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Wednesday, August 28, 2013
remembering the library
Listening to:morning edition
Weather:never stops raining
An old friend who is a college librarian posted a link to a place to nominate somebody for an I Love My Librarian award. It reminded me of the library. When was the last time you went to one? Don't get me wrong, I look shit up all the time, but rarely go to the library to do it. I actually did hit up Wise Library at WVU a few weeks ago when there was an old journal article I wanted to try to read. I consulted the catalog online from the comfort of my chair at home, prolly while stark-ass naked, but couldn't exactly tell from the listing whether the article in question was available there or not. I work a few blocks from the library where the periodicals live, so I thought I stop by and check.

So I stroll over. First off, as I already knew there has been radical renovation of the old place. When I was an undergrad this library had a huge front room, maybe 3 stories high, big walnut card catalog cabinets and built-in shelves around the perimeter and huge tables. It had that smell ya love, that rotting paper vanilla smell, you young kids won't probably ever get to enjoy. The room sound had a nice rolling delay, but was mostly quiet, except for occasional clicking feet and shutting of long heavy card catalog shelves.

When I first encountered this place as a shiny teenage freshman it totally fulfilled that part of my dream of what college would be like. Serious study would go down here. I would fill my head with the knowledge of the ages next to hot brainy guys who would be impressed with the stacks of books I poured over at my table. Yeah, that never happened. Neither did the wine-fueled philosophy discussions with students and favorite professors into the wee hours of the morning. Instead there were 19 cent Goebbels at Speedy's and puking friends and drunkwalking from Sunnyside to Towers into the wee hours of the morning. But I did drag my hungover ass to class almost every single day to try to learn something.

And I would actually spend plenty of time at the music libraries for the next 4 years. There were two: the listening library downstairs and the music book library upstairs at the CAC. I did my 10 hours of workstudy every week in those libraries under the supervision of John, aka Conan the Librarian. The listening library was filled with turntables and vinyl records and headphones. The book library had, ya know, books, sheetmusic bound into books, periodicals bound into books, all those spines looking pretty homogeneous since they sent everything to the same bindery. Dark blue, brown, black, plain white stamped letters.

We used paper cards when I first got there. Paper pocket inside the cover with a lined white card where you sign your name for us to keep, paper sheet glued in where we stamped your due date. Cards got filed, overdue notices got sent, kids gave no shit. Professors could keep books out eternally, no due date, and believe you me, they did. Some books never saw that library again, I'm sure, after Professor X snatched them right after acquisition and never gave them back.

The library was a mellow place to work. I worked early mornings a lot, which got me to the building so I could hop downstairs to class after a couple hours of doing homework at the circulation desk. Though there were plenty of books to shelve in the mornings. Ya wheel the cart around through the narrow stacks, carefully do decimal math to reshelve in the proper place, though usually the gap on the shelf gave you the shortcut view. A misshelved book is a lost book, buddy, don't slack. Getting there early had its perks, though, nobody else was there. I could chill or sing to myself or whatever while I did my thang.

By the time I was a senior I could tell where every freakin thing in those libraries was, just about. I knew which shelf held the Whitesnake album (donated in a collection by the family of a dead person, no doubt), where the Weiss guitar anthologies were. I could help the Freshies find their crap.

So while I wasn't ever a real librarian, I think of myself as a once baby librarian. I wonder if there are still baby librarians out there. The music library has been consumed by the larger Evansdale library, it's no longer in the CAC. Do the kids even need to go there anymore?

That old journal article I sought at Wise was not available to me. WVU doesn't pay the cash for access to the Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion. Have to get that access online, I guess. That's what the librarian told me.

permalink posted by cat 7:52 AM

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remembering the library