Words, books & the fabulous Vancouver Public Library

September 30, 2011

You can learn a lot about a city by the value it places on the written word. So let’s start with the Vancouver library, probably the most unique public library I’ve ever seen. Its architecture is what drew us closer. “What IS that?” I wondered. It was the Vancouver Public Library. And as we watch our libraries in the U.S. close, reduce hours and dwindle to a shadow of their former selves, it was a happy discovery. Right in front of the library, this work of modern art. Looks like it’s lit at night.
Isn’t that a very cool installation? Then, inside, modern floors and floors of stacks. QR codes on the new-book shelves, too, so patrons can browse for other new books at the library.
And high up, on one lobby wall, were huge canvases displaying food for thought:
I loved that one. And this:
I was utterly charmed.
Did you recognize any of these quotes? Tired of thinking about them? Have some coffee and a little snack at one of the mini cafes in the library. Yep. Not vending machines. Real cafes.
As if that wasn’t fabulous enough, and trust me, this library was pretty fabulous, in hours of walking we ran into bookstore after bookstore. Yes, there are still bookstores in Vancouver, all kinds of bookstores. I couldn’t have been more excited. This university bookstore was one of my favorites; it belongs to Simon Fraser University.
Lots of unusual books and goods, benches and leather chairs everywhere. A pleasure to browse. And then this:
Vancouver has a sizeable Asian population. This is a used bookstore, part of a big chain catering to the Japanese market.
A closer look, above. The models were disturbingly round-eyed, just like ours are disturbingly anorexic.

And then, the scariest thing I saw. Displayed for sale at SFU’s bookstore was something I’d expect to see in the year 2111:
“Handcrafted from real books.” I felt like I’d just had a glimpse into the future, one in which real books didn’t exist. One that’s coming faster than I’d like.

Scroll down for my walk through downtown Vancouver.

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