There are many, many Taipei Public Libraries around the city, in all shapes and sizes: some take up entire buildings, some are just in a few rooms, some are in bookmobile-esque vending machines, some are unmanned rooms where you scan your card to enter. The last one is called “Intelligent Libraries.”
The main library is near Daan Forest Park, within biking distance from NTU, so I went on a semi-cloudy day. You can see the name on the bronze plaque, and also a row of UBikes (government sponsored bike rental system. Think ZipCar but for bikes and with much less hassle) right outside.
Being the main branch, the Daan Library appropriately takes up all eleven floors of this building. Even more so than the libraries I’ve been to in California, libraries here serve double duty as government administration buildings, community centers, and of course reading rooms. You can come here to get certain documents, do research, join community classes, listen to speeches, and do other assorted thing associated with a well-informed citizen. Here’s the floor directory for all eleven floors. As with most government signs, this one is bilingual.
The inside of the building is modern, even though it’s not super new. It’s kind of bewildering how much stuff there is everywhere, but there are lots of signs and (hopefully) you’ll find at least one telling you where you need to go.
The collection is massive, and spread out over several floors. I toured the Chinese nonfiction section, the English section, and a few rows of the art section. It’s interesting because there are two types of categorization being used: Dewey Decimal, and New Classification Scheme for Chinese Libraries . Books in different languages require different methods of organization! Neat. One thing that I really liked were the red labels on each row of the shelf, so that even if you don’t look up the books ahead of time, you can wander over to the selves and see what topics that small section of books are on. Aside from rows and rows of books, there are also tables where there are lots of people reading, or napping. The books here are really dusty though, so as I flipped through them they made me want to sneeze.
Also, the sheer number of books made it really hard to know where to start looking. I browsed through the entire English section and couldn’t decide what I wanted to check out.
Look, one of my favorite authors! And one of my most recommended books!
Right outside the library, beyond the sea of red children, is an aforementioned book vending machine. There’s a small computer screen to the right, and a large window into available books on the left. You beep your library card, choose the book you want, and out it pops on the bottom! Fun stuff.
The solution to my problem of having too many books to choose from is a visit to an intelligent library, a single room with bookshelves and no librarians. There are a few dispersed throughout the city, and I went to one in the underground passage connecting ZhongXiaoFuXing MRT station to the surrounding areas. Yay for ways of avoiding the rain!
Isn’t the outside super cute and inviting? You can activate your EasyCard to become a library card at a local branch (ie I activated mine during my trip to Daan library), and then use the same card for your MRT trip and your book-borrowing. You can only enter with some sort of valid card, and near the exit there are sensors à la Forever 21 that will beep if you try to take a book you haven’t checked out. I haven’t tried to see if the doors will close if you do that. That would be a funny idea, although probably unsafe.
Sign: “Taipei Public Library East Metro Municipal Library.” I think these libraries are such a great idea. Lots of people mill about the areas near MRT stations either waiting for people or just to kill time before their next event, and putting this here makes it so easy to access books and read 🙂
Returns are easy too, you just put it into the machine outside.
Here’s the inside: a narrow and long room with shelves, labels, and a few sitting areas. They’ve fit quite a lot of books in this space, and some rows even have two lines of books, one in the front and one in the back. The only slight bummer is that you can’t request holds to be delivered to one of these branches, but that’s understandable given that these intelligent libraries are all unmanned. The books here are relatively newer I think, or maybe because the selection is smaller so there are fewer old books.
I checked out a book here by a Taiwanese food critic on food culture in Taiwan. It’s quite a nice read. 慢食之後：現代飲食的 31 個省思. Recommend for my Chinese readers! It’s a series of short essays so not a dense read at all, but has good insight into how certain cultural habits–ie ordering much more food than necessary at celebratory dinners as a sign of generosity–leads to unnecessary waste.
Go forth and read!