A bridge between town and gown

Lorcan 2 min read

I gave a presentation in the Martin Luther King Jr Library in San Jose during the week. As many readers will know, this library represents an intriguing experiment as it is shared between San Jose Public Libraries and San Jose State University.

Welcome to the largest, all-new library west of the Mississippi, an innovative collaboration which has created an invaluable community resource open and free to all. A feast for the mind, as well as the eyes, the King Library boasts a collection of roughly 1.5 million items as well as delightful public art installations awaiting your discovery on every floor. [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library –]

It is impossible to make any firm judgments based on a brief visit. But I very much enjoyed my tour with my host Gordon Yusko. The building is filled with natural light; it is a building that raises your spirits as you enter. I liked the symbolism: one facade faces towards the city of San Jose and is close to the city hall; the other faces onto campus. It is thus both literally and figuratively a bridge between the city and the university.
A captivating feature is the public art by Mel Chin [Wikipedia]. There are over thirty pieces placed throughout the library, often tightly integrated into the fabric of the building (they are called sculptural insertions). They are witty and relevant: they have things to say.

“Recolecciones” is the Spanish word for “recollections” — as in “memories.” It also means “harvests” or “gatherings.” The Latin root “LECT-” from which “recolecciones” derives means both “to gather” and “to read”: the ancient Romans seem to have envisioned reading as a process of gathering up scattered bits of information (the letters of the alphabet) and combining them into meaningful sequences. Readers are thus gatherers, harvesters. The library is a place where people come together to recall and reformulate their common heritage, a place designed for “re-col-lection,” that is, etymologically, “reading or harvesting again together.” The library’s public art collection is primarily designed to support this function. [Art Works of Mel Chin in King Library: Recolecciones Public Art Collection]

Here is the description of the piece in the image above:

The gateway to the Library’s Special Collections displays 88 golden carburetors. The construction of the gateway recalls the form of the Golden Gate Bridge, an emblem of the utopian hopes and dreams of California and an organic part of the state’s highway culture. [Mel Chin: Browse Art – Recolecciones: Golden Gate]

View the complete collection here (this is the first of three pages- scroll forward to the others). I liked the underground books, the sceptacle, the page passage, the Vermin Miller chairs, hatch, roundup, …… I had better give up before I link to them all 😉 Here is the text from roundup:

Eighty-one leather chairs, each marked with one of the forty-three cattle brands of the original San Jose ranchos (as recorded in 1819), “range” freely on the 2nd floor. [Mel Chin: Browse Art – Recolecciones: Round Up]

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