surviving the stacks.

by la rebelde

I believe libraries are wonderful things, I just don’t enjoy being in them. I love being a historian, but there is not a moment when I enter a library that I do not question my decision to become a one. Yesterday was no different…

It was the first day of my month-long research fellowship at a huge private collection with a very “regal” sounding name, that I’m going to call “the Spiffy-ton” or “the Spiffy” for short.

Taking the morning to work on fellowship applications, I decided to head over to The Spiffy after lunch. I have been to there a few times before, but never to the library part, because you have to show lots of ID and fill out lots of forms—it’s all very official. Different from university archives where there are only a few researchers at any given time and undergrads also work there, the Spiffy operates sort of like an academic department/conference. All the researchers are encouraged to interact daily and chit-chat about their “work” and stuff (I learned right away not to say “dissertation” unless it comes up.) It’s all about nurturing the profession and the field, I guess… (I have more to say about that, but I’ll save it for another post.)

After an hour-long orientation in which I was given a thorough tour of the library facility and completed the necessary paperwork, I spent another hour pouring through card catalogs. And then about 20 minutes at the weekly coffee/snack reception, where I participated in banal academic banter. (It seems I’d forgotten how to interact with academics since I’ve been away from campus for a while….they try to be witty and clever, but dang y’all, I roll with some dorky folks.)

Fast forward two hours. I decided to request some photocopies after exploring the stacks for a bit. When I entered the hallway, all the lights were out and no one was around. The library had been closed for half an hour! In the stacks, no one else had been exploring near me. There were no clocks. No bells. No flicker of the lights. Nada! Panicking slightly, I re-shelved the books and headed back to the locker area to get my stuff. The viejito at the reception desk gave me a stern reprimanding about how I shouldn’t be there at that hour. And how I could have been locked in overnight, if the guard and everyone else had gone home before I got there.

¡Hiiiiiijole frijole! I couldn’t help but think that my absent-minded, probably-more-dorky-than-I-admit ass could have passed out in the dusty stacks and might not have been found until (maybe) someone happened to walk by! There’s a book I read when I was in elementary school (can’t remember the title) about these kids who run away from home, packing their clothes in their musical instrument cases and they hide in the museum overnight. I could have been like them—only accidental!

Today was much better…even though I still can’t find my way around. This time I watched the clock religiously. I’m still not a fan of the library….

This very cool flickr image is by brighterorange. For attribution info click here.

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7 Comments to “surviving the stacks.”

  1. Sounds like a horror movie. Don’t sacrifice yourself to the Spiffy!

  2. I’ve often thought the same thing would happen to me in the Benson stacks.

    I remember that book! I think. I also remember a book about some kids spending the night at the mall, and the mannequins came to life….In your book, was there some mystery about a Michelangelo sculpture?

  3. I got locked in the gym before when I was in middle school. That was frightening. I eventually found an unlocked door and escaped. However, many times in my graduate career I wished they’d just lock me into the library but they’d always hunt me down somehow.

  4. i once got trapped in the basement of the “pro,” let’s call it, only to be let out after banging on the door and yelling really loud. i later found out that the “emergency exit only” door that i refused to used for fear of setting off a fire alarm was disabled. i was never really trapped, but it sure felt like it.

  5. kiita: i’ll have to be more careful and leave 15 min early from now on!

    olga: i think there WAS a mystery about a Michelangelo sculpture! and the kids hid in the bathroom when the guards came by and slept in a bed that was on display.

    abbey: that’s some serious library-ing!

    kt: i always thought those doors had fake alarms! although, i’m pretty sure The Spiffy-ton has real alarms..it’s just a hunch…

  6. I read that book too. I think it’s called The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I thought it would be cool to live in a museum, but staying in a library over night would be really creepy.

  7. wow, cindy. good memory! and yea dude, libraries–super creepy.

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