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11 Wonderful Libraries in Africa

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We’ve brought you beautiful European, South American, North American and Asian libraries, so now it’s time for some of the most amazing libraries in Africa.

1. Library of Alexandria

The most famous library in Africa is the Library of Alexandria — the modern tribute to the famed library of antiquity.

Located on the shore in Alexandria near where the ancient library stood, the Library offers enough room for over eight million books. The cost of construction of the marvel has left the library with limited funds to purchase books, though. As of right now, the collection is at about one million, half of which were donated from the National Library of France. The library holds the largest collection of French-language books in Africa and the sixth largest in the world. The rest are mostly in Arabic and English.

The complex also houses a conference center, four museums, nineteen art galleries, a planetarium, manuscript restoration laboratory, multimedia library, library for maps, special library for the visually impaired and the world's only copy and external backup of the Internet Archive.

Images Courtesy of Noel Hildago's Flickr stream and Wikipedia user CarstenW.

2. Saint Catherine's Monastery Library, Egypt

Saint Catherine’s Monastery was established in 381 and is widely considered the oldest monastery in the world. The library was built sometime in the sixth century, which makes it the oldest continuously running library on Earth. As you would guess, the library has an incredible collection, boasting over 3,500 codices in a variety of languages — second only to the Vatican's.

One of the monastery’s most important holdings is the Achtiname, which contains a promise from Muhammad himself offering his protection to the monastery. The library also once housed the oldest almost completely preserved Bible, but it has since been transported to Russia and then sold to the British Library.

Images courtesy of Gillian C. Boal of the University of California Berkley Library and Beautiful Libraries.

3. Misr University for Science and Technology Library, Egypt

This building's pyramid-shaped skylights bring a touch of ancient Egypt to technology and science students studying here, but the shapes also allow ample natural light without increasing the temperature too much.

The library works to do the same with their collection as they have with their architecture, combining texts on ancient Egypt with science, cultural and recreational readings. The library also houses a museum displaying replicas of the country’s most famous monuments.

Images courtesy of ArchNet.

4. October 6 University Library, Egypt

Wonder why the school is named October 6 University? Because it’s in 6th of October City, of course. The library was built specifically for the college, but it is open to the public and is actually located  about 550 yards off-campus.

5. National Library of South Africa

The country’s oldest library dates back to 1818. Throughout the years, the library received many donations of rare books and manuscripts, and in 1873 the library became a legal deposit library for the Cape Colony, receiving copies of all books published therein. In 1916, the library expanded its legal deposit requirement to cover the whole country. As a result, the library has one of the most amazing and extensive collections in the entire continent. In 1999, the library united with the State Library of Pretoria to form the two branches of the National Library of South Africa.

Image courtesy of Warren Tyrer's Flickr stream.

6. Port Elizabeth Main Library, South Africa

In 1845 the Port Elizabeth News Society started a public subscription library. At first, the group met in a small room, but they earned so much money that they were soon able to buy the entire building. Then the government rented it to use as a court house for almost half a century before the building was torn down and replaced with the current structure, which open in 1902. In 1983 the building was declared a historic monument.

Image courtesy of Mike Barwood's Flickr stream.

7. CL Marais Library, South Africa

The CL Marais Library was built in 1901, before the official establishment of the current Stellenbosch University in 1918. The library had to expand quickly to keep up with the college, and by 1926 it already had to be renovated to add additional space. In 1938, a new library was erected and, by 1983, even that library grew too small and yet another building had to be constructed to contain the school’s ever-growing collection.

Image courtesy of Clive Reid's Flickr stream.

8. Hogsback Library, South Africa

This library is located in a small mountain village and is said to be the smallest library in the world. If you happen to be in the area, don’t plan on visiting the library unless you’re incredibly punctual — it's only open to the public from 3 to 4pm on Wednesday and 9:30 to 10:30am on Saturday.

Image courtesy of Valerie Hinojosa's Flickr stream.

9. Kenyatta University Library, Kenya

This strikingly modern building was completed and opened late last year. It is six stories high and each level serves its own specific function: all acquisition and binding is done in the basement, the first floor offers a student lounge and check-out desk, the second floor houses the social science books, the third is home to the humanities section, the fourth holds the science and technology titles, the fifth is where you can find the special collections and the top level serves as a reading area for students and faculty.

Image courtesy of ODDMAC.

10. Balme Library, Ghana

The main library of the University of Ghana houses six departments and a special section for the disabled. The library’s current holdings number over 100,000 books, including a collection of rare books and prints. It is regarded as the best library in West Africa.

Image courtesy of Swegg's Flickr stream.

11. Keren Public Library, State of Eritrea

Keren, and Eritrea in general, has made quite an effort to provide their war-torn lands with more educational services, particularly modernized libraries. This lovely building is just one of the many libraries that have benefited thanks to donors from all over the world who work with groups like Book Aid International to donate money, computers and books to those who need them most.

Know of any other great African libraries that should be included on this list? Tell us about them in the comments!

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Design
Glow-in-the-Dark Paths Come to Singapore
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Studio Roosegaarde's Van Gogh path in the Netherlands in 2014.

Glow-in-the-dark materials are no longer for toys. Photoluminescence can help cities feel safer at night, whether it’s part of a mural, a bike lane, or a highway. Glow-in-the-dark paths have been tested in several European cities (the above is a Van Gogh-inspired bike path by the Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde) and in Texas, but now, the technology may be coming to Singapore. The city-state is currently developing a 15-mile greenway called the Rail Corridor, and it now has a glow-in-the-dark path, as Mashable reports.

The 328-foot stretch of glowing path is part of a test of multiple surface materials that might eventually be used throughout the park, depending on public opinion. In addition to the strontium aluminate-beaded path that glows at night, there are also three other 328-foot stretches of the path that are paved with fine gravel, cement aggregate, and part-grass/part-gravel. The glow-in-the-dark material embedded in the walkway absorbs UV light from the sun during the day and can emit light for up to eight hours once the sun goes down.

However, in practice, glow-in-the-dark paths can be less dazzling than they seem. Mashable’s reporter called the glowing effect on Singapore’s path “disappointingly feeble.” In 2014, a glowing highway-markings pilot by Studio Roosegaarde in the Netherlands revealed that the first road markings faded after exposure to heavy rains. When it comes to glowing roads, the renderings tend to look better than the actual result, and there are still kinks to work out. (The studio worked the issue out eventually.) While a person walking or biking down Singapore’s glowing path might be able to tell that they were staying on the path better than if they were fumbling along dark pavement, it’s not the equivalent of a streetlight, for sure.

The trial paths opened to the public on July 12. The government is still gathering survey responses on people’s reactions to the different surfaces to determine how to proceed with the rest of the development. If the glow-in-the-dark path proves popular with visitors, the material could eventually spread to all the paths throughout the Rail Corridor. You can see what the glowing path looks like in action in the video below from The Straits Times.

[h/t Mashable]

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IA Collaborative
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Design
Lovely Vintage Manuals Show How to Design for the Human Body
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IA Collaborative

If you're designing something for people to hold and use, you probably want to make sure that it will fit a normal human. You don't want to make a cell phone that people can't hold in their hands (mostly) or a vacuum that will have you throwing out your back every time you clean the house. Ergonomics isn't just for your office desk setup; it's for every product you physically touch.

In the mid-1970s, the office of legendary industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss created a series of manuals for designers working on products that involved the human body. And now, the rare Humanscale manuals from Henry Dreyfuss Associates are about to come back into print with the help of a Kickstarter campaign from a contemporary design firm. Using the work of original Henry Dreyfuss Associates designers Niels Diffrient and Alvin R. Tilley, the guides are getting another life with the help of the Chicago-based design consultancy IA Collaborative.

A Humanscale page illustrates human strength statistics.

The three Humanscale Manuals, published between 1974 and 1981 but long out-of-print, covered 18 different types of human-centric design categories, like typical body measurements, how people stand in public spaces, how hand and foot controls should work, and how to design for wheelchair users within legal requirements. In the mid-20th century, the ergonomics expertise of Dreyfuss and his partners was used in the development of landmark products like the modern telephones made by Bell Labs, the Polaroid camera, Honeywell's round thermostat, and the Hoover vacuum.

IA Collaborative is looking to reissue all three Humanscale manuals which you can currently only find in their printed form as historic documents in places like the Cooper Hewitt design museum in New York. IA Collaborative's Luke Westra and Nathan Ritter worked with some of the original designers to make the guides widely available again. Their goal was to reprint them at a reasonable price for designers. They're not exactly cheap, but the guides are more than just pretty decor for the office. The 60,000-data-point guides, IA Collaborative points out, "include metrics for every facet of human existence."

The manuals come in the form of booklets with wheels inside the page that you spin to reveal standards for different categories of people (strong, tall, short, able-bodied, men, women, children, etc.). There are three booklets, each with three double-sided pages, one for each category. For instance, Humanscale 1/2/3 covers body measurements, link measurements, seating guide, seat/table guide, wheelchair users, and the handicapped and elderly.

A product image of the pages from Humanscale Manual 1/2/3 stacked in a row.

"All products––from office chairs to medical devices—require designs that 'fit' the end user," according to Luke Westra, IA Collective's engineering director. "Finding the human factors data one needs to achieve these ‘fits' can be extremely challenging as it is often scattered across countless sources," he explains in a press release, "unless you've been lucky enough to get your hands on the Humanscale manuals."

Even setting aside the importance of the information they convey, the manuals are beautiful. Before infographics were all over the web, Henry Dreyfuss Associates were creating a huge compendium of visual data by hand. Whether you ever plan to design a desk chair or not, the manuals are worthy collectors' items.

The Kickstarter campaign runs from July 25 to August 24. The three booklets can be purchased individually ($79) or as a full set ($199).

All images courtesy IA Collaborative

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