What It Looks Like Inside an Empty Public Library
In case you didn’t know, National Library Week is most certainly a thing: seven days (this year it’s April 9th through the 15th, to be precise) wholly dedicated to loving and using your library. If you’re a library regular, it serves as a gentle reminder that, oh yeah, libraries are the coolest. A building of any size dedicated solely to lending out books for free? I mean, it sounds surreal. Now if it’s been years since you’ve stepped into a library—if you don’t even have a library card tucked inside your wallet (insert audible gasp)—well, consider yourself a born-again library devotee and get back in there. After all, in the wise words of Arthur, “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.”
In 2016, we reached out to our pals at San Francisco Public Library to host an Instagram meetup (also known as an Instameet) at the Main Library, before opening hours, with a group of bookish photographers. To put it in perspective how strange it is to be in this library while it’s devoid of patrons, consider this: the Main Library greets 1.8 million visitors each year, and checks out close to 2 million items. On top of that, it’s open more than 3,000 hours a year.
Check out these photos of the library while it’s empty, and then go fill it up.
Winding through the eerily empty library with only books as our witnesses, we explored each floor with an appetite for knowledge.
While a library without people is the antithesis of its existence, it really did give a chance for the architecture to stand out.
In celebration of #NationalLibraryWeek (April 10-16), @sfpubliclibrary and @chroniclebooks hosted a private tour of the San Francisco Public Library’s Main Branch this morning. @jillmray and I were invited to join other Bay Area creatives and library lovers to explore the architecture and see the branch’s books and collections before the library opened to the public. Definitely had a wonderful time and thanks again for the opportunity! #EmptySFPL • #sfpubliclibrary #chroniclecrush #bookstagram #bibliophile #bookworm #igreads #instareads #instabooks #booksonbooks A photo posted by Oliver Skywolf (@oliverskywolf) on
Kicking off National Library Week with #emptysfpl. Huge thanks to @chroniclebooks and @sfpubliclibrary for bringing us all together to (re)discover this gem. A photo posted by Jeffrey Gerson (@jeffreydgerson) on
Craning your neck back while standing in the lobby yielded a visual treat: the Nautilus, whose shape also serves as logo of SFPL.
📕📗📘📙 #emptysfpl A photo posted by Caitlin (@caitlinsimspaul) on
And of course, a library visit isn’t complete without dipping into some card catalogs. Analog for the win!
Here are some more photos from our community:
A photo posted by Chloe Roth (@thechloeroth) on
Before Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr, I remember checking out large, hard bound art books for inspiration. Visiting the SF Public Library’s main branch this morning gave me that feeling of wonder, excitement, and curiosity again. Thanks @chroniclebooks & @sfpubliclibrary! P.S. Getting a library card is free folks! Take advantage of all their amazing resources, programs, and events. I know I will. Follow (melissademata) on snapchat to see more from this morning 👻 #emptySFPL A photo posted by Melissa de Mata (@melissademata) on
“I love the smell of book ink in the morning.” Caught this creative thinker in the act at @sfpubliclibrary. Thanks @irenekly and @chroniclebooks for giving us an inside peek of #emptysfpl. Nothing quite like exploring a beautiful empty building and then watching it fill up with life all at once. A photo posted by Stef Etow (@inkandpulp) on
Look up. Look down. Look all around. Visit and explore your library during #nationallibraryweek April 10-16. #emptySFPL @chroniclebooks @sfpubliclibrary A photo posted by Leslie Santarina (@spottedsf) on
|| the calm before the storm || Kicked off #nationallibraryweek with @chroniclebooks + @sfpubliclibrary by exploring the library before it opened to the public. I really love libraries and believe they are vital to communities and fostering important skills, especially kids! I remember I used to go to my local library and borrow 20 books at a time and gobble them up eagerly. I even got in trouble during class in high school for reading the non-class reading, lol. Anyhow, after college I stopped going as much because I moved to SF and I also owed some money (oops), but am inspired again to support our local library. Also, did you know you can borrow E books? So handy! #emptysfpl #chroniclecrush #thisismybookstore Also, @bliu07 has really inspired me to move outside of photo these days. A video posted by nanette (@nantuck3t) on
In closing, words from Wendy MacNaughton’s Meanwhile in San Francisco hold true: “The library mirrors the population we have in SF. [It’s] not just an information center. It’s always been a refuge for anyone to come to, whatever status in society. For people, intellectuals, pseudo-intellectuals, for lonely people. For every walk of life.”
Check out all the photos from this event through the hashtag #emptySFPL, and if you’re local, be sure to stop by the Main Library for National Library Week—you can find all the information on events and happenings here.
Photos by Irene Kim Shepherd
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