Reading spaces provide views, comfort, and even therapy sessions
The continuing pandemic has pushed many people to find ways to have fun and rewarding weekends on their own, and some specialty libraries and bookstores have become places to do so.
Unlike standard bookcases with books and often uncomfortable chairs, these spaces have comfortable sofas and even space to stretch out while enjoying a variety of cultural programs that you can access both online and offline.
Sojeonseolim, in the Gangnam district, south of Seoul, is one of the most luxurious literary places in Seoul. Different from a public library, it charges a fee of 30,000 won ($ 26) to enter and read books and magazines for up to five hours, or 50,000 won for all-day access. Also different from a public library that has books of different themes and topics, Sojeonseolim only offers options that focus on art and literature. The metro, accessible from a wine bar and cafe on the first floor, looks like the very chic living room of someone you would like to befriend for more frequent visits.
Even with the fees and the limited selection of reading material, the library says it has not only had a constant number of visitors since it opened in February of last year, but also a constant number of people signing up for the one-year membership which guarantees unlimited access for 2.4 million won. Members also get discounts to attend book conferences and other programs run by the library.
Magazines in different languages are available, and new art books that may be a bit too expensive to own at home are all available to browse. Regulars can also ask the library to buy some worthwhile books and magazines and the library continues to take such suggestions to make its collection more inclusive. It is possible to read on a swing on the patio or sit on a duck shaped chair to make your reading experience more fun. There is a hallway filled with partitions so that you can also spend some time on your own. Some films based on classic literary works are also available.
“Of course, some are very dedicated to reading the material when they are here, but others use it as a comfortable cultural place where they come to rest, drink, relax or even take a nap and always have a sense of accomplishment, ”said Jung Ji-eun, director of Sojeonseolim. “You don’t have to read just because you’re in the library. This can be the place you use for all intents and purposes for that day. ”
A bookstore doesn’t always have to be in a space surrounded by shelves filled with books where tinted windows block natural light. Instead of recreating this classic look, Check_grow took a different path. Since many novice readers are often intimidated by thick books and shelves filled with serious books, the bookstore decided to provide a space where everyone can become confident to make a habit of reading books.
The first thing you see before entering the bookstore is a large window that shows a view of the Han River and the buildings of Yeouido in western Seoul. The unobstructed view of the multi-story bookstore in a building in Gongdeok, in the Mapo district of northwest Seoul, makes customers feel like they are picnicking. The recently opened sixth floor, extended from the existing bookstore on the eighth and ninth floors, is even called the “Garden” with more plants and flowerpots of various sizes placed near books and reading tables.
Serious readers can take advantage of what is marketed as the bookstore, while others who want more white noses in the background with the view can sit in the cafe on the ninth floor. On the ninth floor is a small outdoor area with rocking chairs, plants, and tables where young children can run around.
“This place is where your eyes are entertained,” said Kwon Jae-hee, director of Check_grow, adding that the sight, the books and the greens are all there to cater to visitors coming with different purposes.
“Some people find it difficult to read books. But no one is good at it from the start, so here we are trying to give people a chance to find their own way to get to know the books.
Check_grow offers many different programs to help those who want to not only read more but also read better. One of the most popular programs is his Saturday morning speech. The weekly program takes place on Saturday at 7 a.m. For those who wish to be part of the program from home, the bookstore uses their Instagram account to share the entire session live.
My Corner is a hidden library in Seoul. It’s not necessarily a speakeasy-style space, but since the library doesn’t promote itself much through online or offline channels, it’s not easy to find. Even the building where the bookstore is located has a small standing sign that is easy to miss.
The library welcomes visitors who want to spend some time alone and is decorated like a comfortable apartment. Each bedroom has plenty of armchairs, some of which are hidden from view, and sofas with a small table are available for those who want to use gadgets that need power outlets to recharge. You can purchase books from the center shelves and read, or bring your own, or those purchased from the Ina Books affiliate store on the upper floor. Drinks are free.
“It’s the place where you take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and feel right at home,” said director Lee Jun-young of My Corner. “People come here to improve the quality of their lives by giving themselves some time alone away from anything that gives them a headache or causes stress. Some even come for a therapy session.
Along with many different cultural programs offered on a regular basis, Library Alone also offers one-on-one sessions with a therapist for those seeking professional advice. For those who wish to talk about their professional background, it is possible to book a session with a career coach. Library Alone also runs regular programs with many different themes and invites outside professionals to join. Readings of the Korean and English versions of the book “Pachinko” by Korean-American author Min Jin Lee are available as well as study sessions on the teachings of ancient scholars. You must register in advance to take advantage of these programs, which are chargeable.
It is currently 10,000 won to use the space for one hour, down from the original 14,000 won. All-day admission is 40,000 won. You can also sign up for a 10-session coupon for 110,000 won, which allows you to stay for up to two hours each visit.
A short walk from My Corner is Book Says. Since Tehran-ro is full of offices of large companies and many start-ups, the library offers books focused on theories of business, management and economics. It also offers books that are good to read when you want to quit smoking or when you want to be better at your job. It has a large dining room and an indoor cafe, to cater for people looking to read during their lunch breaks. Upstairs has desks and reading lights for those who want to read or study more seriously.
Munhakdongne, one of the largest publishing houses specializing in literature, also continues to provide a space where people can read and rest. His most recent Cafe Comma, a coffee shop franchise he runs, opened in Hapjeong, in the Mapo district northwest of Seoul. The areas where the books are displayed are quieter than the open space with a view of the neighborhood. Here, books with more colorful covers are displayed near the entrance to entice readers to enter.
BY LEE SUN-MIN [[email protected]]