Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Books Are The Stairs to Heaven

Reading is my strongest weakness. There is not a library or bookstore that I can resist walking by. My next weakness is a love for architecture that has been kept alive through my marriage to a home builder with a passion for architectural detail.

New York has fascinated me because of its old historic buildings that remind me a lot about the Dutch architecture in Sri Lanka, my birth country. As I was getting assimilated in the Brooklyn neighborhoods, I found that there are many great public libraries in Brooklyn and the rest of New York City.

I am a firm believer that just as books tell a story, the buildings that house them have an even greater story to tell - from the birth of an idea in someone's head to the funding and collaboration to build it and those who work tirelessly to add to its monumental collection of media.

I love to explore the architecture of some of the libraries – based on its historical perspective or whether it is flavored with modern references. I like to focus on some of the unique features of each library and get some input from those who work there.

Most importantly, I believe that reading expands one's horizons and therefore is something that should be encouraged. This is a compelling reason for anyone to get a library card and start reading or even check out audio tapes if they are more auditory learners.

New York Governor Samuel Tilden is credited as being one of the earliest benefactors of the New York Public Library system with a bequest of $2.4 million. Thanks to Andrew Carnegie's philanthropy at the turn of the 20th century, New York's Public Library system gained flight.

Today, the libraries throughout New York City are as varied as the neighborhoods they occupy. The original library at Fifth Avenue with its imposing Beaux-Arts design was the largest marble structure in the United States when it opened in 1911. It still represents the affluent neighborhood it guards.

In sharp contrast, the Brooklyn Public Library's central branch, which opened in 1941 was designed as a book with flaps, a representation of Architects Alfred Morton Githens's and Francis Kelly's outstanding Art Deco style. Opening onto Prospect Park, this neighborhood was more socio-economically diverse than its luxurious Manhattan predecessor.

The Bushwick Public Library, a Carnegie building designed by Raymond F. Almirall opened to the public on December 16, 1908 in a neighborhood of predominantly Russian Jews and a growing Italian population. The building was stately in its Spartan details. Today with media in Spanish and Chinese the Bushwick library also represents the cultural expansion of its neighborhood.

Regardless of its neighborhood locales, these libraries create permanent homes for books and programs within walking distance of every resident in every neighborhood.

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