Sunday, February 28, 2016

La Grande Bibliothèque

Given that it is now more than ten years old, it's about time that I investigated La Grande Bibliothèque here in Montreal. Our text'art group is planning a visit, when I expect to learn more about what the library has to offer.

Audioguides are available to introduce the first-time visitor to the space and the collection. Membership is open to all residents of Quebec at no cost.

Wikipedia says it rivals all other North American libraries for attendance figures, and there may well have been more than 1500 people there on my last visit. The place is vast, with 33,000 square metres and many different configurations of reading spaces. One long hallway is lined with floor-to-ceiling windows and armchairs that overlook an urban landscape: aging low-rise buildings, complete with back balconies, clotheslines, alleys and garages. What a find!

Quick facts:

- 4 million items in the collection, 30% in English

- 80 kilometres of shelving
- 1300 reading armchairs, 850 study seats and carrels, and 350 computer stations
- 44 audio stations and 50 video stations, as well as multimedia computer terminals and two music rooms with facilities for composing electronic music
- a screening room that accommodates groups of up to 20
- a direct connection to the metro
- a coffee shop on the ground floor
- extensive e-book and audiobook collections

Until August, the library offers a virtual reality experience designed by Robert Lepage, The Library at NightIt explores ten of the world's most fascinating libraries, and "the philosophical, architectural and social foundations on which all libraries rest".  
"Visitors ... don headsets using 360°video immersion technology that take them from Sarajevo's National and University Library, magically risen from the ashes, to Mexico City's Megabibliotheca, the stunning digital-age Biblioteca Vasconcelos, and from the legendary city of Alexandria to the bottom of the sea aboard Captain Nemo's Nautilus. There are a total of 10 famous places, both real and imaginary, to be visited on a one-of-a-kind journey for which BanQ is your guide."
With fond childhood memories of a hometown library set in a re-purposed fire hall, I find it remarkable to see how the idea of the library has evolved in the last fifty years.

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