The Biblioteca

January 17, 2007 at 6:06 am (Uncategorized)

I just signed up to become, belatedly, a member of the State Library of New South Wales. Because I’m a PhD, I get a super snazzy Gold Card, which gives me access  to cool stuff like manuscripts, pictures, oral history and rare maps from the Mitchell and Dixson Libraries and the State Reference Library. Nice one. It’s not the VIP list a lot of my friends would choose to be on (that would be, say, Tank and Bondi Icebergs…), but I’m rapt. I love libraries (no surprises there), but I’d forgotten just how much. The State Library is both a hive of activity and an oasis of calm. I am blogging from there right now, on e-resource # 17, and the noise of my typing is the most disruptive sound in the room. Everyone else is very quietly, earnestly looking stuff up. I remember spending hours and hours in the National Library in Canberra during my undergrad years, and I bet this place is chock full of people in a similar stage of life right now. There’s lots of young men with long ponytails and abundant facial hair, and nothing says student like the hirsute. None of these guys has to work in an office. It’s all Nirvana t-shirts, ripped jeans and Converse. Oooh, before I come over all stereotypical, here’s a young glamourpuss just wandering in – possibly she’s lost. She looks lost. She’s nervously clutching a Louis Vuitton shoulder bag, has enormous Dior sunnies, plenty of bling, fantastically large breasts she’s now leaning into a very flustered information guy’s face, white shorts – yes, white shorts – and improbably high heels. Classic! What’s she doing here? Not much – she’s with her little brother, by the look of it, and he’s the one who needs a computer. She’s just standing around looking deeply perplexed.

It’s also perfectly temperature controlled in here. It’s really rather pleasant. I might just sign off and wander around getting acquainted with the place, flashing my card at every available opportunity because I can. You might be wondering how it is that I am only just signing up now, but the answer’s very simple. Interlibrary Loans. They were my lifeline at UNSW, and they did so much of the work for me. It was fabulous, especially for a lazy student like me. As a postgrad, I was able to use ILL as often as I liked, and I worked them like dogs. All I had to do was figure out what article or book I required, fill in a little request online, and wait. They did all the schlepping for me, frequently sourcing material from overseas, where a lot of the DeLillo stuff lives. They were my champions. I thanked the faceless, nameless heroes in ILL in my thesis dedications, but that felt inadequate, so I went one better and took in a card and thank you present – edible, of course – the day before I graduated. They were stunned. Apparently no one’s ever thanked them before – not in person, anyway. And not with boxes of chocolates and biscuits. But as I look around at all these students, and as I recall the hours and hours I spent as an undergrad looking for some obscure article or other and cursing the days of the Dewey System, I am struck again by just how much they did for me. Now that hellish time is over, I can embrace libraries everywhere once more. It’s only just occurred to me that I was so traumatised by my days as a postgrad that I have been avoiding libraries ever since. No  more. I couldn’t stay away forever. I heard it calling me from Martin Place, seducing me with all its possibilities and rare holdings of knowledge and history. Awesome. And even better: now I’m here just for kicks. Bliss.

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