Saturday, 19 September 2009

19 September 2009 - Mitchell Library

This is part of Glasgow's Doors Open annual event whereby members of the public are invited in to see buildings, or parts of buildings, normally closed to the public.

I've driven past the Mitchell Library next to the M8 motorway many times. The familiar green domed roof looks fantastic lit up at night. Doors Open provided the opportunity to go inside and explore.

Before the nice, arty,architectural bits, I must get on my soap box and have a moan. The Mitchell Library houses a rather nice Cafe. Arriving early for our tour we decided a coffee and a fruit juice was in order. Imagine my surprise as I stood at the counter in front of the solitary member of staff, asked for my coffee and fruit juice only to be told "sorry but due to the licensing laws and with the cafe serving alcohol you can't be served at this counter with your young daughter standing here. What??? It looked like a cafe, the counter had cakes in it and coffee machines behind it......... oh but wait......... yes.......there in the distance behind some pull down wire screen I think I can see alcohol!!!! It's 10am on a Saturday morning....... I'm simply asking for a coffee and a fruit juice as advertised on your CAFE MENU........ where did the alcohol come into it you daft mare? And whilst I am having my rant...... would you truly expect a public library cafe to actually be offering alcohol for sale? Are there not enough drinking establishments in the vicinity who kind of have that "old drinking market" sewn up? How many people walk into their public library and think......oh yeah...... shall grab a pint of beer while I'm at it!!! WAKE UP GLASGOW, YOU HAVE A SERIOUS DRINK PROBLEM BECAUSE YOU ARE INTRODUCING IT INTO THE VERY HEART OF EVERY ESTABLISHMENT FREQUENTED BY THE CHILDREN OF YOUR CITY!!!

There, that's better.

Now to the library itself. We headed towards the Jeffrey Room which houses many of the books bequeathed to the city by Stephen Mitchell. Ornate bookcases line the walls and then you look up and see the most amazing glass roof.

Standing directly underneath the roof and looking up you get an even better view of the glass roof.

As with many historical buildings the architects seemed to go in for symmetry in their design therefore the opposite end of the hallway housed another room called the Burns Room. It was similar if not identical to the Jeffrey Room. This room was home to an ever expanding collection of Burns books and artefacts including a handwritten version of Auld Lang Syne. A similar glass roof and ornate plaster ceiling was on show too.

We had a bit of a treat too courtesy of one of the very helpful guides on duty. Rather than walk along the hallway between the Jeffrey and Burns Rooms we were able to head "behind the scenes" into the vast store room which houses the remaining books. Dark, musty oak numbered shelves greeted us. What an amazing place. Amber spotted a dumb waiter in the wall which was apparently in use up until 1981. Members of the public would select a book they wished to see and a note of its number and shelf reference would be sent up via the dumb waiter. Someone in the store room would then pull out the book and send it down via the dumb waiter. Incidentally, the order in which the books were stored was not your usual alphabetical by author. Oh no. They were numbered as and when they were bought and placed on the shelves in that order!! Imagine if you put a book back in the wrong'd never find it. Small wooden batons were visible at regular intervals with the word "missing" on it. Sadly a previous book stock audit uncovered the fact it had gone missing.

A central marble stairway leads you up through the storeys of the Mitchell Library. Looking up yet another amazing ceiling. It is basically the inside of the green dome roof you can see from the outside.

This is part of the library from the outside. What a lovely looking building. William B. Whitie the architect certainly got it right when he designed this building originally for the wealthy tobacco manufacturer Mr Mitchell.

The library were also hosting an art exhibition called Inspired. Each work has a connection to Robbie Burns, coupled with 2009 being the 250th anniversary of Burns, seemed like a good excuse for an exhibition. We saw a few works that appealed....... and also a few that had the most tentative link to Burns imaginable.

Our favourites include Peter Howson, Calum Colvin, Robert Powell and an artist we hadn't heard of before Harland Miller.

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