while i'm the first to pop my eyes at a wall of books rising to the rafters, i often think about the lonely life of books positioned well above a reachable level. even with a library ladder, it's always the books within arm's reach that will get the most attention. the rest become, for the most part, decoration. so while i'm awed by sky-high libraries, i'm equally enamoured by the intimate scale of interiors by architects like adolf loos and frank lloyd wright. the bibliothèque nationale in paris couples a monumental space with shelving designed according to human proportions (see image above, from "the library at night" by alberto manguel).
an inventive way to get a little extra accessible height to bookshelves is shown in the library of the judd foundation in marfa, texas (shown below). the bottom shelf extends out at double-depth to provide a bench seat for either sitting to read at the case, or for standing on to reach the highest shelves. this is a good solution for those that might be too short for the top few shelves, or those who only need a little extra step to to the top shelf. it's integral, self-explanatory, and effective. a great idea.