Friday, June 11, 2010

Springfield! The Grand Dame of Western Mass...

[The Puritan crafted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens]
OK, now that I have offered tribute to the boosters, it is safe to say that while I didn't need to call in the gendarmes... Springfield is always a fun place to visit. Why just as I was taking a photo of Deacon Samuel Chapin outside the library I was stared at by a man in high water boots, standing on a stump, playing with a fishing pole. I kid you not. Now... as far as I know there is no fishing remotely near him or on the library grounds. He could have been attempting to capture pigeons... for the city... or maybe he was just pretending to be a fisherman. Neither of those possibilities give the answer of why he was standing on the stump. I honestly don't want to know.What is even better than that - none of the other park residents seemed to notice save I. Yet still, some people wonder what I have against Springfield. All I can say is things like this doesn't happen in South Hadley or maybe it is just because I live near the river where people can fish for real. I wonder what the good Mr. Chapin would have thought about a man standing on a stump in a park with a fishing pole and no nearby body of water, let alone fish? 'Hmm... Maybe he was an artist... no, don't get me started on that.' I agree, Mr. Chapin.

[Self-Checkout? What about the librarians?]

Anyway, Springfield! I took my usual sojourn into Springfield down Rt. 91. The traffic cones were in perfect bloom as I drove down the highway. The beautiful, bold Sun brought out their particular orange hue which often screams, "You're going to die!" as you drive by at the flow rate of traffic which routinely exceeds the legal and safe rate. As I descended into the city proper I was greeted by one of Springfield's more connected citizens driving by in her Interceptor III police vehicle. I waved - glad that I wasn't one the fools who can't read a parking sign. I am a frequenter of libraries and that was where I was going.

[I love this photo! I had some fun getting all artsy. Yeah, art... toss a book on windowsill near an old fashioned crank and people will call you a genius.]

So I took my usual wrong turn off of State St. onto Chestnut St driving the wrong way on the one-way. Deep in my heart though I knew that I was in the right. That should be a normal turn and that is because the person who designed the street design in Springfield was the same British inebriate who was kicked out of Boston after drawing up their street map. However, I made it without incident and pulled into the little parking lot that services the museums.

[Closed for Renovations.]

So there I was. As I said it was a beautiful day. Western Mass had survived two days of tornado warnings. The museums were still standing, as was I. I felt that God had deemed that be for some reason and I was accepting it just fine. Today's blog entry is going to just feature the library. So even though I did very much enjoy the Doctor Seuss Museum - that is another blog entry. Plus, one of my pictures did not work and I need to go back and re-take it. Although for a little cell phone camera I was very pleased with how it takes outside shots. memory though is an issue and I had used all mine up.

[What are those damn things?]

The Springfield Public Library! Yay! I survived it this far! I was home free like those guys in the picture. I ran... well walked... quite happily to that beautiful Italian Reneisssance-inspired civic structure. I can't remember what they are though. Damn you, Geisel! Who the heck are they? I'll get that info ready for the next blog.  Wait a second, I've done all of you all a tremendous disservice. All this time I have been referring to the library as the Springfield Public Library. It is the Springfield City Library! Heaven forbid the Brahmans rub elbows with the proletariat. That is a big difference. Well, at least they are humble and didn't go the Athenaeum route. I apologize. I will call it by its real name. (They just had to be difficult... I hate those people.)

[One of my favorite shots]

Anyhow, how did this fine building come to be? The building was opened in 1912. It is all there on the the Library's History Page. If you decide to read that and you've been paying attention to my blog you'll find that this library shares histories common to both South Hadley and Holyoke. They are all institutional buildings driven by a public desire for a library, granted a donation of land, given help by wealthy, evil industrialists, in particular, Andrew Carnegie. Both Holyoke and Springfield share building designs inspired by the classical boom of the 1800's and spent time in their respective city halls during their gestation period. Springfield being the wealthier of the two did get the bigger chunk of land. What makes Springfield interesting and the Quadrangle possible was the looseness of the Springfield charter which widely interpreted their mission. The donation of George Walter Vincent Smith sparks the line of demarcation between the library and museums, but up until that point it was the mission of the Springfield City Library. As you know I found one thing particularly interesting when I researched the history here and that is the whole "Peoples College" thing. I am currently researching the roots of that term, but it still stands that Springfield probably stole it from the Holyoke inauguration (see below).

[A sample of the rotunda... obscenely gauche but it stoked their ego in their need to top Holyoke's simple elegance.]

When you walk into the building it is very much like walking into the Holyoke Public Library only on a grander scale. The Holyoke Public Library having opened 10 years earlier than Springfield you can see the similarities.If you know the history shared between Holyoke and Springfield there are many instances one-upsmanship between the two municipalities... I am a Holyoke guy... and yes I have my reasons to hate Springfield. This would not be the first or last time Springfield stole, ahem, 'borrowed' from Holyoke. What am I talking about? Why Basketball, of course! I used to work in the Holyoke YMCA and I heard the old timers talk. Volleyball was not the only sport invented in Holyoke, but that is another story. Yes, it is a nice rotunda. The bas reliefs and the friezes are quite nice. (There is a humorous story concerning that ante-room that you walk into off of State St. but that I can't get into here.) No, honestly the rotunda is beautifully done, however, they have this nice bust of Carnegie that is sitting there in the dark. I wanted to get a picture of it, but it was too dark for my poor little phone. They really need a nice soft little light on Andy.

[Much like the Parthenon I hear... Springfield and Greece bound at the hip in both culture and finance.]

If you stand in the rotunda you can walk straight through to go from  the museum grounds to State St. Information and Reference services sit in Wellman Hall and you have main reading room on opposites from each other. The first time I ever went to this library was my freshman year in high school. I was looking for books on some report that I was working on and Springfield had more available because somebody who was working on the same project had hit Holyoke before I had a chance. The library seemed huge then and it still retains that feeling. This is a big building.

[A big building... just think of how many more books could have gone up there... alas. Not a very efficient use of space.]

To my surprise very few things seems to have changed over the years. The card catalogues once flanked the stairs leading up to the mezzanine level. The computers are obviously a new addition as libraries are marching into the age of connected living and the Internet. Also new are surveillance cameras which help guard this building. I think out of all the changes I was saddened by a need to see those installed, but it is a sign of the times. Not having the card catalogues there are a sad sight too. Unfortunately the truly sad angle there is that fewer and fewer people know about the card catalogues, so we won't go there. One factor that did remain the same was the desks that you can sit at and work. When I was going to STCC I spent many afternoons with a book or two sitting at those desks working on homework.

[No more card catalogues, but my seat remains!]

I walked in I felt a connection to my days at STCC. Working on homework as I killed time between classes. As I wandered about I wondered also who else might have recently been here. This library does service so many people you are bound to cross paths with people you know. The first area I was seeming drawn to was the histoy and folklore section. I was happy that the spirits drew me there. I spent some time just enjoying the aura of my past.

  [I looked down and saw these... truly one of my  favorite genres.]

I felt the mission calling me and I ventured into an area I knew was there, but never really bothered visiting - the fiction section. That area lies down the spooky stairs. As you walk into the non-fiction section from the rotunda you pass by a set of stairs leading down. The fiction section is down there. I will admit that it is a nice, comfortable reading environment. Many titles, different subjects, are down there. Since this is one of the largest contemporary libraries in Western Mass you can expect to find what you seek. The poor librarian dude did not quite know what to make of me walking around and snapping photos. I am sure that I was on their surveillance cameras. I know that they were watching me, but this is good. I would hate to see anything bad happen to this "cultural gem" despite any feelings of antipathy I may have against its host city. Yes, Springfield City Library I don't blame you... Its not your fault. One thing that I did go to right away and this may be a "to do" item on all my forthcoming library visits was to snap the location of where my novels shall reside once they are published.

[Baker, Eric... right there... when I finish it!]

Also residing down in the basement and unlike the more more humane Holyoke Public Library is the Children's Library. Yes, apparently Springfield didn't get the memo and they still hide away their noisy brats down in the basement. No, sorry Little Timmy, you need to down into the cold, dank depths of the basement. It just goes to show how Holyoke is on the cutting edge of empathic treatment of rugrats and crumb crunchers, while Springfield is still stuck in the dark ages. Look at this picture... Notice even the clearly anti-Republican imagery inherent. Using Horton like that - a shame. Yes kids, it is Republican Party's fault that we have to cram you down into this little room.

[LOL... Actually it is very nice in there. But still in the basement.]

Here are a few more images that I took down below. There is a lower level street enterance off of State Street which will get you directly into the fiction / children's area. The hallway runs past the picture of the display boxes. Notice how careful I was not to get an image of myself in the reflection of the glass. Also  depicted is a nice little display of books that one walks directly past. I was pleased by their choice of fantasy and science fiction to populate the display. Yes, geeks like us deserve our due.

Overall, I did have a good time visiting. It is a fine library. I do plan subsequent visits as I journey through the other museums of the Quadrangle. I greatly look forward to coming again. Also keep an eye for my visit to the branches. Two libraries remain of my first set which one shall I go to next... wait and see. Thank you for joining me on this visit to Springfield. As much as it galls me I shall be coming back to Springfield it would seem.

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