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Serendipitous discoveries in library ‘amphitheater’

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Visitors browse books in the spacious atrium of the new Ishikawa Prefectural Library in Kanazawa City on July 27. Many of the books are arranged with their covers, not their spines, facing outward to facilitate unexpected encounters with new books.

KANAZAWA — New life has been breathed into the Ishikawa Prefectural Library in Kanazawa City following its relocation this July.

Previously located near Kenroku-en, which is regarded as one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan, the library’s building had become run-down and its space increasingly cramped. Consequently, a new library was constructed at the former site of the campus of Kanazawa University’s College of Engineering, three kilometers away from the library’s original location.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
A walkway allowing visitors to read while enjoying a view of surrounding bookshelves is seen at the center of the atrium.

The new library was planned around a concept of “a place where visitors can turn a page in their life through unexpected encounters and experiences with books.”

Of 300,000 open-shelf books, about 70,000 books are placed in a spacious atrium with stacked circular tiers reminiscent of an amphitheater. Many of the books are displayed with their covers, not their spines, showing and the shelves are sorted according to 12 themes thought up by the library staff. This setup is intended to foster spontaneous encounters with a wide range of books as visitors make their way around the building.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
In the atrium, books are arranged according to themes thought up by the library staff.

In the areas where visitors can read open-shelf books, more than 500 seats have been placed in various arrangements. Visitors are allowed to converse and bring in lidded beverages, enabling them to spend their time in the facility in their own way.

The library also incorporates areas for various activities, from the Dandan Hiroba terrace where concerts and lectures are held, to a space with a kitchen where visitors can experience food culture and a crafts-making area equipped with a 3D printer and other devices.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
A visitor sits on a hanging seat in a reading area by a window.
By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
A visitor sits on a seat near a window. The reading areas feature many different kinds of seats.

The Ishikawa Prefectural Library dates back to 1912, when it opened on the premises of Kenroku-en after taking charge of some documents owned by the Kaga clan in the Edo period (1603-1867). The Kaga domain, or what today is a part of the Hokuriku area, which includes Ishikawa Prefecture, was known for its promotion of learning and was once called the country’s “capital of books.” By inheriting this intellectual tradition of Ishikawa Prefecture, the new library aims to fulfill the needs of a diverse user range for many years to come.

“Simply put, we aim to create a library where people can stay for as long as they’d like and come as many times as they’d like,” a member of the library staff said.

“I had never been to the previous prefectural library. Yesterday, I visited here for the first time and checked out a novel, and this is my second visit,” said a fifth-grade elementary school student, who traveled to the new library with his mother and sister by car from their residence in the city.

“I can discover interesting books around every corner, as if it were a building from the Harry Potter movies, so it’s exciting just to walk around,” the boy said. “I want to come here as many times as possible before my summer vacation is over.”

In addition to residents of Ishikawa, those living in five other neighboring prefectures — Toyama, Fukui, Gifu, Aichi and Mie — can check out books after obtaining a library card, while people living outside the six prefectures can use the library facilities and read books there. The library has also seen an increasing number of tourists from outside Ishikawa Prefecture.

Kanazawa College of Art is scheduled to open its new campus next to the library in 2023.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
The exterior of the new Ishikawa Prefectural Library, which was designed to evoke the turning pages of a book.

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