Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Libraries I have known and loved

Our local library is the Brandywine Hundred Library:. Built in 2004, it has the look of those Catholic Churches built in the '70s--you know it's a public building, but you don't know what it is. A post office? Too big. Corporate headquarters? Too small. It could be a school--wait, there's a sign outside proclaiming it as a public library.

I'm not saying it isn't a good library. All libraries are good, if only because they employ librarians, who would otherwise turn to anti-social and perhaps criminal activities. No, truly, there is no such thing as a bad library, although some are better than others.

But it does not aspire to grandeur. Now the Wilmington Library, in downtown Wilmington, does, or did when it was built. In those days, learning and culture were taken very seriously indeed.

From its history:

During the early 20th Century... Pierre S. du Pont spearheaded a campaign to provide a larger building and improved services. Mr. du Pont donated the property for the current building, chaired the art committee which supervised the architectural development of the building and chaired the campaign to raise funds for the new building. He was instrumental in attracting the support of public funds and also $300,000 from 3,000 individuals for the completion of the new Library. The Library was dedicated in 1922 and remained physically unchanged until 1970 when the interior was extensively renovated. Pierre du Pont's influence and leadership within the Board of Managers has long been perpetuated by subsequent Boards. The du Pont family's interest in the educational and cultural welfare of the community is well known.

And what a building. It could never be taken as anything but a library. It celebrates being a library in stone and concrete. The carvings on the exterior of the building proudly proclaim it as a beacon of knowledge. The circulation desk is surrounded by a frieze which was cast from the original Elgin marbles.
Truly an unexpected sight.

I tried to use my Brandywine Hundred library card at the downtown library, but was told that it was not part of the New Castle County system. The county system has its own database, the city has its database, and neither talks to the other. What a waste of resources! Both of them could learn a thing or two from New Jersey, most particularly from Robert White, Director of the Bergen County Library System, BCCLS, known to one and all as Buckles.

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