Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Santa Barbara's Very Own Carnegie

"Oh, no, not again!"
"I tell you what, Mimi.  I'll drop you off at Encanto around the corner and then go to the libarary alone.  Deal?"
"Deal.  Only . . .  Marea?"
"Can I have your credit card?"

Now, you have to understand . . . the Santa Barbara Public Library is my home away from home, but only recently did I discover it was built with Carnegie grant funds.  It doesn't look like a Carnegie Library, at all, so it never dawned on me.  It is actually one of the very few Spanish Revival Carnegies that were built.  It opened in 1917 and was designed by local architect, Francis Wilson.  It blends in nicely with the other red-tiled adobe buildings in the community.  Other Mission style libraries were built in Woodland, St. Helena and Monterey.  All of them are uniquely Californian.
This woodcarving above the library's door is amazing.  It was designed by Carleton M. Winslow and built by Marshall Laird.  Santa Barbara's coat-of-arms is in the center (I never even knew we had one!) and Plato and Aristotle stand on either side of it.  Above them are the shields of famous libraries:  the University of Bologna, the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris, the University of Salamanca and the Bodleian Library at Oxford.  Lofty icons for little ole' us, but, heh, why not?
The library has a cozy and warm environment.  I love the semicircular windows, the wooden furniture and bookcases, the massive fireplace.  This library has never failed me, and although I worry that the Nooks and Kindles of the world are going to replace books, computer technology is a good thing.  If I can't find the book I want here, a click of the button will guarantee shipment from another library.   I will get my book in a day or two.  I know, I know, if I had a Kindle, I could get it immediately.  But what's the fun in that?  I would miss curling up in my favorite armchair and miss going to Coffee Cat across the street for a latte afterwards.  A trip to the library is often extended to include my favorite shops on State Street. ( And just in case you were wondering, I did not give Mimi my credit card.  She's the dummy; not me!)

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