Wow! Taipei Public Library’s (TPL) main location is one of the tallest public facilities I’ve encountered.
Next to lovely and vast Da’an Park, the eleven story building has thirteen floors not including subterranean parking. A wheelchair ramp leads to a tree ringed tile plaza.
By the front doors, a vending machine gives anytime access.
Taipei is the capital of Taiwan, a hilly island nation, slightly larger than Maryland, sandwiched between the East and South China Seas. It has almost 24 million people and is a key player in the global economy, ranking high in education, skilled workforce, and national health care.
I entered through security gates and found a nice display of new materials.
Public libraries were established in the city in the thirties, but started to receive more support in the sixties and seventies. Funding and new construction increased and this structure opened in 1990. Additionally, TPL has 44 branches, 12 neighborhood reading rooms, seven intelligent libraries, and nine automatic 24/7 stops. Participation in an international book exchange boosts the already substantial assortment of items from different countries (or, ILL stuff from around the world) and they publish a scholarly bulletin.
The two white units on the far right end of the desk above are one example of several types of self checks. At another, near the ebook kiosk, an overhead TV presents helpful data as do four sleek panels of pamphlets and brochures by suggestion and ultraviolet sterilization boxes. They also provide three land line phones, an explanatory chart for the recycling bins (a terrific idea), and hot/cold/warm purified water dispensers.
An iPad on a stand controls printing for the 34 public computers here, which can’t be used for games, pornography, gambling, or surfing violent, unethical, criminal or weapons pages. While there’s wifi, laptops and tablets are prohibited in certain areas. Quiet voices are expected and eating and drinking aren’t allowed.
From what I can gather, membership is free to residents, and loan restrictions are 15 items and 30 days for books and in A/V, borrow five over two weeks. You can place five reserves and renew from home. The visually disabled and learning challenged have further privileges.
TPL has volunteers and, for those over the age of 55, three dedicated spaces for reading, recreation and learning with chess sets, fitness equipment and regular courses to “help our elders improve their spiritual and cultural well being.”
Giant colorful maps and a mounted poster illustrating where books can take your imagination adorn the steps between the two lowest, mostly juvenile levels.
A fully equipped lecture and performance venue for 380, the breastfeeding sanctuary, a gallery and a study room with gleaming surfaces are down here too.
One concourse sports a Christmas tree made of heavy volumes and cushioned burgundy seating surrounding square pillars of gray brick.
Various vitrines feature popups, transformer style toys, a pencil porcupine and paper people. Racks inside Kid’s highlight anime and Disney characters and new items.
In a foyer, long wavy two tier ledges flank the panes giving onto a colossal courtyard of grass and AstroTurf. Umbrellas shade the slatted teak and wrought iron furniture and active youngsters expend excess energy climbing on boulders and a plaster bovine. What a great fresh air locale for storytelling!
Near a case of enormous picture books, “Small World” has sections for family and BOOKSTART reading, award winners, movies, music, comics, graphic novels and hanging plastic sleeves of paperback/CD combination packs. Just below the ceiling, happy, shiny inflatable musical notes, insects, fish and asters frolic and windows bring natural light onto six children’s computers and green plants. End panels have seats and idyllic scenes cover the walls.
American Literature is separate from English (and Japanese, German, French and Russian). In a recreation spot visible through glass dotted with multihued construction paper snowflakes, I see a tepee, crafts, a fold up mat and a big screen. Dancing bears, penguins and pigs prance in back of a white board and outside, upholstered wrap around cubbies let parents wait in comfort and kids keep it clean by removing and stowing their shoes.
Most Taiwanese speak Mandarin so I gleaned what I could from the English version of the website and observation (plus some signs are duplicated in the Roman alphabet), but I couldn’t really ask questions, so I apologize in advance for any mistakes. For example, with all the marvelous enclosures, there must be lots of programs and events, but on the (admittedly beta) English page, nothing was mentioned (though the “Activities” link existed, but was blank).
A cutout castlescape transforms a raised platform into a theater backdrop and beautiful oak shelving houses numerous offerings.
All under 18’s have attractions on both floors.
Stuffed animals crowd a check out desk and the silhouettes of tiny chairs are carved into mouse ears, antlers and cow horns… Cloth poofs of cheerful suns and baby blue and pink clouds keep them warm until toddlers come in.
Getting a bit confused about what was where, I took an elevator to Eleven and emerging from its silvery interior was awed by wonderful views of the municipality and Taiwan’s towering ranges.
A hands-on demonstration area for seniors as well as two training facilities, both in use, also occupied the top story and Ten had closed archives, a meeting room and a conference hall.
Since I couldn’t understand the omnipresent signage and the library has multiple flights of stairs, I easily got lost going through a blur of levels. Most floors seemed to have balconies, often open to catch a gentle breeze. On one, hoses and a drain let staff irrigate gardens of potted bushes.
Nine has a PC lab and the Multicultural Information Center, with sections for “Pilipinas”, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam… carrying dictionaries, magazines, encyclopedias and easy readers in those tongues. Wicker armchairs, elaborate flower arrangements in waist high planters and a terrace create a welcoming and pleasant ambiance.
Eight is Audiovisual and loaded with technology.
I counted at least 31 iPads and 18 media stations and saw spaces for video on demand, family viewing, music appreciation and a massive CD selection.
Fantastical furnishings complement the illuminated branches radiating from a pillar in the middle. Another is reminiscent of Paris’s Morris Columns and has black and whites 8x10s of old screen stars bordered by film strips. As you lounge on a cozy sofa, movie posters and discreet numbers on each grouping are one of the few reminders it’s not your den.
Seven is administration and not open to public. On Six, by the bound newspapers, I realize a dumbwaiter leaves the lift free for customers. The rest of the floor is spiffy, spacious and well used by students.
Interesting touches are everywhere. Artwork turns corridors into exhibitions. Built in benches let visitors plop as they please. Any alcove is an excuse for an oversize picture showing Taiwan’s tourist spots while nooks and crannies have Tiffany lamps, Reading Beijing, palms, the Northern Region Resource Center and a backlit title of the month diorama in a bamboo pocket.
I noticed a few patrons sleeping on couches in reading areas on Five and Four and government publications and foreign languages on the latter level. In contrast to many US institutions they request you put materials back.
I was tempted, but skipped 😉 the hopscotch diagram painted on the linoleum as you go into Reference on Three. These helpful employees oversee a collection so large it has archival rolling shelves and kindly host a place for cell phone charging.
Microfilm and fiche cabinets, a new arrivals console and other fixtures here match the gray hutch, so framed pictures add color to study tables and computers as do shiny volumes by a globe, atlases and bureaus of map drawers.
A notice advising you to keep away from the stacks during earthquakes was a bit of a shocker, as was another pointing to an escape sling (?)!
The American Corner encourages study abroad in the US and has lots of guides for our colleges and universities. Attempting to influence your decision, pieces of Americana join shots of popular tourist sights and iconic images like cowboys and cacti.
As on many levels, Magazines and Periodicals on Two was too busy for photographs since I wasn’t allowed to shoot people due to privacy concerns, but I was impressed by the amount of back issues held.
There’s manga for adults and online, TPL links to downloadable books and media, databases and directories, information for foreigners, an introductory video, reading clubs and MyEgov, Taipei’s simple petition system.
Taiwan prioritizes its population’s development and well being and the library’s plans for the future reflect this. Enhancing communication between the government and inhabitants, continually adding and improving services relevant to a diverse citizenry, and staying abreast of cutting edge technology while keeping the human touch are lofty goals but I have no doubt Taipei Public Library will accomplish them.