4/30/12

The Library

At the TechSmiths' house, one of the most important rooms is the Library.

Brenda and I were both raised in homes that valued reading. Trips to the local library were a weekly activity. And consequently, a quiet place to sit and devour a book became a priority for us. More than that, it became a place to display and store our collection.


At our first house, we built a lovely library in a room with a cathedral ceiling. The shelves ran so high, we had pull-out step-ladders in the cabinets beneath in order to reach them.  Brenda's dad designed the installation and did most of the construction. We were really sorry when a change in jobs moved us to another city and we left that space behind.


Our current home never reached that level of beauty.  We expected to live here two or three years, and then it was likely the company for which we both worked would move us on.

So, the library was put into a room with enough wall space to line up a string of store-bought shelf units.

This month we passed our 22nd year at the same address. Somehow in all that time we never got around to changing the library into the welcoming space we want it to be.

But as we look forward to our intended downsizing now that the kids are grown and we're retired, we're determined to remedy that. In older posts you will see I am fond of looking at house plans and imagining living in those spaces.  Now, few designers of residences insert a designated, planned library into their designs. Most families seem to have other priorities if there's a spare room - a media room, a home office, a guest bedroom - and so the nod to the book-readers is comprised of a few shelves in the family room.

If you're going to have a library - no, a Library - you're probably going to have to give up some other function. Like many other American families in this informal age, while we have a dining room, we seldom use it, preferring our eat-in kitchen for all but the most formal gatherings.

So when I look at a house plan, I mentally strike through "Dining Room" and replace it with "LIBRARY." Fortunately, designers usually give useful lengths of blank wall and by closing off the usual portal to the foyer more can be created. Dining rooms also often are graced with some of the prettiest windows in a house. So with some nice cabinetry, good lighting and comfortable chairs, we can create a small but inviting space for the display and consumption of books.

And when we visit new homes, we're always looking for signs that books will be welcome. Sometimes that's easy. But often it's a real act of imagination.

Of course, if I had my wishes, I'd live inside the two-story library of the Biltmore House, George Vanderbilt's little (!) estate house (which is an hour's drive from here). They restrict photography indoors, or I would show you the meaning of LIBRARY.




But I fear that modern influences are slowly corrupting old lines of thought. How much longer will people delight in holding books, turning their pages, dog-earing or highlighting their favorite passages? The old craft of the bookbinder is about as useful as making buggy whips; no one wants walls of books with uniform and luxurious binding.



Well, the purveyors are having to adjust to a brave new electronic world. And so must we. Still, it's against a lifetime of habit and training to embrace the library of the digital age.






2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hate to comment, but for your post i am going to give it a try. You've gained a loyal reader my friend

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark. I received an iPad recently and have been listening to books on it at night (while I -- what a world). I'd read "The Long Walk" and "As Far as My Feet ... " and others in that genre with great pleasure years ago. But I'd never heard of "Beasts, Men and Gods." I am very grateful for your excellent recording work, which has made the book a riveting new favorite. I also read everything available on the Great War. Next up: Your "Over the Top." Many thanks for creating such a wonderful body of narrated books.

Tom in Massachusetts.