It’s the first full week of 2016. Where is everyone? At the gym?
I didn’t get far this past week; I don’t think I made it out of my “town and country” more than three times, but I did a lot of thinking about the “Maine Carnegie Library Tour” and what it might look like. The Lewiston Public Library (LPL) is my “Carnegie library” home base, so last Friday afternoon I hopped in the car and shuttled myself to L/A to get a non-resident library card.
I had a library card at the LPL a long time ago, when I would come home from college on breaks. During summer vacations, I worked at Supreme Slipper on Canal Street and I’d sometimes walk over to the library after stitching all day. I’m aging myself with self-revelation, but let’s just say it was before the library’s renovation, when the main entrance was on Park Street. Across from the (ahem) Sun Journal.
I have vague memories of the library’s layout, with its grand entrance and the periodicals room. But mostly what I remember were the stacks–they intrigued me. The thick frosted glass floors, the narrow iron stairs, and the little balcony that looked out over the old main entrance; it was all made for imagining and daydreaming. But the stacks were tightly packed, built for book storage and not for idling around.
These days, the stacks at the LPL are dwarfed by the 1996 addition made to the original Carnegie building. The layout of the library is different than I remember and although I tried to act confident about where I was going, I got all turned around. Fortunately, the biographies are located in the stacks and like a homing pigeon, I magically found my way there and back to the check-out desk with a relevant book to read.
Andrew Carnegie wrote his own autobiography, published posthumously in 1920. This volume was available at the LPL, but I selected David Nasaw’s biography, published in 2006, the latest and greatest. Professor Nasaw’s book, nominated for a Pulitzer prize in 2007, is big and rich and heavily footnoted. I’m about a third of the way through the 800 pages; it’s methodically well-written biographical fare. I also picked up a book called Beautiful in All Its Details by Kirk F. Mohney, chronicling the architecture of Maine’s public libraries built between 1878 and 1942, the period considered to be the “Golden Age” of grand library design.
Sure, this is supposed to be a travel blog, but would you just get up in the middle of the night and hop on a plane to somewhere and not investigate where you’re going? I’m just doing my homework. (Teaser: we’ll come back to homework in February, when I take an “official tour” of the LPL with Director Rick Speer.)
Next week, I’m visiting the Carnegie Library that isn’t a Carnegie Library.
I’ll see you there!