Sunday, 29 June 2014

Blog Every Day in June Day 29 : Ruin Porn and the Magic of Libraries

As a distance education student and a world class procrastinator, I find myself with plenty of opportunities to look for interesting stuff on the internet...usually when I have an assignment due but if the things are library related then it can be classed as studying...can't it?

Detroit Library. Photo by: Brandon P Davis
This isn't a post about procrastination (there are plenty of other articles out there about how not to procrastinate), I have resigned myself to the fact that it is how I work and I always get things done (in my own special way) in the end and if I didn't procrastinate, I wouldn't have discovered these amazing abandoned libraries that Elyssa Kroski posted about back in March this year. 

I love a good collection of beautiful library images and I am also a sucker for the fascinating images of abandoned buildings but this was the first time I have seen a collection of images that combined both of these, and the feeling these images give me are hard to describe.


Joann Greco (2012) does a great job of explaining the sensation in her article, “The Psychology of Ruin Porn” (yes, it has a name!):
“It's romantic, it's nostalgic, it's wistful, it's provocative. It's about time, nature, mortality, disinvestment.” 
but when the abandoned building is also a library these feelings are deeper, imbued with a sense of loss and ennui. I started thinking about why I feel differently about abandoned libraries and I have decided that it is what libraries stand for and what it means if they are lost that makes the difference for me.

Book Sculpture. Photo by: Brandon P Davis
It is the idea that a place designed to collect the world's knowledge, expand our horizons and act as a gathering place for a community could be left so empty and still and desolate. It is the lack of warmth that I associate with libraries which makes me feel sad, and the sight of all of those books, scattered, discarded and left to rot is beautiful but tragic. My love of books was definitely one of the reasons I decided to become a librarian and although I read from many formats and I understand and accept that it is not the container that matters but what is contained, books will always hold a special kind of magic for me. It is almost like they are asleep...waiting, like Sleeping Beauty, for someone to come back and break the spell but instead of a kiss, all you would need to do was choose a book and open it...

Detroit Library. Photo by: Brandon P Davis
In the end I am torn by images of abandoned libraries because I love the “ruin porn” but I am sad that no one thought these were special enough to save. What does it say about the communities they were part of if these can be discarded like this? 

My wish for these libraries is that there are people sneaking in at night, not just to take pleasure in the beauty of the building and stealing images away but stealing books away bit by bit. Yes, many of them might be beyond repair or just plain awful but there are other ways to enjoy books and my procrastination loves a good session of looking at book sculptures...but that is another blog entirely!


-Skadi Nova is a CSU student and lover of ruined buildings

You can see more of Brandon's work here and here

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