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BREATHING ROOM

Pause, linger and discover

September 11, 2003|Iris Schneider

Libraries are the last bastion of silence in an endlessly noisy world. Even museums now are noisy, with their guided tours, crowded weekends and unguarded conversations. But library-goers respect the quiet and preserve it. No cellphones. No interruptions.

If you're searching for silence, head for the Los Angeles Central Library. On the third floor, straddling the atrium like a bird's nest for intellectuals, is a narrow sitting space with cushy armchairs that look down on three larger-than-life chandeliers filled with art and whimsy. Up here, reading doesn't just help the mind take flight, it sends it soaring.

To get there, find the library's skylit atrium. It is an expansive space with towering ceilings that rise, cathedral-like, four floors above you, while a set of escalators descends in full view for four floors. The escalators take you down to reading rooms for economics, science, patents, philosophy, genealogy. The elevators take you up to open balconies that overlook it all and lead to the auditorium, the children's reading rooms, the historic rotunda and rare book and fiction sections. The view along the way -- both up and down -- is breathtaking in its spaciousness and enhanced only by the constant bustle of people moving soundlessly.

If your mom was like mine, she always was complaining about your head being stuck in the clouds, as if that was a bad thing. But here you've found a perfect place to think, read, plan, dream, with your head in the clouds, and a good book.

-- Iris Schneider

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