7/23/16 – After a many hour drive to Warsaw we met two Polish women, Magda and Agnieszka who would be our guides for the next few days through the Warsaw library system. Magda has already done a huge amount of work on-line arranging contacts with various libraries in Poland and Ukraine and I felt deeply indebted to her. The first place that they took us is the Załuski Library. This old looking building was actually rebuilt after WW II along with rest of Warsaw. The Nazis completely destroyed the city near the end of the war after the Warsaw Uprising. In the desperate times after the war the citizens of Poland taxed themselves to rebuild their Capitol city. Great effort was made to rebuild the old core of the city exactly as it looked before the war. It was odd to be in what appeared to be an old European city that was built in the late 1940s and 50s. In this building I photographed a beautiful old spiral staircase that was the only remnant of the original building. Its survival was a miracle and my image of the staircase spoke to the resilient Polish spirit.
7/24/16 – Our apartment in Warsaw was in an old Soviet era high rise building. Staying there gave me a real appreciation of what life must have been like during the communist times. Being that this was Sunday no libraries were open today. However, I did photograph the exteriors of two branch libraries. Branch Library #48 was outside of the old city center. This more typical Warsaw neighborhood reflected a more utilitarian approach to post war architecture than the Old Town. Library #48 was housed in a downscale strip mall with giant Soviet style apartment blocks in the background. The second branch library was located in the center of the reconstructed Old Town. This area is a major tourist trap but the warm evening, the street musicians and the beautiful light all made it a delightful experience. I even incorporated the ice cream gobbling hoards of tourists into my photo of the branch library.
7/25/16 – Today was a very busy day. I photographed three libraries and gave my first lecture on the American Public Library project in Europe. My guide was young at the National Library of Poland and hadn’t quite made all the arrangements with security. Although I did make some photos here I also spent some time waiting for the guards to figure out what to do next. I then went to the Main Library of Warsaw to give my lecture. This was co-sponsored by the American Embassy and the capacity audience included several members from the Embassy including the American Ambassador. He brought along with him a young woman who worked for the White House in Washington as a program auditor for Embassies. As I was about to give my talk Walker told me “No pressure Dad!” I will be giving several more talks on this trip and it was nice to see this one go over so well. The Ambassador even wanted to consider having an exhibit in the new American Spaces facility on our Stockton Literacy project. We then ran off to the Narodowa Library which is a separate part of the National Library. Here I photographed another example of bibliocide showing a book partially destroyed during the war and now housed in a display case. Finally, we dashed off to the Warsaw University Library where we were given a tour and I photographed their impressive modern library in one of the best universities in Poland.