Generosity and Selfishness at the New King Library

The new King Library in San Jose had its grand opening today. This is the grand new experiment: a public library and a university library rolled in one, with 2 staffs, 2 collections and 2 user populations.

It was literally a festival. Thousands ... maybe tens of thousands of people showed up. Even though nothing could be checked out today. Lots of stuff for little kids, but a fair amount of activities for adults.

As a public library, it's magnificient: lots of space, lots of light, lots of windows. 33 art installations secreted all over the place. Wide, well-lighted stairwells, nice browsing library on the first floor (although the sci-fi, hardcover & soft, is fairly lousy in that particular section).

As a university library ... we'll see. I was disconcerted to learn that bound periodicals is in the basement, 4 floors down from current periodicals. That will be a bit of a bother. Otherwise ... we'll see.

When I'm a public library user, I'm fairly patient and generous. I don't mind long lines at check-out or to get a library card; I think kids running around and being themselves in a public library is a perfectly good thing. I trust that there are some areas where people who want peace and quiet and to be left undisturbed, but that the rest is public space: loud, chaotic, funky, energetic public space.

When I'm a university library user, I'm really selfish. I want quiet and books neatly on the shelves and quiet conversation; no chatter, no crying, no screaming. I don't want kids or tourists wandering in on my space obliviously. I want comtemplative, meditative space to read and absorb and think. There are public spaces (especially the first floor), but the rest is sacred space: I want my university library, on the whole, to be quieter than my church (and if that sounds weird, remember that I grew up as a Baptist).

Don't know if the library will, can or is even meant to work on that level.

In other news, I was interviewed briefly by a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. Since I had on my public library user hat on today, I was very good and gave nice, enthusiastic quotes.

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