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Library Architecture and Construction

public, libraries, buildings, type, books, hall and planning

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LIBRARY ARCHITECTURE AND CONSTRUCTION. The problems of library construction have been considered so often dur ing the last few decades that the erection of a faulty library building would appear unneces sary, yet, judging from complaints made by librarians from time to time, some of the build ings erected have failed to respond to all of the demands made upon them. In general this condition appears to have resulted from one or more of the following causes: (1) An effort to erect a monumental building, (2) to conform it to a type of architecture unsuited to library purposes, (3) the appointment, often by com petition, of an architect unschooled in the re quirements of a library, (4) failure to consult with the librarian or with library experts. Much advancement has undoubtedly been made toward co-operation between architect and li brarian, and many good designers have made library buildings their specialty, nevertheless it seems that the ideal type of library is not yet realized — the type so adapted to its purpose that it would be immediately recognized as such, as is the case with school buildings at the present time. This does not mean that li brary constructions should conform rigidly to a fixed standard of appearance and arrange ment, but it does mean that the exterior should express as nearly as possible the purpose and functions of the interior. The should properly and adequately house the spirit. The modern library building is the product of many years of experimentation and of fruitless efforts to adapt old types to new conditions. This applies with especial force to the one known as the alcove type, which was inherited from the mediaeval cloister libraries. This still has many advantages for small libraries and for special collections, but when its principle is applied to large libraries, as was the case with the old Boston Public Library and the Astor, its de fects more than outweighed its advantages. Hence as early as 1882 we find the American Library Association protesting against the con struction of more buildings according to this plan. To-day the constructional requirements of a library building are comprehended to such an extent that library planning has become a science determined by definite laws. (Tilton,

"Scientific Library Planning," Library Journal, September 1912). It seems strange, therefore, that library buildings are still being erected that fail to respond to the legitimate demands made upon them.

The fundamental problems of a library arc: (1) Accessibility; (2) economical storage of books, and (3) their rapid distribution. With regard to these elements, the well-known de signer of libraries, Mr. Cass Gilbert, has this to say: "The first principle of library location and library planning should he accessibility. The whole efficiency of a public library depends upon its being accessible to the public in point of location, and being accessible in all of its parts to the working force and to the public parts by the people who are using it. I should like if practicable to have the main rooms of a library on the ground floor so that the public would not have to climb stairways to get to the delivery hall, yet in practice it appears to have been impossible to solve the problem in that way except in small libraries for reasons of space or economy of construction. In planning library buildings I have considered that the di rect access of the public to the point of dis tribution of books is of prime importance and that this point of distribution should be as close as possible to the place where the books are stored. This results then in the entrance leading direct to the delivery hall, the delivery hall being in close connection with the stack room. The open shelf room should also be near to the delivery hall. Special collections may be placed at more remote locations, but those books which are constantly used by the public should be accessible. A type of plan which is suitable for a large city library is ob viously not suitable for a small village library. A college or university library, a special re search library, or a law library is essentially different from a city library so it is impossible to lay down any standardized plan.° In small libraries these questions are not so urgent. In deed, for such wall cases, alcoves or small stacks all prove equally serviceable, but when the collections attain to 50,000 volumes or more the question of storage and administration be comes acute.

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