Wellington currently does not have a Library – the one it did have is closed for an indefinite period of time. What we apparently do have in its place is a number of small regional outlets and something pretending to be a mini-library opening in Manners St. But we no longer have a proper library.
Does it matter?
What IS a Library anyway? Is it a place for books, or is it a place for people? Ostensibly, it is a place for people to gather, to meet nice books, and take them home for the night. So it is more of a dating game, an interactive Tinder app between book-lovers and people-lovers. Tinder is not quite the right word either, especially when used with incendiary subjects like soft, folding, pieces of paper…
A Library is not just about books then. The French have a word – Bibliotech – not studying the Bible, but just the Book. But the French also have a better word, Mediatech, which implies a much wider remit – an access point to all tech. Such as? Such as audio, video, etc, implying other media forms such as CD, DVD, video, and other forms of media now so outdated that the youngsters have probably never seen one. When did you last buy a CD? When did you last buy or rent a DVD? When did you last own a machine that could play an audio cassette?
So, a Library is no longer a necessary place for books to live then? Are we not all online, reading a screen, in the privacy of our own homes? I’m writing this post whilst lying in bed – no picture necessary, it is already seared into your brain – I don’t need a building, let alone a chair and desk. We don’t even need a place to sit and read a screen, as we now each carry one with us, in a pocket close to our heart, or close to our groin. Do we need a building, when a pocket next to our groin works just fine?
John Palfrey argues that we need Libraries even more than ever before:
“Libraries today are more important than ever. More than just book repositories, libraries can become bulwarks against some of the most crucial challenges of our age: unequal access to education, jobs, and information. In BiblioTech, educator and technology expert John Palfrey argues that anyone seeking to participate in the 21st century needs to understand how to find and use the vast stores of information available online. And libraries, which play a crucial role in making these skills and information available, are at risk. In order to survive our rapidly modernizing world and dwindling government funding, libraries must make the transition to a digital future as soon as possibleâ€”by digitizing print material and ensuring that born-digital material is publicly available online.” (Palfrey, 2015. Bibliotech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google)
But that was written way back in the Dark Ages of 2015. We’re nearly in 2020 and a lot has changed in 5 years. Libraries are closing down all over the western world. People are becoming dumber. Who needs a building holding piles of rectangles of dead trees? All the books you might ever want to read are stored safely with google, accessible on your phone, should you ever want to read one. The Auckland University School of Architecture Library is closing down in a couple of weeks, forever, never to reopen again. The Wellington University School of Architecture is probably not that far behind – they no longer have a Subject Librarian, so knowledge is lost and books are sidelined. In Napier, the Public Library is closed, ostensibly for Quake reasons, but it is now shoe-horned into the arse end of the Museum, a few meagre books and ratty magazines. In Wellington, as we know, despite the building having absolutely no Quake damage at all, the building was closed on the off-chance that one day in the future, things could be different.
But a Library is so much more than just a storing house and dating game for books. A Library (and the Wellington City Library in particular) is a place for people. For study. For reading. For working. For socialising. For information-finding. For information-sharing. For sitting by the window. For staring out the window. For the homeless to keep warm. For the bookless to keep informed. For history to be stored. For cake to be eaten. For being neither work, nor home, but a third place: somewhere in between.
There are those that argue that the existing building should be restored, reopened. That it indeed MUST be restored, reopened. That this building is special and needs to stay. That there is no other like it. Well that last bit is true enough – there was only one Ian Athfield, and this building is without doubt his masterpiece. Engineering-wise it is probably a bit of a nightmare, being stiff and monolithic on one side and soft and wavy and glazed on the other side. With mad nikau palm tree columns around the edges and in between, the world’s first palmate column order since Rhamses II built the Tomb at Karnak. Â But it is indeed completely salvageable and so it should be salvaged. The alternative: pull it down and build another in its place, is not really an alternative at all. You just know that if this building comes down, the funds to rebuild are never going back up again.
We need the Library back up and running again, as soon as possible, for all its many uses, for all its many people to enjoy.
Is the view above ^ taken from the building below Â ?
This could be it – the fenestration matches – but it is only one? Are there three?
And don’t forget this…
well, actually i HAD forgotten that, as it was one of Maximus’s posts, way back in 2013. Looooong time ago.
Do you like that picture at the bottom of this post? No idea where it is, but something very alluring. Not a book in sight, but I want to go there nonetheless. Sitting side on to a view. Cool breeze from the lake. Side light – better than front on light. Knees close to the person opposite – good for conspiratorial talking. Its the perfect library setup – just need a book.
Leviathan, Your windows are from Chateau de Chillon.
Famous for many things including Byron’s poem The prisoner of Chillon, and as a backdrop for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (both available in Good libraries)
The Chateau(Castle) is on the Lake Geneva shoreline (and yes it is just round the corner and visible from that Famous “Gambling House”)
Is that smoke on the water?
And fire in the sky? I dunno mate, I dunno.
Greenwelly, excellent sleuthing, but I question your accuracy. Not saying you are wrong, but I’m just questioning if you are, in fact, actually right. I’ve just been searching the pictures on Tripadvisor of the Chateau de Chillon (4732 pictures) and not a single one matches the window seat I show. I’ll post up a picture taken from the lake side, and I’m buggered if I can find a group of three double windows like that in the picture, all right next to each other. So I think, very good guess, and certainly in the right area, but maybe not? There is a huge amount of repetition in the photos taken by all humanity, and they nearly all have a picture of wine barrels, a graffito by Byron, and some columns and gothic arches springing from solid rock, but not a single one shows this window seat. (alright – ONE shows what could be an identical seat, although spruced up and re-upholstered, but there is only one.).
I have no idea why, but it just feels more like Lake Constance to me, rather than Lake Geneva.
@Levi, It appear the room with these windows is not on the open tourist trail through the castle, so there are only a few photos of it , but the three windows are the upper three in this photo of the north end of the castle
you can zoom in this larger image and see the overlapping windows and lead light hatching
I think we have a winner:
The three windows can bee seen on the Wiki page for the castle
And the exterior view of the triple fenestration:
Here’s a link for the tech nerds out there to a navigable 3D model of Chillon.
And the process behind it.
Well I think we can conclusively agree that I have been firmly put in my place, and I am now sitting in the naughty corner. Well done greenwelly, starkive and sea monkey madness, you’ve all done brilliantly.
Now can we get back to the subject in hand: the Library ? Could we point cloud and crowd source an Uber pickup to go of one seismic retrofit chai latte library, with extra marshmallow clouds and external swimming pools to go please?
I have mixed feelings about the aesthetics of the Athfield library. The two-buildings-in-one dichotomy and the half-submerged arcade along the street front irritate me. The palms used to irritate me, but I have come to like them. And the weird convolutions required for entry from the square are just baffling. But…
It has been a fantastically successful place – the town square that the actual square has often struggled to be. If it were only or even chiefly about books, it really could be outsourced to Amazon. Instead it has accommodated people extremely well. It seems that we need an excuse – food, disco or, in this case, the proximity of books – to congregate diversely and peaceably. That building has allowed people with nowhere else to go (not at the moment anyway) to be with the rest of their species. That’s the main reason why transplanting subsets of the books to other sites can only be a very partial measure. Where will all those people go?
I vote for repair and reopening.
I second that vote. Although there will already have been many others who have also.
It is one of Ath’s best and was transformational in the way a library could help change a city.
Demo and rebuild would only be to achieve some form of betterment. But the Library is good enough as it is. The city neither needs a better mediatheque or the associated cost.
stuart and starkive – totally agree, and gets my vote as well.
Sorry for commenting on an old post, but you may be vaguely interested in the following post re the fate of the collections after the closure of the UoA arch library in two weeks: