Opinion: I saw the light
Just got back from Norway, where I was immersed in daylight for 24 hours straight. In Tromso, above the Arctic Circle. It’s mind-bogglingly weird. Your head says go but your body says no. I also saw light on how a major modern city can treat learning as sacred and build a brand new public library as the cultural centerpiece of its downtown. Oslo has done this by building a brand new five-story state-of-the-art library on the waterfront next to its new opera house, bringing culture to the fore in the lives of its citizens.
One of the obvious things about Norwegians is that they love their books. I guess you would too if it was dark and cold most of the year. But even at 2 am in the northern part of Tromso, I saw people outside, reading books in the summer light. Bookstores are on every street corner and in every square. People read on buses, trams and subways. But the centerpiece of learning is Oslo Deichman Bjorvika, two, with 450,000 books wrapped around a large atrium with a long letter mobile hanging in the middle. There is a 200-seat cinema and auditorium in the basement, and a cafe and newsstand on the ground floor. The entire first floor is dedicated to children’s learning, a warm and inviting space with interactive and experiential elements to spend the day in wonderment. Parents and children were spread out in the many cozy nooks, like “Bird Mountain” and “The Cave”. There were sections devoted to fairy tales, picture books, fiction and multilingual learning.
The second floor is a place to activate young adults, with creative spaces, film and music stations, sound studios, study rooms, comic books and sheet music. There’s even an art project called “Future Library”, where they’ve planted 1,000 trees outside Oslo that will be harvested in 2114 and used to print books by selected authors. Now that’s cutting edge.
As you go up the floors it becomes quieter and more contemplative, with plenty of spaces to relax, read and have private gatherings. There’s a sense of discovery as you walk through each floor, with a surprise around every corner. And of course another beer garden on the roof.
“The library has ceased to be a place for storing books and has become a place for meeting and learning,” explained the architect of the library, Svein Lund. “Here you will find meeting spaces, rehearsal rooms, games rooms, exhibition niches, a recording studio, silent reading rooms, etc. Even though books have a strong presence, this library is primarily designed as a place for people.
It made me realize how much we could reinvent our library for the 21st century. Those of us who argue for the city to sign a short-term lease with the county to continue operating it before committing to another 25 years are not anti-library. We are pro best library. It is hard to understand why there would be opposition to the modernization of our anachronistic library, unless these people have not traveled and seen what a beacon a modern library can be for humanity. Or somehow cling to the belief that Orange County has the vision and the drive to create something beautiful and worthy of Laguna.
The other light I saw in Oslo is that it is indeed possible for a large modern city to get rid of cars. Thanks to a combination of streetcars, buses, trams, subways, bicycles, scooters, Uber, taxis, wide pedestrian streets and a congestion charge on cars entering the center, there are virtually no cars in the city center and so it’s quiet, peaceful, clean and safe. I consider myself a connoisseur of urban biking and love to silently tour on two wheels. Oslo is without a doubt the nicest place I have ever cycled. People have simply abandoned their cars in favor of easier mobility.
Could we build a large, modern library and solve our traffic problems here in Laguna? You bet your ass. It just takes political will and the power to negotiate control away from the county. We start off on the right foot by removing the cars from Forest Avenue. Now imagine if we could get visitors to stop and leave behind before entering the city center, with ample parking and alternative transport. And a healthy premium for entering and/or parking on our streets – which should please all “taxing tourists”. Imagine how smooth traffic would be with roundabouts along Glenneyre Street and Laguna Canyon Road, dedicated cycle lanes and bike-sharing kiosks throughout the city, and a comprehensive public transport network of area. And as for the library, come already. Tell your elected officials that yes, we want to keep it where it is. But let’s use this moment to investigate and imagine something new and grand that expands our cultural offerings and our learning assets, especially at a time when we’ve lost our beautiful historic cinema to an exhibition hall. of cars. We deserve an epic library, and easy access to it, without traffic.
Billy hosts Laguna Talks Thursday nights on KXFM radio. He is also CEO of La Vida Laguna, an e-bike and ocean sports travel agency. E-mail: [email protected]
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