Find your library.
May 3, 2002 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Find your library. When I was a kid, my public library was my sanctuary, providing me many hours of enjoyment. Of course I yearned for better, larger library. When I was in college, I loved to wander the stacks. Do you have any fond library memories?
posted by patrickje (36 comments total)
I would agree heartily. Books remain my first love -- and the library remains a way for me to test-drive new authors before shelling out $30 for a mediocre hard-cover. The stacks in my college library were also the scene of an unsolved murder -- someone jumped a female graduate student (in the 1960s, I believe), stabbed her, and left. Her body was discovered after a few days. So research always had that extra kick.
posted by krewson at 12:05 PM on May 3, 2002

You haven't had the full library experience until you've worked in two libraries--one public, one university. I'm still trying to determine which had the stranger patronage.
posted by ChrisTN at 12:11 PM on May 3, 2002

Funny, though I was a big reader as a kid, a lot of my library experiences involve films. My local library in Nyack, NY, used to run movies for kids during the summers when I was growing up. One day they showed the Rankin-Bass version of "The Hobbit", which I had never heard of before, and I thought it was just about the coolest thing I had ever seen. Great thing was, when the lights came up, I could go right over to the shelf and find the book.

Even now, in Seattle, I use the library mostly for borrowing videos. Seattle Public Library has an enormous collection.
posted by Ty Webb at 12:12 PM on May 3, 2002

Library memory: the back stairwell at the main library at Ohio State University was filled with graffiti. It wasn't just vandalism, though, it was conversations. You could start at the top of the building and read your way down. People would respond to what others wrote and even developed BBS-style aliases and sigs (not to mention marker colors). Since the space was two-dimensional, you could link your reply to the original message in a variety of interesting ways. It was as fascinating as any of the books.
posted by kindall at 12:18 PM on May 3, 2002

Hey Kindall, which stairway are you talking about? I'm wondering if it's still there.
posted by Blake at 12:25 PM on May 3, 2002

Checking out the absolute maximum number of books and bringing them back before they were even due, to check out more. I wish I had time like that these days...
posted by allpaws at 12:25 PM on May 3, 2002

When I was in college, I used to work as a security guard at the Wisconsin State Historical Society Library. It was this grand old building. The amazing part was the stacks, eight levels and a lot of the floors were made of translucent glass. Walking through the stacks at night, making sure they were empty, and you could just catch a glimpse of movement through the glass. It was neat.
posted by patrickje at 12:31 PM on May 3, 2002

No idea. It was (sigh) sixteen years ago.
posted by kindall at 12:38 PM on May 3, 2002

Seattle Public Library has an enormous collection.

while that's true, the King County Library System video collection is simply amazing, they have a large amount of DVDs as well as VHS movies. Of course, you need to leave Seattle to get them....

My favorite libraries in town [besides my boyfriend, the main branch of SPL] are the microlibraries -- the reading room at the Center for Wooden Boats, the As You Like It Metaphysical Library and the weird tiny collections hidden all over UW.
posted by jessamyn at 12:58 PM on May 3, 2002

I love libraries. The greatest library in the world is in Hendon, a suburb of North London. Cambridge University library is quite good too, though it looks like a cross between a Victorian mental institution and Battersea power station. I had sex with someone in the stacks once.
posted by Dan Brilliant at 1:14 PM on May 3, 2002

When I was in college, I worked at the Georgia Tech architecture library. Easy work (it was pretty small), and I delved into architecture and landscape design books, so now I can amaze folks with useless facts about Frederick Law Olmstead and Philip Johnson, among others.
posted by kickerofelves at 1:18 PM on May 3, 2002

An astonishingly Proustian experience: I was wandering in a obscure corner of the Library of Congress in Washington some years back, and stumbled into an area where they had stored some old card catalogues. The smell of those old card catalogues transported me back through a whole lifetime of library love. All libraries should destroy their soulless, scentless computers catalogues.
posted by Faze at 1:37 PM on May 3, 2002

The Bod is the library for me.

Up until a couple years ago, you had to swear an oath before being issued a Bodleian reader's card. Now you just have to sign for it.

"I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library."
posted by ahughey at 1:44 PM on May 3, 2002

Libraries are heaven. I worked in a public library for a while after graduating from college. They were doing the conversion to automation, so I got to slap bar codes on thousands of books and find their OCLC listings. The library was also undergoing a huge renovation and expansion at the time and the best thing that happened to me was being allowed to develop the science fiction section. They had to buy so many books to fill the shelves that I got to do exactly what I wanted. Just thinking about it makes me do a happy face.
posted by elgoose at 1:47 PM on May 3, 2002

Ahhh, patrickje. You just had to bring up Memorial, didn't you? What a place.

The funny thing about the flagship library at the UW-Madison, it's the definitive version of stacks. Floor over floor of row after row of industrial metal shelving, bowing under the pressure of books. The knowledge contained in it, it's intimidating.

I have a pal who works there, actually, for the library's computer networking group, and he took me in one weekend. He showed me the faculty wing, which is an endless maze of study carrels, each its own room, each with a door and a fogged glass window. That place is the source of all silence in the world.
posted by rocketman at 2:02 PM on May 3, 2002

the best high school job ever - children's dept. page at the library (I'm tempted to see if they want a volunteer for help with their web badly needs pictures!)

it was the same library I'd been carried to as an infant, and some of the librarians had known me nearly that long. :) of course, I used to get busted by my boss (a tough, diminuitive black woman who was not happy about the then new computer catalog) for hiding out and reading in the stacks.

now my sweetie's mother works for the local library, not as a librarian, but in the central offfice. and since we gave up tv (long story), we go nearly every week and check out stacks of books! the video selection is not so great, Tacoma's was better.

in the last 6 months or so, I've discovered lots of librarians on the web (like our own jessamyn), which has been a lovely surprise. :)
posted by epersonae at 2:02 PM on May 3, 2002

hey ty webb, you're from nyack, too? get right out. also, i'm an undergrad looking at getting a M.L.S. any advice?
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 2:05 PM on May 3, 2002

In college, I loved to find the most remote, obscure place with a desk to study, especially for final exams. I camped out for hours, often with Tab, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, and a Walkman. At the other extreme, the library, at BU and the Sorbonne (St. Genvieve) was my pickup joint I think every date I ever had in college was the product of a library encounter. In law school, I made a point of studying at the medical library, because the thought of women law students had no appeal.

And to think, these days there are Barnes & Noble and Borders with cafes. Life has become too easy.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:10 PM on May 3, 2002

Brooklyn People: check out the library branch at the corner of 9th St. and 6th Ave. A truly great, charming public library branch.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:14 PM on May 3, 2002

Wandering the stacks at Widener. It's an enromous labyrinth. They wont let you do that nowadays. But, back in my day, you could stage a tryst in some forgotten section, making love among the dusty tomes.
posted by vacapinta at 2:26 PM on May 3, 2002

The downtown branch of The Cincinnati & Hamilton County Library is amazing. Books, Sculpture Gardens, Porches, and sunrooms!
posted by Mick at 2:40 PM on May 3, 2002

The downtown branch of The Cincinnati & Hamilton County Library is amazing. Books, Sculpture Gardens, Porches, and sunrooms!
posted by Mick at 2:40 PM on May 3, 2002

someone jumped a female graduate student (in the 1960s, I believe), stabbed her, and left. Her body was discovered after a few days.

Not a lot of traffic in them stacks back then, eh?

Libraries are what churches should be.
posted by rushmc at 3:04 PM on May 3, 2002

nonreflectiveobject: The MLS is a wonderful liberal arts degree- you survey all human knowledge by form! I heartily recommend it. However, if your objective is employment in a library, here's what they won't tell you: 1) Reference and cataloging positions are being "deprofessionalized," and classified as "paraprofessional" positions. This means that once you have the MLS, you will be considered "overqualified" for the "paraprofessional" or student postions. 2) Without "demonstrated work experience," it can be difficult to get your first library job after the MLS. Hence, acquiring library work experience before you complete the MLS is really important. If you are a single adult / sole wage-earner who needs to work full time, do not expect much understanding for any reluctance to volunteer or accept part-time positions. Many librarians will insist that "people need to get to know you" before your resume will receive serious consideration. Be prepared for interning, on-call, and part-time work in order to enter this profession.

Favorite libraries? The new Cleveland Public Library is fantastic- make it part of your trip, along with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Blossom, the Lewis Center, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. For creative inspiration: An afternoon spent poking through the Andy Warhol Museum Archives or the current journals at MIT's Barker Library.
posted by sheauga at 3:13 PM on May 3, 2002

And to think, these days there are Barnes & Noble and Borders with cafes. Life has become too easy.

BN is sort of like a library. You know, books. Yeah the cafe makes it easier to chat up a prospect, but the books are the thing. I still prefer my local libe.
posted by caraig at 3:27 PM on May 3, 2002

The library in McComb Mississippi was horrible. In terms of what books it had, size, and orderliness, it was all bad. But for some reason I loved it. It was an old house that had been converted, and I always felt, walking down the shelf-lined hallways, that the books had stormed it one day and taken it for themselves. That it used to be some old book collector's house, perhaps, and when she died the books just took over. Also, the library card was partly metal, which was cool.
posted by Nothing at 3:34 PM on May 3, 2002

Right when I was a little bugger barely able to read I loved my library in Acocks Green in Birmingham. Tiny place really in a little suburb. But it smelled of wood and books. I remember that when I meditate. I have loved all libraries since.
Its funny though that I have never found a library like it. I will swear there are more periodicals and more modern authors in that tiny place than there are in the small town in Wales I now live in.
Way back then in the early sixties this library was open till 8 pm every night. This Welsh town I live in it shuts at 5 except Wednesdays when it shuts at midday.
It is a town full of ignorance and prejudice called Cwmbran.
If you have a good library treasure it and support it.
posted by Fat Buddha at 4:40 PM on May 3, 2002

I have been a 'library guy' almost my whole life. I learned how to read at an early age (around 3 or 4) and I still have memories of my mother and sister taking me to our local library to pickup kids books. When I was older, I had a great time browsing, grabbing any books that looked interesting and devouring through them. Allpaws is right -- I'd love to have that amount of time again to spend on reading.

I think libraries are one of our most valuable resources. I find it really troubling that libraries have become battlegrounds for assholes to demand censorship at their local libaries. They also have more power than they deserve, as evidenced by garbage laws like CIPA that requires content-based censorship in exchange for government funding.

I think the law should explicitly establish that libraries are 'hands-off, free-information zones' in order to pre-empt such time-wasting legislation in the future. Maybe a constitutional amendment is in order? :)
posted by Dirjy at 7:09 PM on May 3, 2002

I had sex with someone in the stacks once.

I never thought that happened in real life. I assumed it was just fiction from tv.

I love libraries, but I prefer the smaller ones where you know get to know the librarians. Despite the smaller collection, I just love the feel of my old small town library. The first time I walked into my library at college I was very intimidated.
posted by raks at 9:03 PM on May 3, 2002

My childhood public library now has a coffee shop inside it. I haven't been there since, but the Web site says "People may bring library materials into the coffee shop. Customers are also allowed to bring beverages in covered containers into some areas of the library"
posted by GaelFC at 9:12 PM on May 3, 2002

Ah, I remember my first library.
posted by y2karl at 11:00 PM on May 3, 2002

My childhood library was the best place in the world. It had no competition at all, though I did love the Bookmobile that stopped a block away from my house, too.

The big bronze gates and the courtyard always made me feel as if I was entering a castle. The worst thing was when we would come by and find those gates locked and the library closed. I would hold on to the bars and peer in to the books locked away from me.

My feelings about my current neighborhood library are slightly more, um, mixed. For obvious reasons.
posted by litlnemo at 3:58 AM on May 4, 2002

Where I grew up, the nearest library was so small, eventually I stopped borrowing books from them and started giving them my books. This is it after the building expansion program. Still, I wish I could go back there for more summer fun.
posted by pracowity at 4:35 AM on May 4, 2002

When I was in high school, I volunteered at my local library. I spent summers there helping with various projects, like getting the card catalog appropriately updated so that we could then get the whole card catalog online for the InterLibrary Loan Program. It was awesome to be in the basement of City Hall and air conditioned all summer long! I worked for lunch, mostly. I would walk across the street and have whatever I wanted from the burger joint, and the library paid for it. That was pretty much it. During school I taught arts and crafts classes once or twice a month for the junior set. We had the best time! Then the librarian talked to my senior English teacher and convinced her to loan me out to the library during her class once a month so I could dress up like a character from a book and entertain the kids after Story Hour. They'd ask me questions and talk to me about what happened in the book, and before it and after it too.

When I was a member of the Story Hour set, the Library was one of the few places I could go all by myself. So I have two sets of fond memories of my library. It was never much, but from the right angle, it was a whole different world.
posted by verso at 12:07 PM on May 4, 2002

I had sex with someone in the stacks once.

I never thought that happened in real life. I assumed it was just fiction from tv.

"No sex please, we're librarians".

That's my college library. *sigh*
posted by sillygwailo at 5:03 PM on May 4, 2002

The New York Public Library map room had four rare maps I had not even seen a glimpse of before, and made full-size photocopies (nearly tablecloth size) for $5 apiece. At the time we were there, they also had an exhibit of 27 original historical documents, including the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Connecticut State Library is heaven for a CT roadgeek like me; too bad it's 3000 miles from where I live. But another modern-day miracle is Inter-Library Loan. Web catalog search + $2 fee per document + wait a few weeks: your books are shipped to your local library.

When I visit CT and have time to do the state library, I have a printout of documents I need and basically photocopy as fast as I can.

Best of all, I met my wife at the library :-)
posted by kurumi at 5:52 PM on May 4, 2002

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