The prominent “nest-like” dome atop the San Diego Central Library is undoubtedly one of the more recognizable architectural features of the downtown skyline. A stone’s throw away from Petco Park, its unique shape and soft nighttime glow are a welcomed respite from the surrounding walls of concrete and glass. Housed within its impressive façade are nine expansive floors of books covering a vast range of subject matter, from illustrated children’s stories to genealogy.
The main points of interest, for me, are located at the top of the building. An up-close view of the impressive steel dome, The Helen Price Reading Room, and an art gallery, with revolving exhibits featuring local artists, are all accessible from the ninth floor. However, the crown jewel of the Central Library is The Hervey Family Rare Books Room. The room has the tranquil feel of a 19th-century, wood-paneled private library, with a splash of modern flair.
There is a 14-foot-long study table created by San Diego woodworker Bill Murphy. It consists of two separate 400-pound slabs of eucalyptus, each side straddled by a series of unique lamps with amber colored glass shades. The Wangenheim Collection of rare materials traces the history of books over 4,000 years. Some of the highlights include: A Bible handwritten in Latin in 1260, nearly 200 years before Gutenberg invented the printing press, Egyptian Hieroglyphics painted on wood dating from about 400 BC, and a set of beautiful copper leaf confession tablets used by Buddhist monks in 19th century Burma. Fascinating to say the least – you could easily spend hours in this room alone!