Take Five: San Jose’s King Library

Yesterday I went to San Jose to see the new exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art, and I ended up at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library afterward. Two weeks ago, I went to a Sharks game, and popped into the King Library beforehand. In fact, I can’t get within the San Jose city limits for any reason without being drawn to the place. Unbelievably enough, even though I live too far away for it to be practical, I usually leave with a book (or five), too. Why does the King exert such a pull on me? Here is a sampling of five highlights for the uninitiated.

ANY OF THE FIRST FIVE FLOORS: You are allowed to eat and drink in the library! I’ve never dared to do such a thing, but it’s refreshing to have the option…

FIRST FLOOR LOBBY: Along with the tempting array of new books in the browsing area, the King Library has one of the best selections of modern power-pop and indie rock I’ve seen. From the Candy Butchers’ Hang On, Mike! to Ken Stringfellow’s (excellent) Soft Commands, the CD aisle is clearly curated by a true fan and expert.

FIRST FLOOR FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY ROOM: Many libraries have just a couple of shelves of lackluster donations comprising a store, but the King’s room is spacious and well-stocked. I hit pay dirt a couple of years ago when I paid 50 cents for a VHS copy of Sesamstrasse, Germany’s Sesame Street.  While the Sesamstrasse Muppets didn’t resonate with me the way that their counterparts in Mexico and India have (partial teaser of Monday’s post!), the dubbed versions of classic Sesame Street sketches are sublime. “I Love Trash” in German is so fantastic that I’ve been scouring the Internet for an mp3 ever since.

THIRD FLOOR INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGES SHELVES: This incredible variety of foreign-language material doubles as a great source for indie movies. While you’re only allowed to borrow non-documentary films for three weeks, it’s still useful if you’re visiting overnight and your hotel has a DVD player. Once I stumbled onto The Ice Rink, which features Evil Dead‘s Bruce Campbell and the Lithuanian national hockey team! The ending underwhelmed (if that’s a word), but I had to give it points for originality…

FIFTH FLOOR: Here you will find the various cultural displays. Yesterday I noticed a Day of the Dead exhibition (which closes today), and a very thorough treatment of Grateful Dead memorabilia. The fifth floor is also home to the Ira F. Brilliant Center For Beethoven Studies, which is always worth a visit. (It produced what is to date my favorite exhibition ever.)

That just scratches the surface, since there are eight floors to explore. Come to think of it, I’m surprised I’ve ever come home…


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