At least since elementary school, I have loved the combination of charms offered by libraries, perhaps chief among them the provision of a serene space for concentration and thought with the freedom indiscriminately granted to take an interest in anything from the collection. I remember at my elementary school library, at Cleveland Elementary School, there were wooden-drawered filing cabinets for index cards. I remember the age-yellowed peculiar tinge and feeling of the index cards, perhaps made by hand on a typewriter, and the feeling of avenues into knowledge being revealed through the process of beginning with any topic of interest and working from books to index to books to begin tracing paths on rivers of thought and language that exist to help us each understand the world.
The first massive library which I was free to explore was the colosseum-inspired Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library, which was approved by referendum in 1990 and opened for public use in 1995. My friend Chevar and I were excused by our parents from school to attend the grand opening, which included a massive chocolate cake in the shape of the building’s unique form. For visitors to Vancouver, I strongly recommend going up to the appropriate floors to try the sky bridges and outer seating areas available on the far side of the central atrium. It’s a place where I read happily until I stopped being a Vancouver resident, and I can still remember the way the brand-new-library smell evolved into a stable characteristic odor with a hint of escalator oil and rubber as base notes.