Library Guidelines

There is a meme making its way around the interwebs that declares, “I would marry the beast for his library!!!” Or something like that.

It sounds like a great idea.

There is even a facebook group for these brilliant and enterprising people.

At first I was amused and pleased by this sentiment. A library is marvelous, magical, mysterious place, and I see nothing whatsoever wrong with marrying in order to get material possessions books.

And then I remembered what this library looks like.

The Library of the BEAST!!!!*

And I cringed.

Oh, in theory it looks amazing. Millions of books, gracious curves, elegant stairs, long ladders, shiny marble, towering ceilings, etc.

But where is the familiarity? the comfort? the ease of finding your book? I get the feeling that even the librarian (do we meet a librarian in the movie?) has a hard time finding a specific book. Do we need to establish architectural rules for what makes a good library? I think yes.

So in reality, that library only has two attributes from list my for Good Library. Not a brilliant library, mind you, just a good library.

A Good Library

  • Books (Yeah . . . )
  • Some system of organization, so that you have an idea of where to find the book you want.
  • All books are within arm reach. I am not saying don’t have several floors or balconies (what do you call an indoor balcony?) but the ladders make things a tad ridiculous. Just add more walk ways!
  • Many cozy corners, with seats and windows, or maybe a window seat!
  • A friendly ceiling that does not threaten to echo every footstep or loom over you from such a cold distance. (Seriously, how did they keep that room warm in the winter?) High ceilings and open space is good, but not if it is overwhelming.
  • Colors that put you at ease, so you actually want to spend time in the library.
  • The atmosphere should be peaceful and relaxing, so you actually do spend time in the library.

I realize that this rather vague. Also, it is hard to find all this in an existing library. Most public libraries pick one, maybe two, items from this list, and discard the rest. And the old renaissance libraries are worst! They must have been the inspiration for the Beast’s library, as they tend more towards the grand than the comfortable.

Stiftsbibliothek, Admont Monastery Library, Austria. Would really want this in your house? Where would you read?


That all as my caveat, here is my list for my future dream library.


A Brilliant Library

  • Everything from the Good Library List.
  • Everything has organization, but it is okay if books get slightly out of order, or will not fit, or somehow mutiplyand suddenly you have books than bookcases and must start stacking on top of the neat lines of books.
  • Wood. Lots of wood. Wooden floors, wooden shelves, wooden chairs. Everything from oak to mahogany to ebony to purpleheart.
  • Because wood can feel cold, carpets. Possibly oriental carpets. And cushions on the chairs.
  • More window seats. A few must have a little ledge that can also serve as a desk.
  • A spiral staircase. Like in Henry Higgin’s library.
  • A fireplace. Like in Henry Higgin’s library.
  • Huge, plush, comfy armchairs. The kind in which a person can curl up. (There is no way to not end that sentence with a preposition. Sorry.)
  • This color scheme: —>
  • More windows. So you get good reading light. And you can get some idea of what is going on in the outside world without needing to leave your seat.
  • More books. You will find the room. And if you can’t, build more shelves! This is not hard. Books seem to breed; every time you turn around there are more!



The Beast’s library is too huge, hard, and cold. I would not even know where to start looking through the books!


The only public library that comes close (but lacks comfy seats!) is the Bodleian Library. In fact, I cannot find a photo of anything I would deem perfectly brilliant. But all of these below come pretty close.

The Bodleian, Oxford. So pretty, AND friendly!

Wood paneling and fluffy chairs. Yay!

What is with those knick-knacks? Get rid of them, and get more books! Otherwise, perfect.

Oooh! So awesome!

Not quite comfortable, but the piano is brilliant idea!

It needs more soft things!

And last but not least, Henry Higgin’s Library. Ideal. (Actually, it was filmed in the Groussay Library, and the comfy cushions have since been removed. But you can imagine them there!)

My dream library is in the body of an old lighthouse, carefully refurbished. The bottom floor would be the children’s books, comfy chairs, large desk, and fireplace area, and each landing up the hand carved wooden spiral staircase would have its own set of shelves and designation (poetry, lit crit, philosophy, etc.). The top, where the light would shine out, would be a 360 window seat, with very comfortable seats and an amazing view. As soon as I can figure out how to take photos of dream land, I will let you see it!

What is your dream library? Do you have certain guidelines for what you need in a library?

*Because saying “The Noun of the Noun” is so much better (read ” more pretentious”,) than saying “The Noun’s Noun”.


6 thoughts on “Library Guidelines

  1. “Ending sentences with prepositions is one thing up with which I will not put.” ~ Winston Churchill (apocryphal)

  2. While I completely understand and respect your desire for a cozy place to read, and I think the example pictures you have here are gorgeous, I have to admit that the Beast’s library and the Stiftsbibliothek make my heart flutter. I have a tendency to buy books simply because they are beautiful and what better place to keep them then in a beautiful location? And with the multitude of books available in libraries like these (any of them, formal or cozy), I probably would never make it to a comfy chair anyway but rather find myself several hours later still in front of where I pulled out the book.

  3. So I haven’t pondered my architectural preferences for a library yet, but I DID have a strong reaction to The Library of the Beast, namely: what exactly is *on* all those hundreds of shelves? I always get a bit fretful that he has a vast room full of legal books, land records, and tax code, or volumes in another language.

    It’s been too long since I’ve actually seen the movie, so I’m just telling myself that whatever books *aren’t* tax code can be pulled from the shelves and taken to a cozier reading room.

    also, OCD nerd alert: I just tried counting how many shelves are in that picture to estimate the number of books. Then I found a clip on youTube to aid my extrapolation and drew a schematic. Assuming the Beast has 10 books per shelf/alcove, he must have about 17200 books in that whole library.

  4. Any study of Libraries is necessarily incomplete without the library of Russell Kirk. It is a house down the road from his ancestral manse, where walls are entirely covered with tomes, and I think many of the original windows are covered. Freestanding bookshelves carve out little niches for reading chairs with lamps that cast cones of light over the reader’s shoulder. Pipe smoke or cigar smoke wafts through the building on any given night, for Kirk was a night owl and did his best work after midnight. It takes much more than books and architecture to make a great library!

  5. Pingback: Things of Awe | Egotist's Club

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