I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend! How is it already December?!? Back in late October, I had the chance to visit the main library in Esfahan, Iran. Esfahan is a beautiful city, and Iran’s third largest. Persians have a very long history of literature and poetry, and the huge Central Library of Esfahan Municipality definitely showed their love of books.
They had this nice origami crane statue in front, but no explanation why.
From the entrance.
It was kind of an odd set up because it appeared to be one building, but it wasn’t all interconnected. You had to keep going back outside and through different doors to access different parts of the library. Luckily, there were maps (in English!) at each entrance.
I randomly chose a door and wandered around for a minute. The staff at the desks, who were all women, were quite surprised to see me walk in. I asked a woman if anyone spoke English and she called a man over. He didn’t introduce himself, but kept saying, “Welcome to my library” and proceeded to take me on a tour, even though I hadn’t even asked yet. The tour was a little challenging because he could speak decent English, but couldn’t understand a word I said. So, I just went with it.
This part of the library was sectioned off from all the rest and was just a small room. It turned out it’s sort of like a “little free library”, where you bring a book and then take a book for free. There was one woman staffing a desk in the room, presumably to make sure people followed the rules.
Through another entrance, he led me into the main part of the library. These are the new books, which were featured in these locked cases right inside the entrance. There were several (hard, plastic) chairs nearby for perusing these.
To the left of the new books was a large bank of computers for searching the catalog.
I was impressed with the number of computers, but overall it wasn’t too exciting until I saw the signs above the computers….
Oh yes, it’s true. They had separate computers for men and women. And incidentally, there were far fewer computers for women (8 for men, 4 for women). I’m assuming they’re censoring out search results for women since this was the only place in the library that I saw segregated by gender.
Near this was a nice fish tank.
And this is a map of all the branch libraries in Esfahan. You can’t see it in the pic, but each branch is lit up by a little bulb. The guy leading me around told me that like our public library system, one account allows access to all the branches in the system.
Here are brochures (should have grabbed some!!) and more new books.
They had a large information center full of computers, but he unfortunately didn’t explain what exactly what people could use them for, if they had to sign up, etc. Normally, I wouldn’t question it. They’re just computers for patron use. Except this was the first of four large computer labs with different names. As you’ll read in a minute, there’s also a separate lab just for database access, so I don’t think that was what these were for.
This was their reference room. They have over 10,000 books in this room and a lot of seating. Reference books are non-circulating. Resources are encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc. and I believe are written in Arabic and Farsi.
This was the periodicals room.
Here’s the circulation desk. I was surprised by how closed off and unwelcoming it felt.
And this is their audiovisual section. He said they have over 5,000 DVDs and CDs, but this was all that I saw. There is a staffed desk for this section.
And just to the left of the above picture are the new CDs and DVDs. Some of them appear to be software, but may just be tutorials on using software.
Down the stairs, they have an art gallery of Iranian artists that I think he said changes exhibits monthly. There were more staffed desks down here. I’m not sure if any of the art was for sale, or if it was strictly on exhibit.
Next to the gallery was an internet computer room. I’m not sure what the difference was between this and the information center.
Not pictured were two other large computer labs. One was labeled as “scientific databases”. The way the staff person described it, it sounds as if the library is part of a consortium with local universities as a partnership to offer access to databases. He mentioned the University of Esfahan and the University of Technology. He didn’t say how many databases they offer. I didn’t catch a sign for the other computer room.
He said there were three floors of books underground, which I assume are the main stacks. He tried to show me even more of the library, but I didn’t have time to check it out.
He also told me about the library’s digital library (limited English version), which offers over 1,000 digitized manuscripts in Arabic, Farsi, and English.
Since the man couldn’t understand English, I wasn’t able to get more details on any of their services. He was also moving very quickly so I couldn’t get a lot of pictures. But it was still an interesting experience. I am grateful that I had the chance to get a personal tour of an Iranian library.
Currently reading: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor.