6 Breathtaking Panoramas of Libraries
In this day and age, most public libraries are not beautiful. They may be cramped, near-windowless, and filled with drab, uncomfortable furniture. But in some places, there still exist public libraries that serve as beautiful temples for the written word. In The Library Book, an oversized coffee-table book of photos, Cincinnati-based panoramic photographer Thomas R. Schiff takes us on 360° tours of incredible libraries across the United States, from the famous (the National Archives in Washington D.C.) to the hyper-local (the Lillian C. Schmitt Elementary School Library in Columbus, Indiana).“A public library is the memory, the voice, and the face of the society that houses it,” Alberto Manguel, author of A History of Reading, writes in the book’s introduction. Schiff's work is an ode to public architecture that’s more than just utilitarian, reflecting libraries designed to meet the highest ideals of the society that built them. In an age where you can get just about any book you could ever want on Amazon at a discount (this one included), Schiff’s photography is a reminder of the ongoing importance of these civic institutions, and the joys of perusing the stacks of a truly great library.“Since the time of Alexandria, libraries have held a symbolic function. For the Ptolemaic kings, the library was a symbol of their power; eventually it became the encompassing symbol of an entire society, a numinous place where readers could learn the art of attention, which, [20th century political theorist] Hannah Arendt argued, is a definition of culture,” Manguel writes. “But since the mid-twentieth century, libraries no longer seem to carry this symbolic meaning and, as mere storage rooms of a technology deemed defunct, are not considered worthy of proper preservation and funding.”Schiff—who, when he’s not out shooting panoramas, serves as the CEO of an Ohio insurance company—takes care to remind readers that libraries, whether they’re run by universities, museums, or cities, are worth investing in.