Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Floral Library

If you've ever found yourself near the tidal basin in Washington, DC, just across the Kutz bridge and looked to your right at the intersection of Independence and Marine Ave, you may have seen some flower beds and wondered, what's up with those? The beds are the Floral Library, maintained by the National Parks Service National Mall & Memorial Parks department. Also known as the 'Tulip Library', the 93 beds were founded in 1969 as part of Lady Bird Johnson's Capital Beautification Project.

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Alice McLarty, Landscape Architect, and Maureen Joseph, Regional Historic Landscape Architect, about the floral library. There are few links online that talk about the library's history or current care. This one mentions the tulip garden, however the article from the National Park Service is actually almost exclusively about tulips. Alice and Maureen were kind enough to fill me in on the details. I'd like to say that their jobs are fascinating. I'd talk more about them, but this post would go on forever. I'll just say I love being a librarian, but were I to go back in time and have a choice, I might choose historic landscape architect as a career.

When the library began to bloom in the spring of 1969, there were 95 varieties of tulips planted in groups of 100 to 200. Then Regional Director Nash Castro said in a press release from March 1969, "The concept of the library is to give interested persons an opportunity to study and compare the tulip varieties as well as view them at close range and at a leisurely pace." There were three seasonal plantings with Tulips in the spring, annuals in the summer, and chrysanthemums in the fall

The beds haven't changed much in the intervening 43 years. There are now 93 beds due to sidewalk widening a few years ago. There are two planting seasons, tulips and annuals, and the annuals tend to last into the fall. The ground maintenance staff maintains the beds and McLarty manages the ordering and evaluates how plants are doing. McLarty said of the selection, "The varieties generally are the same year after year, but with substitutions by the grower for various reasons, and changes by our staff if we see that a particular plant is not doing well. Or if conditions change, such as the elimination of shade loving annuals after the huge elm tree, which had shaded the west end for years, died. We have no shade loving annuals anymore, but someday we will again when the replacement elm gets larger."

The layout has remained essentially the same. This link takes you to the 2012 library map. You can see the shift from 95 to 93 beds, when compared to this library map for the chrysanthemums from 1971. This announcement shows the original designer, Darwina Neal, among the tulips.
These pictures were taken in July, when the annuals were in bloom. The official name of this library without books is the Floral Library, however many people still refer to the beds as the Tulip Library. It's not known why, as McLarty mentioned, even when it started it had three distinct planting seasons.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Beautiful Private Libraries

This week's post is about beautiful private libraries. These are libraries and studies in private homes. They might have been constructed with consultation of librarians, but probably do not employ one for maintenance. They are pulchritudinous and enviable. The inspiration for this post is an article that was written in the Star Tribune, A Remodel For the Books. I dream of one day having a beautiful library, and thought today I'd share a few special library eyegasms with you. Click the picture to navigate to the posts and lose yourself in some stunning libraries.

The Art of Manliness website has a post on The Libraries of 15 Famous Men. I've visited George Washington's Study at Mount Vernon. It is rather nice, and George and Martha had great taste in paint.As a final note, this is a shot of George C. Marshall's sitting room, which I fell in love with when I toured his house, Dodona Manor. Remember to check back next week. The post will feature an interview with two landscape architects with the National Parks Service and the Floral Library on the National Mall.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Public Law Library of King County

Law Libraries come in many forms. Law schools are required to have law libraries, which tend to be administratively separate from university library systems. Most academic law libraries tend to be closed to the public, unless they are depositories within the federal depository library program, or the campus is more open to the public. It varies, as to the level of public access for these libraries as their primary purpose is to serve the school to which they are attached. Most law firms, court houses, counties, and cities have law libraries. Many special or public libraries contain legal collections although law might not be the primary collection focus.

The King County Law Library in Washington State is a public law library that provides access to legal resources for free to anyone who visits the two locations; the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle or the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, WA. The law library provides check-out privileges to Subscribers. Other services include Conference Room Space, computer use, and access to legal and research databases. The library offers classes on legal topics for a range of experience levels.

The mission of the Public Law Library of King County is to provide the public with access to legal resources. "Without access to information, there is no justice. Public Law Library of King County aids all persons with their need for legal information by providing legal materials, training, education, and services in a welcoming and positive environment." Law librarianship is a fascinating field that tends to draw on people with legal degrees. Most take specialized courses within an MLIS program, or a condensed program in addition to possessing a law degree. Not all law librarians have law degrees, but most have prior legal experience. Law librarians are not practicing layers and cannot give legal advice, but can direct patrons to resources or provide direction to where to find legal counsel.

I had the opportunity to visit the law library in the King County Courthouse with a group of MLIS students as part of a library crawl with the University of Washington chapter of the Special Library Association. In addition to the collections and helpful staff, they also have great views of some Seattle landmarks, such as the Smith Tower.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Books that Shaped America

This week I'd like to bring the focus back to the Library of Congress to take a look at the Books that Shaped America exhibit on display now through September 29th. The exhibit is part of the multi-year Celebration of the Book. I visited a few weeks ago and very much enjoyed the experience. The exhibit is located in the Southwest Exhibition Hall in the Jefferson Building on Capitol Hill, just outside the Thomas Jefferson Library Exhibition.

The Jefferson Building is open on Saturdays and there was quite a crowd when I was there. It was nice to hear the common exclamation, "I love that book" and to overhear stories of how a particular title was personally influential, or brought up fond memories spent reading. I saw many books that have mattered to me over the years, and each selection was thought provoking in how its existence and influence helped shape America.

If you are able to visit before the end of the month, I highly recommend it. I also want to plug the National Book Festival, taking place on the National Mall September 22-23. I am glad to be able to check it out this year. If it's a bit far for a visit, check out the list of books online to find your favorites. These are a few of mine.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

United States Military Academy's Jefferson Hall Library

The United States Military Academy's Jefferson Hall Library was listed in the Princeton Review Annual The Best 377 Colleges as #2 for Best College Library. Congratulations USMA Library! (Harvard College got #1) USMA may be more familiarly known as West Point. In checking out the Library's website I came across a 12 page tour book that provides a lot of great detail and some images of the Jefferson Hall Library. It's worth taking a look at the six floors and to get a little jealous of the beautiful views.

The catalog is publicly searchable, and some of the Special Collections and Archives might be accessible by request.

"The Special Collections and Archives Division reading room is open to researchers Monday through Friday, 0800-1630; exceptions will be posted. Researchers (excluding USMA Cadets, staff and faculty) are accommodated by appointment only and require approval from the Associate Director for Special Collections and Archives. To request a research appointment, please complete the Researcher Registration form in advance of your visit. Please allow time for us to respond; appointments are not set until confirmation is received." --Library Website

You can fill out a researcher request form online after browsing the Special Collections or Archives collection descriptions and finding aids. Lucky you who are be granted access to this beautiful building and collections. For those unable to visit in person, this Online Photo Gallery will have to suffice. There are also a few digital collections accessible on the website for you to browse through, like these Colonial and Federal Era Maps Collection