Sunday, February 01, 2009

From the Chronicle: Who needs library chairs?

From the Chronicle about a new library opening at Fresno State:

“The collection level below the first floor is arguably the largest single-floor open compact shelving in the world,” Mr. McDonald said. It “can hold on a single floor upwards of 1.3 million items. So the books as such remain in the building, it is just that they are significantly compacted to make room elsewhere in the building for user centered services and seating.”

Although I still tend to think that books and not "user centered services," should, you know, be the focus of a library, I'm very glad that they've found places for the books and haven't thrown them away, even if it does mean Adventures in Compact Shelving.

And I'm willing to bet this: if Fresno State is like most campuses, it probably has a lots of chairs stashed away somewhere. Think about what chairs it probably has and what the library could do with them:

1. Those light-colored maple chairs from the 1950s could go in one area, along with the carved-in-graffiti tables from the era--a piece of history.

2. The steel chairs from the 1960s that were meant to withstand a Soviet atomic blast. You can bet they're still around.

3. Those plastic Eames chairs that came in back when the world was groovy. They were supposed to be so, so comfortable because they were shaped like your body and were so, so not.

4. The library chairs with padded seats and backs covered in woven fabrics that someone unwisely judged would be impermeable to spilled coffee and general crud. Those came in in the 1970s, and that's what most places have now. You can judge their vintage from the colors: 1970s = mustard yellow/avocado green; 1980s = patriotic red or blue, etc.

In short, there's probably only really a NEW chair shortage. If you grouped the old ones and made them seem a piece of library history, you could probably have a chair-filled library that would work for the present.


Anonymous said...

Great idea! We have the 1970s ones. They have these great old wooden library chairs they periodically throw out. I grab the ones in good shape. I have about four in my office now. If I find any more I may take them home and refinish them for dining chairs.

Anonymous said...

There was a show at the Southern Illinois University Museum about just that sort of thing, back in 2001 or 2002.

A little bit on it is here:

I remember the curator of the show, Carma Gorman, saying she actually pulled some of the pieces in the show, examples of design history, out of a dumpster.

And, if you click on the link that says "View multimedia archive", I think you can even see an Eames chair...

undine said...

Don't you wonder why they throw out those chairs, profacero?

Thanks for the link, meteechart. I am trying to get Shockwave to work right now with Firefox so that I can see the chairs.

Lynda said...

The 60's chairs were solid wood -- walnut? with a mid-century modern look. I bought a bunch of them on surplus.