Culture

10 beautiful Bay Area libraries — and what to read while you’re there


The Mill Valley Public Library is nestled in a grove of redwood trees. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

Built in 1966 by the San Francisco firm Wurster, Bernardi and Emmons, the building itself has an even more Old-World feel, with a fireplace in the main room that could belong in a medieval castle. A more recent addition extends the building further into the redwood grove, creating picturesque fiction and children’s reading rooms that feel like you are floating above the trees.

Bolinas master woodworker Arthur Espenet Carpenter created more than 100 bespoke pieces for the library, including bookcases, reading tables and lounge chairs. His son added more original pieces, including a love seat, for a 2009 remodel.

Where or what to read: The Lucretia Little History Room offers an extensive collection of photographs, personal papers and city records that document Mill Valley’s history, including the Mill Valley Film Festival and Dipsea Race. Need book ideas? The librarians post

A correction to an earlier version of this article has been appended to the end of the article.

Whatever ideas anyone may have had about the internet making libraries passé were erased as the 21st century got under way. Today’s libraries are still places to read, study and borrow the latest best-sellers, of course. But many Bay Area cities, towns and organizations have turned their libraries into architectural showplaces and thriving cultural and community centers. Here are 10 of the region’s most beautiful libraries and reading spots.

Rinconada Library, Palo Alto
An interior view of the Rinconada Library in Palo Alto shows some of the original lighting fixtures from 1958, including these metal spoke chandeliers. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

At first glance, you might mistake this building for another low-slung suburban library. But look more closely, and you’ll see an interesting terra cotta screen wall. Then step inside — it’s a midcentury marvel.

This 1958 stunner by noted modern architect Edward Durell Stone was renovated in 2018 by Group 4 Architecture, which wisely retained the metal spoke chandeliers that resemble a model of the solar system; the massive freestanding brick fireplace (with analog clocks); and Stone’s circle-and-grid motif, versions of which can also be seen in his work at the Stanford Medical Center and other iconic projects around the world. New are the Eames-style chairs, another nod to the period.

Just how cool is this architecture? Branch manager Alex Perez and his wife knew little about midcentury modern until he took the job here. Now they are such fans that they regularly head to Palm Springs to check out the modernism decor and culture there.

One more vintage touch to appreciate while visiting this library: There’s a working pay phone outside the entrance. A call costs 50 cents these days.

What to read: Check out the library’s international collection, with books, movies and children’s books in Hindi, Chinese and Spanish, plus wide offerings in Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Russian, German and more.

Details: Open Wednesday-Saturday at 1213 Newell Road, Palo Alto; www.library.cityofpaloalto.org/locations/R/.

Mechanics Institute, San Francisco
Comfortable leather chairs and 160,000 books are just some of the attractions at the members-only Mechanics’ Institute Library in San Francisco. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Nestled quietly amid the towering office buildings and glitzy designer boutiques of downtown San Francisco, the Mechanics Institute library continues its cerebral tradition of promoting culture and intellectual growth.

Tucked inside a nine-story building on Post Street, the institute is a private membership library, one of many  formed before the advent of public libraries in the 19th century to satisfy an increasingly literate population’s hunger for reading and learning. San Francisco’s institute opened in 1854 to cater to the city’s booming Gold Rush labor force. After the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed its original quarters, the institute moved to its current Beaux-Arts building, designed by architect Albert Pissis, in 1910.

The library includes two stately reading rooms, where members, who pay a relatively egalitarian $120 a year, can plant themselves in one of the comfortable leather chairs to read, write or reflect.

It’s especially …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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