This is a beautiful quote, from architect, professor and author Witold Rybczynski upon visiting Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center in his essay, “A Good Public Building,” collected in Mysteries of The Mall:
The atmosphere was different from that in other public buildings. Unlike a museum, it had no price of admission, and the security guards were unobtrusive; the stacks were open, and the books were there to be picked up and leafed through. There was also a more mixed crowd than one finds in a museum or a concert hall: groups of teenagers, elderly men and women, college students, street people. In a period where even art museums are beginning to resemble shopping malls, this library stands apart. It didn’t make me feel like a consumer, or a spectator, or an onlooker; it made me feel like a citizen.
Don’t all libraries make us feel that way? They should.