In This World, but Not of This World? The Sacred Space of the Library, the Garden, and the Church
In my chapter ‘Contemplation, Conservation, and Community: Challenges of the Small Art Library Space,’ in "The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship" (London: Facet, 2010), I briefly discussed the similarities between libraries, gardens, and religious buildings as locations that are more than mundane spaces. These different spaces, in fact, may have features in common, such as their entrances, designed to transport the person into an environment removed from worldly bustle. If the entrance into the original Glasgow School of Art Library (designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh) is compared to that of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, with its recessed doors, it is clear that both are clearly spaces to be entered into gradually. In this paper, I will develop these observations through a comparative study of historic and literary representations of the library, the religious building and the garden, looking at their shared conceptions and functions as peaceful havens and sources of inspiration and awe; compare the hortus conclusus as in the medieval text "Roman de la Rose" and the forest grown at the heart of the Bibliothèque Nationale Française. I intend to emphasise the function of the entrances of, and the ease of access to, these spaces, but will also consider the general organisation of the spaces as a whole. The conclusions reached through this comparative study will be used to demonstrate how present and future librarians can draw upon history to ensure that libraries remain a space simultaneously sacred and social, welcoming to all.
Keywords: Library Entrances, Sacred Space, Gardens, Churches, Religious Buildings, Library Space, Building Design, Landscape Design
Kathleen M. O'Neill
Assistant Librarian, Library, Sotheby's Institute of Art