Hoffer photographs libraries as though she were photographing the inside of a great museum. Her photographs of libraries all the way from USA to Europe amount to beautiful artwork, evoking majesty and history. In a way, old libraries are museums; they were designed to resemble the insides of stately homes, so that whoever paid for them could show how rich and powerful they were. Whether they were built by kings and queens, or by the Medicis, or the Carnegies and Rockefellers, they always have the best when it comes to architecture and décor.
The juxtaposition is clear when it comes to the times. The libraries will either be wood-paneled and luxurious, or the kind of modernist carpeting that would make George Jetson proud. Few of the photos have any people in them, which allows the photographer to concentrate on the interiors. However, I the people who frequent the libraries tell you a lot about their true purpose. Take for example the library on Second Avenue and St. Marks Place in NYC; it’s full of homeless people who sit there all day, and those that aren’t homeless spend all day with their laptops. NYC’s public libraries are a notorious refuge for the homeless, so I wonder if it’s the same with public libraries in London, Paris, and Milan? Do Europeans bring their laptops into the library the way Americans do?
Unfortunately, young people don’t spend as much time in libraries as they used to. Whereas up until perhaps 2004, young people did their research at the library, now they use the internet. They no longer head for the library to do that social studies project, and as a result they don’t discover all those other books they have. It’s a shame that such a great resource is going to waste.