Book Reviews | January 2010 | Basie Gitlin

Library Architecture at Yale

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From 1926 to 2008, the Yale University Library published the biannual Yale University Library Gazette, which featured a nice but variable assortment of articles on Yale collections and libraries. In 2009, the Gazette was superceded by a new journal series published annually by the Library, Yale Library Studies. Each volume in the series will focus on a particular aspect of the Yale libraries; the first, just released, collects eight essays on Yale library architecture, edited by Geoffrey Little and with an introduction by University Librarian Alice Prochaska.

Since the press releases cannot radiate immodest praise, I will step in and radiate some myself. Wow! The book is a triumph. The Gazette's weak points were a lack of cohesion and fairly modest production quality; it had a limited appeal to anyone without serious devotion to the Yale Library. This certainly cannot be said for the new series, judging by this volume. Robert A.M. Stern, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, contributes the main essay, a superb overall history of the Yale Library's buildings. Other essays focus on particular libraries or renovation projects, all thoroughly researched, extensively color-illustrated, and footnoted. They seem less like a collection of journal articles than a unified history, and the finished product comes as close to being a page-turner as any collection of academic essays I've read.

The Yale Library is fortunate to serve both as a world-class research library and as a series of welcoming, bookish spaces that continue to encourage students. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who has ever enjoyed the YUL in either capacity, or to anyone interested in the history of library architecture writ large. Having read this all too quickly in one sitting, I will be eagerly awaiting the 2010 volume of Yale Library Studies, as I imagine many will. Unlike the Gazette, this is a series people will want to collect.

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