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Library Ladies: 1953

May 21, 1953. "New Canaan Public Library. New Canaan, Connecticut."4x5 inch acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.

May 21, 1953. "New Canaan Public Library. New Canaan, Connecticut."4x5 inch acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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Library ladies

I know the ladies quite well; one was my mother and the other the head librarian, Dolly Stevens. Growing up in New Canaan in the 1940s and '50s, I spent many hours in the old library, before the renovations shown here were even done. Very nice photograph; in the '50s New Canaan was becoming a center for modern architecture -- the stark, solid design reflects the trend of the new school of designers who made their home in the area.


Now this is a much higher class library than I remember when I was growing up. There are no pencils stuck in the ceiling tile.

My Library

I spent many happy hours in this library as a kid growing up, from the late 1950s through the mid-60s. It was a great place and New Canaan was quite a town. I do miss it.


A great picture that reminds me of my college work-study job as student helper in the Government Documents section of my university library. Which I loved, mostly for the opportunity to browse on quiet afternoons. I had access to the University's archives, the map room, and a circa 1970 DOJ coloring book about LSD.

But what I loved doing most is what caught my eye in this photo. Jazzing up the glass case display on a monthly basis. (As much as one can jazz up Gov Docs.)


Library, M1A1, MilSpec 6427279A, 1 Each

Wow, that's my home town.

I grew up in New Canaan starting in the 1970s. The library had a fairly large renovation around 1980, and what you see there was changed somewhat. I was very young when the renovation happened, and my memory of the library before that is largely punctuated by pain. I was playing and hurt myself and the librarians gave me cookies to make me feel better. I think the room on the right hand side was where the kids' books were (although probably not when this picture was taken).

Brings Back Memories

That library looks just like my old high school library and it is very similar to my college library. Both were built in the late 1950's. Did they have a cookie cutter plan for libraries back then?

Room to grow

This makes me think that the perfect architectural blueprint for a library would be one book per shelf. Knowing that "space for growth" would be tantamount to longevity.

Circulation Desk

I work at the Circulation desk in our library. It is NEVER this tidy OR this quiet--we are right next to the children's room.

Today, this desk probably has at least two computers on it. You will find computers on the tables as well.

I work at a Carnegie library and yes, we have those outlets in the same place!

Furniture & Space

"The Scandinavian blond furniture was a bit boring, but it was well put together and lasted forever."

And it was expensive as the devil! It was still in use when I was working in my college library in the mid-'70s, though.

Just tried to find any interior photos of it on their current website; no luck. I don't suppose, though, that any of the card catalogs are still there! I remember, however, what we'd do to the clueless students who came to us with a card they had ripped out of the drawer: They'd get sent to the woman in charge of cataloging. She had, shall we say, a distinct edge to her tongue.

As for space, take a look at the Richland County Public Library in Columbia, South Carolina:

There's an unfortunate graphic overlay to the slideshow at the top of the main page, but you may get some sense of the space. There's also a link to their "photo gallery" at the bottom of the page, but it doesn't do much good at showing off most the space.

Floor Tiles at Sea

Since the floor tiles seem to be of interest, readers might like to know that the same tiles can be found on certain corridors of the U.S.S. Midway, an aircraft carrier launched in 1945 and retired in 1992. Today, she is a floating museum in San Diego, where this picture was taken in 2008.

Open space.

Some forward thinker was planning for a Starbucks.


I don't think the floors are linoleum. The tiles look identical to the asphalt tiles installed in our house in 1946. Durable and perfect for a library though too durable and ugly for a house but that was all they had then right after WWII. Most of ours is now covered up, thank goodness.

New topic: Why so much open space? Are they simply preparing for more books? Any library I've been in is filled with shelves so close and so high that one needs to walk sideways and use a step stool to reach the top.


Classic modernism uninfected (or uninflected) by Irony.

Asbestos Galore!

That flooring could very well be Kentile asbestos! Not only did the tiles themselves contain asbestos, but the black sludge that they used to stick them down also contained asbestos.

Book Jackets

Love the men dressed up for the library. Reminds me of my elderly grandfather in the 1960s who would always wear a coat and tie (in Southern California) just to take a walk.

That linoleum pattern

seemed to be everywhere back then. It was in the schoolrooms, lunchroom, library and in many department stores and public buildings in the 1950s. My house, which was built in 1948, had it in all the rooms.


Love those floors, and the perfectly aligned window blinds, all at the exact same level and tiltedness. Yes, I said tiltedness.

Where else would you put an electrical outlet in a wall of shelves? That's the usual place. The janitor could plug the floor polisher in there (although I don't think you'd use one of those on that type of floor).

My ancestresses!

I once worked in a library with exactly that furniture and exactly that flooring -- it was pretty standard in the fifties. It was replaced by an awful "orangeness" which descended on the library world sometime in the sixties and through the decade of horrors known as the seventies. Things got better in the eighties as there was rebirth in interest in older buildings and styles.

The Scandinavian blond furniture was a bit boring, but it was well put together and lasted forever.

I'll bet that behind that desk is a pencil with a date stamp attached!


My old library looks a lot like this. The window behind the desk was used by the boss lady to see what was on our computer monitors. I bet their boss is checking out what they are doing too.

Interesting placement of electrical outlet on the shelves in the little room to the right. I wonder what they used it for.

What's new is old

My library looks a lot like this, except it's now 50 years old and needs some fixing, is crowded with extra shelves and tables and well generally needs redoing.

Blond and Scandinavian

Funny, most Swedish libraries still look like this.


This library is so modern it would almost fit in today. The only thing missing is a computer monitor. Great photo!

Modern Library

Wow! The interior looks pretty modern.

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