(Direct link to full-sized image.)
When I saw this, my breath was taken away like, I imagine, most fellow librarian/book-geeks would be (and, yes, we’re not librarian because we “love books” - most of us love helping folks find information they need in the never-ending quest for each new answer that is daily service at the reference desk), and not all librarians are book geeks, nor are all book geeks librarians, by a long shot.
But - sigh - this isn’t a photograph of an existing facility: it’s apparently a rendering of an architectural design/proposal for the Stockholm Library. I found information about this image at something called the Long Now Foundation (a non-profit co-founded by Stewart Brand that strives to “creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years” - sounds very cool and very impressive: did they get part of their name and/or inspiration from the “Long Range Foundation” in Heinlein’s Time for the Stars? Jeez, now I’ve got to go track that book down and read it again.)
As gorgeous as this looks, its, of course, ridiculously impractical as a functioning library, unless it’s closed stacks or an archive, and even then: only three “skyways”, apparently, to get to the books, then all those stairs, which should be on the outside of the balconies/rows/whatever, instead of flush up against the books.
But it looks SOOOO COOOL!!! Which, apparently, is the whole point - a link from the Long Now page leads to a discussion at a computer graphics/digital design site. So this may have just been a “concept” and not a full, practical, serious proposal for the Stockholm Library but rather just a “wouldn’t it be neat to have a single, giant wall of books for an entire library” idea.
The comments on the Long Now blog post are both practical and clueless:
As for the problem of reaching the top shelves – libraries do this all the time. They put books that are hardly ever used where they can only be reached after going through some trouble. For example using a sliding ladder.Ummm, no, we don’t organize books by how often they’re used.
I couldn’t find a good picture of it on-line, but this sort of reminds me of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville: roughly half is the museum and the other half is the working archives of the Country Music Foundation. The archive half is enclosed in glass walls that you see from the museum half so that from most of the museum you can look into the archives where all those rows of compact shelving hold their collections and you can watch the archivists and staff at work. Its pretty awe-inspiring, like this fantastical library concept would be on a much larger scale, to see such a vast accumulation of material all in one sweeping view.