Sunday, December 15, 2013

Travel Journal: Nov 27-Dec 6 :San Diego Central Library

The Brand Spankin' New San Diego Central Public Library
( Bet  you would of never guessed it was a library, eh?)

Trips back home always stir up a lot of old memories of old places while creating new memories in the old places as well.
This trip I knew I would also be exploring a new place in my home town.
Come along with me as I visit San Diego's new Central Library!

My Mom had been sending me news clipping about the progress of the new downtown San Diego Central Library being built downtown over the past few years.
Understand that the new library replaces the Central Library that was built in 1954, the year that I was born.
I had visited the old downtown library maybe twice in my life.
(I grew up using the smaller La Jolla branch library near my house. It was a very cozy library indeed.)
The downtown library always felt old even back when I was a kid.
The librarian's offices were in the middle of the library rooms, and the offices were inside glass walls which looked like the librarians were working inside aquariums.
There was very little designated library parking; smack dab in the middle of downtown one just had to hope to find street parking if one wanted to visit the library.
The City of San Diego has been yapping about replacing the old library for as long as I can remember.
When they finally set aside property and approved a design we locals about fell over in a dead faint.
And the new library design was amazing too.

I headed downtown to see the library a couple of days after Thanksgiving.
There was a lot of discussion about taking the trolley downtown to save on parking fees.
Allegedly the trolley stop was right next to the library.
My "baloney" sensor went off...who could say what "Right Next To" might really mean downtown?
I decided to drive instead.
First I stopped at the store and broke a twenty dollar bill, just on a hunch that I might need something smaller to pay my parking fee.
Whew...that was a wise decision.
Usually I just figure on using my ATM card to pay parking fees.
 I noticed that there were only 250 library parking places.
A library that size must have at least 100 staff members; did they allow enough parking spaces when they built this place.
(Answer: No.  They already admit there is inadequate parking. All staff members are given public transportation passes to use to free up space!)

Inside the library entrance: A wall of digital pictures that change constantly.
I had no idea what I would find as I explored the library.
I will blog it just as I explored it that day.

Just inside the entrance was a model of the library created using Legos.

I had heard the architect designed the library to look "deconstructed".
The feeling inside does feel like it isn't all the way "constructed" to me.
The floors, ceilings and walls are concrete.
Metal is used a lot and natural wood.
I felt like I was inside a bathroom at the beach somehow...probably because those buildings are also constructed of just concrete and metal too.

I don't know the technical name for these old fashioned 3D image things is but I am sure you know what I am talking about when I say that the image changed as you moved about.
As kids we would get little clear plastic like squares of pictures in Cracker Jack boxes.
You'd look at maybe the picture of the clown, then move the square and it would turned into a picture of an elephant or something.

Fun to see that old time kind of fun on an entire wall.

The ground floor had the leased book collection.

(In case you don't know: Public libraries often lease books now instead of buying them; especially popular titles when they are first published.  That is a way that a library can have 30 copies of a best seller while the title is "hot", and after all the excitement is over, the library can then just purchase a more reasonable number of the title to keep in the permanent collection.) 

Big hint to anyone coming to explore this library:
The restrooms are on the 5th floor and the elevators are very slow.
Visit the restroom immediately upon arrival, then return to the ground floor.
(Trust me on this...)
The inside of the elevator had stainless steel mesh covering the elevator walls.

It felt very industrial.
I realized then that a lot of the library design was created to thwart visitors misusing or destroying the library.
Little damage can happen to solid concrete and stainless steel.

Each floor had many small study rooms that were funded by various groups.
One could pick and chose their rooms I suppose.

Had to laugh at this.
Librarians are SO bossy!
And they love to order people around using signage.

So does this "look" do anything for you?
Not exactly cozy.
Definitely interesting.
Probably appeals to guys a lot more than most women I suppose.

The concrete grid ceiling had interesting metal ribbons weaving through the design.

Each floor also had floor to ceiling windows that created entire walls at one end.
This view of the Coronado Bay Bridge must be stunning on a sunny day.

The reading chairs didn't look particularly comfy to me, and I should of checked to see what the woven rattan looking material actually was made from.
The orange accents livened up an otherwise rather somber area.

Outside was a small zen garden.
Water conservation is a big deal in San Diego.
Not my favorite kind of garden but it is nicely done.

Library techs sat at crate like desks on each floor.
I chatted with this tech about the parking space allotment vs staff needs.
She told me about how the staff were taking public transportation.
She positively beamed about that fact.
Me...I wouldn't be all that thrilled about catching a trolley two blocks away downtown at 10 o'clock at night if I worked there.
(Like all inner city libraries, the homeless use the library as shelter a lot.)

A handout explained a lot of details about the library.
For example, the library dome is larger than the US Capitol Dome!

As I walked around I spotted books that I wanted to read.
Got to check to see if the SLC library has this book. 

The overhead light fixtures were very cool.

In the middle of the second floor there was a display about suffrage.

The history of women's voting rights in San Diego was being displayed.

(I was a little irked that inauthentic costuming was being used. Maybe they didn't want to risk having clothing from so long ago be out where the public might touch it. Meh. 
Oh this was cool:
On one outside wall of the Library there were open book shapes made from glass along the bottom of the building next to the sidewalk.

I am always interested in seeing Children's Library areas.
This one didn't wow me.
Portland OR and SLC both have better Children's Libraries.

But...there were some really cool vintage children's books on display.

They seemed to have the entire collection of Oz books.

(I grew up next door to a girl who owned all of the Wizard of Oz books.  I read all of them over a couple of summers.  I hope she still owns them, although I happen to know that once she grew up she never had children herself.)

I got really excited once I started scanning the titles on the shelves.
See the label STORAGE?

A Storage book was usually one from "back in the days" time wise.
I remember reading Miss Hickory as it appeared in its 1946 edition.
(Now remember...the original Central Library opened in 1954; this book was "old" even back then!)

I was so glad to see all the old Carol Ryrie Brink titles on the shelf too.
She lived out her final days in La Jolla and signed a Caddie Woodlawn book for me.
(Makes me want to curl up with all the Woodlawn books and read them all again!)

The books of my childhood have been freed from years of being in storage downtown.
A few of the old titles had newer editions available too, especially if the title had been an award winner.
How many of these books do you remember reading as a kid?

As I wandered around the children's area, I recalled my earlier jaunt up to the 5th floor restroom
That sort of jaunt could prove disastrous to a young child who suddenly needed to go.
I asked the library tech about that fact.
He gleefully suggested I follow him to the locked doors lining one wall of the children's library.
Inside each door was a child sized toilet in a brightly lit private room.

Up on another floor was the Young Adult (aka Teen) library.
When the building's architect learned that the YA floor would have a surf theme, he asked if he could donate his own surfboard to the area.
Nice touch!

(Didn't find out who Stanley was.)

Each book shelf had a chalk board end cap.
Not sure what I think about this piece of advice but I think it was quite clever to use chalkboard in this manner.

Bean bag chairs littered the area.

The teen "hangout" feel of the place was underscored with this seating area.

Snacking was encouraged!

The check out desk: another smaller surfboard!

And surfboard inspired benches were also placed about.
Two of the nine floors in the library were not accessible to the public because they are being used as the location of  E3 High School.
It is a charter school and it will be expanding to serve a wider grade band over time.
It must be fantastic to be able to go do homework in the library by just going down a floor or two.


Continuing up one could look down at one of the outdoor areas.
The areas can be leased for group or party use and appeared to have food service.
Since San Diego weather is "outdoor friendly" year around, I can imagine this area could grow to become quite popular.
While I was there it was a tiny bit drizzly so no one was sitting outside.

The library is two blocks from the San Diego Padre Baseball Stadium.

An area was set aside for Baseball history on one floor.

A look at how open the library feels; one can see each level from other levels.

The floor with the periodicals was fantastic.
I am always amazed at how many magazines there are to enjoy.
Again...need to see if the SLC library has this title; I want to read it!

...and this title too!
Magazines are so great.

Looking down to the main floor.
As airy as such open floor plans are, I sadly am always reminded of how many people have jumped to their death by using the open floor plans at the SLC library.
(It really ruins everyone's library experience when a body falls from above, just saying.)
I wondered if the architect knew about how often that sort of thing happens in public libraries.
Curious, I asked a librarian about it.  He said that there were invisible layers between the floors to prevent free fall.
I looked and looked...guess they really are invisible layers because I couldn't see them.
Wonder how they will manage to keep the layers dust free and invisible over time?
(Or was he just making stuff up?)

I thought of a dear friend who is married to a musician.
Wonder if they would enjoy taking in some free concerts in the library someday?
(I know I would!)

A few facts about the library dome.

There is no elevator service to rise above the two high school floors; one has to climb a stairway.
A narrow opening can be seen going from the 8th floor down.
The papers looks just a bit too studied.
Maybe this is the area that has the invisible layers to prevent free fall?

I really liked these lights too...and the geometric of the top floor really appealed to me.

Mismatched chairs all painted a matching blue and a wall of windows looking out to the bay.
A million dollar view enjoyed by one person.
Two if you count me too.

This was the Art, Music and Recreation floor.

Prints by Miro were on display.

 I was surprised to see old fashioned card catalogs next to the library tech's desk.
He explained that this card catalog was just the library's LP record collection!
He slid open a drawer which was tightly packed with cards.
I commented that the cards needed to be sorted down enough to be flipped open.
He laughed...the clip to hold the cards had been placed to keep them tight during the move from storage.
He would be unclipping and loosening the cards during slow desk time moments.
Now all anyone needs is a working record player and one could spend a life time listening to records from the library!

Yes, scarves are considered art, so this book is on the ART floor!
(Another "wonder if SLC has this book" book.)

Bill Walton...who played basketball for Helix High School (where my kids went) against Bernie when they were both in High School.
Walton went on to play basketball professionally in Portland Oregon before returning to San Diego.
He is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, he and his wife are well known for their charitable work as well.

At the top of the library!

Underneath the dome.

The outside top floor has several stand alone rooms, including an art gallery.

Local artists and their works are featured there.

I enjoyed the exhibit!

Across the way was the Rare Book room

(This outdoors area is a photographer's dream come true. I could of spent a lot of time framing up photos using all the angles in layers.)

Looking up at the "sails" that make up the dome.

There was a vague tall ships sails vibe about the place.

More card catalogs still in use!

Best views of San Diego I have ever seen can be seen from the Genealogy Room.

I never thought of San Diego as being so colorful.

Nor was I aware that there were so many high rise condo buildings being built around downtown.

In my mind, downtown is surrounded by old Victorian wood frame houses and stucco 1940-50 apartment buildings.
Times have changed.

Looks like change is going to be constant for awhile! 

I really like this top floor area.
I haven't been thrilled with the library as a library as it just didn't seem cozy or comfortable enough to me.
As a place to go and view San Diego totally rocks.

The "deconstructed look" gets even heavier in the genealogy room.

The San Diego Genealogy Society has placed its library into the Central Library.
Old paper genealogical resources are well used and at the ready to serve in the future.

Giggled at this series.
Eight books about "Lost in Canada"?
What is going on up there in Canada anyway?

A small room off the Genealogy room was for the rare books and art.

The one ultra natural table topped by ultra modern lamps on a fine woven rug gave the room a very different feel than the rest of the library.

The rare books are not shelved yet.
I was shocked to see three Donal Hord sculptures just sitting casually atop the shelves.
Turns out there were models for his final sculptures.
Donal Hord lived next door to my Dad when my Dad was a kid.  Hord was a local sculpture of note; still he used to pay my Dad popsicle money to sweep out his art studio during the Great Depression.
I got to visit his studio and see him at work myself as a child.
  I consider myself quite blessed to have had that experience.

Around the corner in the room was an actual Donal Hord sculpture, "West Wind", sculpted of Mexican rosewood in 1953.
Again...I was shocked that the library owned one of his works.
(the link to his name includes a better photo of this piece.)

The ceiling...

And the walls in the Rare Book room were amazing.
I suppose it was supposed that folks intent on marring the library would not go up to those room?
I hope so.

The plantings are minimal but effectively colorful.

Another view of the Coronado Bay Bridge.

Seriously...anyone with a camera could go wild up there.
Or go wild wishing they had brought their camera along.
Not something one usually thinks about doing on a trip to a library.

The colorful minimalistic plantings.

Again...on a sunny day (which actually are rather uncommon this close to the water in San Diego as fog and overcast skies the usual) this view would be jaw dropping.

Just so you know...this is the library's 9th floor.

I found my way back to the elevators eventually...

Rode back down to the ground floor.

This time instead of going into the library, I turned the other way out of the elevators and went over to the library's gift shop.
A lot of the gifts were quite funny.

I can name the 16 San Diego Beaches in order.
Although I often forget about Sunset Cliffs and Solana Beach for some reason.
Seriously thinking of buying this poster.

I also seriously need this plate.
Am I the only one who freezes up when I stop to think about using lie or lay in a sentence?
Especially in past tense?
(Now I lay me down to sleep?)

I sometimes get this messed up too when I think to hard about it.
(Would owning all these cups and saucers help?)
I did wind up buying a library tee shirt though.

A last look at the ground floor check out desk...
(It looks so beach-y to me I half expect to see gull dropping on the steel beams.)

The digital frames at the entrance has changed many times during my visit.
I kind of like the cross word puzzle photos.

Back in the parking garage I search for the exit.
The hand lettered sign helps.
I note the turquoise colors on the sign's edge; it is a particular turquoise that I see all over La Jolla and San Diego.
I take a picture to document the shade; the girl in the toll booth notices and asks me why I took a picture of the sign.
I explain about the turquoise color.
Her eyes light up.
Yes, she says.  It is a color you see a lot around here.
It is clear the thought had not occurred to her before.
Then it was time to drive home.
Getting back to La Mesa from downtown used to be a challenge to me as I could never remember which of the one way lettered named streets I needed to take to go home.
Bernie gave me a solution to my problem.
"Take "G" to "Go Home"
I repeated that line out loud many times over the years that I lived in San Diego.
My children heard me say it.
Later, when their school field trip driver was lost downtown, my son piped up.
"My mom always says Take G to Go Home!"
It worked, so they were able to find their way safely home.


ellen b. said...

WEll it is very interesting to take a tour of a library with a librarian...
Glad you had a letter to take you home...

Lovella ♥ said...

That library is fascinating. I didn't think it looked particularly cozy except for a few small areas but then I guess they don't mean a person to move in. I loved the dishes ...which I surely could use.
The amount of books in that building must just make publishers happy to think that people still want to hold paper in their hands. Let it always be so!

Pondside said...

Wow! I love libraries, and my family knows that I always find the library in any place I'm going to spend more than 48 hours. I'd check this one out even for a shorter visit.
Lost in Canada??? That's too funny!

Vee said...

Very interesting new library. I can tell that a lot of thought went into its design...too bad about the parking. My favorite library is a very traditional one with comfortable seating and traditional aesthetics. That it is an ivy-covered stone building floats my boat, too. I might enjoy a bench that looks like an open exterior wall? Okay. I'm a very old-fashioned gal. What do the locals think?

Judy said...

Now that was a great library tour...with a librarian tour guide! Love it.

How long did it take you to do this post? I'm thinking...a long while!

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

Hi Jill, you really gave us a thorough tour, complete with intelligent and witty commentary! A fascinating place, to be sure. I think what I love best is that those old children's books have been taken out of storage - it would be fun to peruse those again. I remember reading all of the Oz books I could find at the little library in Carlsbad when I was about seven or eight. I wonder how many other people out there even remember them? You gave us a real librarian's perspective.