Culture Travel Tuesday
Destination: Literary Travel Everywhere Cultural Attraction: The Library
By Jessica Voigts
While I thrive on literary travel, there’s another sort of literary travel that few people think to do. However, whenever I travel and do this, it’s usually the highlight of my trip.
One of the first things I do, when I visit someplace new, is to head to the library.
The library, you say? But how do you check out books without a card? Well, the local library is much more than just checking out books. It’s the social hub of a town. It’s got plenty of book-related events. You can get a sense of local literature and language, by perusing the shelves, magazines, and newspapers. There’s free WIFI, if you need to connect. There are often showings of new movies, theater and musical performances, and other cultural events. And, librarians are awesome people with excellent suggestions of things to see and do in the area.
Visiting libraries when you travel is the best way to live like a local. Here’s what I’ve found, in libraries I’ve visited:
An odyssey of language in Shannon, Ireland. The library shelves were overflowing with books in both Gaelic and English. My daughter and I spent hours perusing the children’s section, looking at Gaelic books that we’d never been exposed to before – and talking about how the art in children’s picture books looks different, in another language and culture.
A full calendar of musical and cultural events in Köln, Germany, where I learned of free choral concerts that were some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.
A global library in Inverness, Scotland, where there were also a plethora of global language books – this time, to help teach ESL (and intrigue visitors like myself!). There’s a Loch Ness exhibit and a Titanic exhibit to ponder. There are Loch Ness activities, as well as National Theatre of Scotland storytelling workshops – all located in a beautiful, historic building.
Architecture and design at the new library in Seattle, Washington. The floors are emblazoned with literary quotes, the children’s room is a treasure-filled hideaway, and the entire library is a haven of art, places to study and read, and an oasis within a busy city. Events include book talks, theatre, lectures on topics of interest, and cultural events (food, music, dancing, singing, poetry).
A library full of history, genealogy, sheet music, and black musical heritage in Detroit, Michigan. Visitors can explore different collections, including rare books, African Americans in the performing arts, the Ernie Harwell Sports Collection, and the National Automotive History Collection. The DPL also has incredible cultural artifacts on rotating display, including George Washington’s diary.
Information about the local literary scene like we found at the Edinburgh Libraries. See what fiction books have been set in Edinburgh, or explore the Jazz Archive, the work of the first photographic club in the world, or Highland history and culture. Events include book readings, theater, poetry, travels with Robert Louis Stevenson, and more.
Additionally, I’ve discovered new authors by listening to them speak – and found that I loved their writing, their sense of place – in a place I was usually newly discovering myself. We’ve made friends, at children’s story hours – friends that we still keep in touch with, years later. I’ve learned more about a place from exploring the library and attending events there than I ever have from visiting tourist attractions.
What libraries have you visited on your travels? Is this one of your first stops in a town, too? And here’s how to find public libraries wherever you travel.
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