natural light, and some amazing WPA murals. The trustee’s room also features some fine artwork. Fine is an understatement, as some of these are works wouldn’t be out of place in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The library has a makerspace and plans to expand it in the not-to-distant future. Tons of programming in Brockton and plenty of musical performances as well. Library Land Score: 4.27.
The West Branch of the Brockton Public Library isn’t quite as fancy as the Main Library, but when is that ever the case? That doesn’t mean it isn’t without its charms. Like a fly in amber, this library is a nice example of an authentic 1969 branch library frozen in time. Formica tables and counter tops, period chairs and other features all combine to show the late phase of the mid-century modern period. A few favorite moments from the visit included the staff member using note cards to help a deaf patron find past copies of the Brockton Enterprise and a security guard helping kids with some coloring fun. Library Land Score: 3.27.
On the 23rd, we headed to the Newbury Library. Very interesting place that we’ve already reviewed (spoiler alert, we loved it). This is a surprise of a library. From the outside you see a large lantern (what we’ve called a lightwell in the past, which floods the library with bright, indirect sunlight) running the length and width of the building. It's reminiscent of the ones at Webster and Scituate. The thing is, this library is from 2000! It feels totally contemporary. The staff was really generous with their time and we enjoyed the visit a ton. Library Land Score: 4.45.
Back on the 24th we needed a spot to meet and get some work done so we turned to Weston Public Library, an old Library Land favorite. It didn’t disappoint on this occasion and we even managed to squeeze in some backgammon on a quiet board! Library Land Score: 4.18.
The 25th was a nose-to-the grindstone kind of a day and setting up shop at the Morse Institute in Natick made all the sense in the world. It’s a super comfortable place to work and there’s a nice community feeling among the people using the library to work. Library Land Score: 4.45.
July 30th A trip to New York for a family celebration meant an opportunity to visit a couple of the branches of the Brooklyn Public Library system. The Pacific Library is first Carnegie library built in Brooklyn (it opened in 1904). It’s an integral part of a changing community. The library is trying to achieve landmark status, which is important given the fact that a massive Whole Foods, the ubiquitous Starbucks, as well as the Barclays Center and Atlantic Terminal Mall are right there in the neighborhood. At some point a developer will eye this library’s awesome site and imagine a gleaming glass apartment town. One of the library’s coolest features is the iron work/stacks on the semi-circular balcony level. Lots of great community activities at the Pacific Library, including a high school equivalency testing center and a bustling children’s area. Library Land Score: 3.64
On July 31 it was on to the Central Brooklyn Library. It is an amazing building with some very interesting features. Study rooms were plentiful, but to use them you need to have a Brooklyn library card. A NY Public Library card might not work, and you have had to prove that you live or work in New York to get a card. Still this library had the largest number of study rooms we’ve seen in a main branch library. An unexpected treat was the fact that parking was available in the very limited visitor lot, but plenty of free parking right on Eastern Avenue. Now the important stuff, there was a large cafe in the lobby that added some nice vibrancy to the library. There were also every kind of person you can imagine using the library’s multiple floors. The programming was some of the more creative we've seen with “International Lou Reed Tai Chi” scheduled on the plaza and in the lobby on Saturday, August 3rd. The Brooklyn History room was excellent and combined younger school students art of what Brooklyn means with historic remnants, documents and books about the changing neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Library Land Score: 4.45.
On that same day - but several hundred miles to the north, it was another visit to the Morse Institute in Natick. Not much had changed since we were last there just a few days before. How did we accomplish this amazing feat? Sometimes, you need to divide to conquer! Library Land Score: 4.45.
On Thursday, we went to the O’Connell Branch of the Cambridge Public Library. We’ve been here a few times. This time we were there to meet with a colleague and to prepare for a SharpOrange (our PR agency) new business pitch that was happening nearby. The library was busy, but we were able to work effectively and left feeling well-prepared for our meeting. Library Land Score: 3.64.
After our meeting, we decided to visit the North Quincy Branch public library. This is a branch library that we struggled with as a spot for getting work done. The WiFi was spotty (to say the least) and we ended up using our phones as hotspots. Library Land Score: 3.55.
On Friday, we went to Morse Institute for the third time in two weeks. This visit was special though. We spent some time with Jason Homer, the library’s new director. He’s been in this position for just a short time, having previously served as assistant director. We talked about his plans and priorities and were really impressed by his ideas and energy. We especially liked hearing of plans to bring a business center to the library. We asked about his favorite part of the library and without pausing a second he said it was the staff. When we asked about what he was proudest over in his short time as director, he again didn’t miss a beat before telling us it’s the support he has received from that same staff. It will be a pleasure to watch as Jason grows into his new role and steers the Morse Institute forward. Library Land Score: 4.45.
On Saturday, it was over to the main Boston Public Library in Copley Square. First, work was done in the second-floor reference area of the 1970s Brutalist building. Very productive and striking to see how many people were diligently working away on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. After work comes fun and a visit to the Map Room Tea Lounge was just the ticket. It was for a meeting with an old friend and colleague to talk about the Library Land project and how it might progress. It was an excellent conversation. While there, the manager came over to chat. There’s an amazing story on how the Tea Lounge came into being, but that is a topic for another time and place. Library Land Score: 4.09.
We’ve been working hard to the word out about Library Land in the Boston media, but this week marks our first national coverage. Big thanks to Rebecca Miller for taking the time (and space) in Library Journal to recognize our efforts. Extra special to be described so positively to people we have tremendous admiration/respect for - librarians and library staff.
So there are two busy weeks rolled into one blog post. We’ll try not to let things like this happen too often, but please don’t judge us if they do!