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Public Library Statues

Updated on November 22, 2017
Virginia Allain profile image

A librarian through and through, Virginia Allain writes about book topics and information for library users and librarians.

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Statues Become a Symbol for a Library

The lion statues at the New York Public Library are a beloved symbol that is recognizable all over the country. Even a less grand statue placed on the library lawn or in the children's area of the library makes art accessible to the people.

With stripped-down budgets, how can a library justify spending money on a piece of art? Does a statue really add that much to a library's presence and branding?

I say, "yes!" I'll share my personal experience with library statues and invite you to add your stories and links to much loved library statues.

Graphic from Zazzle: lion library post cards by cardart

This playful frog reading a book is outside a library in Maryland. Notice the plaque telling who donated the figure.
This playful frog reading a book is outside a library in Maryland. Notice the plaque telling who donated the figure. | Source

Libraries Sometimes Have Statues of Famous People

The public library in Louisville, Kentucky has a statue of Abraham Lincoln in front of the building. It was donated along with a number of valuable paintings by Mr. and Mrs. Isaac W. Bernheim in 1923. The library no longer has the paintings but still has the sculpture.

Videos Showing Library Statues - and some background on them

Does Your Nearest Library Have a Sculpture?

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Statue of Gandhi at the Bellevue Library

Lions for Your Library Entrance - Start your own tradition with lion sculptures

Pack of 2 Regal Sitting Lion Cast Stone Concrete Outdoor Garden Statues
Pack of 2 Regal Sitting Lion Cast Stone Concrete Outdoor Garden Statues

Everyone recognizes the New York Public Library lions, but these are different. Sitting proudly they will welcome your library patrons.

Majestic looking pair.

 

Troy Pillow Sculpture at the Richmond Beach Library

The New York Library Lions as Bookends - Available from Amazon

New York Public Library Lion Bookends
New York Public Library Lion Bookends

These would look quite handsome on the librarian's desk, holding some reference books in place.

 

The Bethel, CT Library Has a Statue of P.T. Barnum

Types of Sculptures for Libraries - and examples

  • Often the statue at a library commemorates an important person from that community.
  • Statues at libraries can feature a literary character from a book.
  • A library statue might feature a famous author or one of local origin.
  • The library statue can celebrate reading by featuring a reader. Often it is a young child reading but it can be a reader of any age.

Benjamin Franklin Statue - Louisville Public Library

Benjamin Franklin started the first library in Philadelphia so he's a natural for a library statue.
Benjamin Franklin started the first library in Philadelphia so he's a natural for a library statue. | Source

Graphic from Zazzle: Benjamin Franklin statue postcard by OldTip

How Libraries Funded Statues - Examples from various libraries

Traveling Art Exhibit

When I was the library director in Weslaco, TX, there was a nonprofit that was trying to place sculptures in libraries. The organizer felt it benefited artists by giving them places to display their art. People who might not ever visit a gallery or think about buying a sculpture possibly would be inspired to buy one if they saw it in a public library.

We signed up for the program since it was structured with no fees for the library. Even the insurance for the art was covered by the nonprofit. Since the library had a large courtyard that was secure with gates each night, we were able to have a quite large sculpture.

It was a larger-than-life blue heron on the wing. They placed the 6-foot tall metal statue in a shallow fountain in the courtyard. Around the outer edge of the courtyard were lush tropical plantings. The statue looked magnificent in that setting.

When it was time for the sculpture to leave, we tried to get a local organization to buy it for a birding center that would be opening soon. They were interested but unable to come up with the needed funds at that time.

Everyone loved the statue and we even had a watercolor painting group come and all the members tried painting scenes with the heron and the courtyard.

Funding by a Foundation

The Natrona County Public Library acquired a sculpture showing three children with books walking across a bridge composed of more books. This was funded by the Tate Foundation. You can see the sculpture in Casper, Wyoming.


Looking through to the Weslaco Public Library Courtyard (photo by Isaac Monter)

Looking through to the Weslaco Public Library Courtyard (photo by Isaac Monter)
Looking through to the Weslaco Public Library Courtyard (photo by Isaac Monter)
This bronze figure is in Savannah, Georgia. Although the man reading the newspaper while leaning against a fire hydrant isn't in front of a library, it would have been perfect for such a location.
This bronze figure is in Savannah, Georgia. Although the man reading the newspaper while leaning against a fire hydrant isn't in front of a library, it would have been perfect for such a location. | Source

© 2012 Virginia Allain

Tell Me about Your Interest in Library Sculptures

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    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Our local library has a beautiful statue of a girl sitting on a bench reading a book. It was erected in memory of our Librarian who had passed away. I enjoyed this visit and learning about other Library Sculptures

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 5 years ago

      Our campus has a statue of Walt Whitman sitting with his writing board that's pretty darn cool. Thought it was an original piece, but, alas, you can buy from in a catalog. :-(

    • profile image

      mrducksmrnot 5 years ago

      I can understand the reasoning behind the Library Sculptures but many a small town Library just cannot afford them. What surprises me most is books of all kinds that are left at the doors of the libraries free for anyone or for a small donation. After a month or so they are off to the dump/landfill. The public school system is famous for this also and I feel this is a disgrace and waste of perfectly good books that would interest someone, somewhere. Libraries (both public and school's) should put these on e-bay for sale to help generate much needed funds and keep those older books in circulation. Is that a practice you know of? I love my own home library and add books of all kinds every chance I get.

    • justmelucy profile image

      justmelucy 5 years ago

      Great Lens and and something to investigate further. I had never thought of the uniqueness of every Library's statue and meaning or decision for their choice. Thank you for sharing.

    • aliciamaggie54 profile image

      aliciamaggie54 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this information. I like the boy with the book sculpture. Down the street from where I work, the library has a sculpture of three children reading. It is nice. Nice selection you have here.