As mentioned in the first of this series of post on the form of libraries, they are often one of three types – axial, concentric or vertical.
Vertical libraries are the humanistic analogue of the Gothic cathedral. The stacks of books rise up to the heavens, knowledge infinite and divine.
These libraries make the most of the stacked ranks of shelves, one upon another. There are steps, ladders, stairs distributed around for the use of the small and insignificant humans. The books are increasingly out of the reach of people and become their own luminous stars, more rising up to the sky than weighted down to the earth.
I especially like the way there are always step ladders in these libraries to reach the upper part of shelves. These have some nostalgic cache but their need is curious. I am just over 6′ tall and I need to use these in many libraries. Like building shelves only as high as someone could reasonably reach would be out of the question. It is not like a home library where you only have space for one set of bookshelves. Clearly the uppermost shelves must contain the “best” books. I think this “larger-than-life” shelving is yet another way that books are arranged to overwhelm and impress, not provide access.
In the end, it is these vertical libraries that intrigue me the most. I have often thought that Wright’s Guggenheim would be best as a library, a continuous spiral of books, ascending or descending, stretching from the earth to the heavens.