A library junkie in the deep PQs

the PQs, where I hang out

Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

Here’s my hangout lately on the Peninsula: Stanford’s Green Library. You can get into Stanford Libraries even if you aren’t a student, faculty, or staff, by signing in as a guest. Park on Galvez in the visitor lot for $1.50 an hour.

The books stretch dimly into the far distance, smelling of stodgy dust. I tend to collect enormous armloads even when I’m just in there after one book; I walk in and my head goes sideways. Yesterday it was three armloads of books lugged to the window-side desks. I skimmed, read, squeaked with joy, sticky-noted, xeroxed, typed, annotated.

It is good library etiquette to leave the books out on the tables in neat stacks, to be counted by shelving clerks and included in proof of library use in the monthly statistics.

The third floor PQ section has got most of the poetry in Spanish. but if you poke around there’s way more. The Dewey Decimal stuff used to be in the basement, down a long long tunnelly place like a bomb shelter or a steam tunnel complex way out of the building, but now most of it is in the very odd bit of the library that has no heating. Concrete and steel girders, steel staircases you can see completely through, claustrophobia extreme, and the ceilings just overhead even if you’re a gnome, so that when you’re on the 7th floor of the Weird Scary Annex you walk out – if you can find the exit – on the third floor of the real library.

It was like leaving a skyscraper submarine to walk out of that into the sunlight, and the empty campus, and get a sub-normal cup of coffeepot dregs from the nearby “cafe”, which is nasty beyond compare; sparsely populated by stale rice crispie treats and pigeons.

Every smart campus should have a cooking school on the side, to ensure good cafes. The Stanford Masters in Barista Studies! Picture it!

Berkeley’s main library, when I can get in and I can’t without an ID but I’ve managed it anyway, has its own special loveliness. They have open stacks, but with shelves on wheels. You turn a capstan sort of wheel to move the stacks around and nip in between the newly opened crevasse. Again – submarines.

San Francisco State’s library has almost no formality to it. It’s reasonably big – it’s a bit crowded and grungy – The books I want are almost always checked out. What I can say for it: it’s lively and the people are more interesting. It’s the city park of University libraries in the Bay Area!

1 Comment so far

  1. anna eva (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 8:41 am

    It’s always good to know that there’s someone else out there in some library somewhere that is also buried in the PQs on a regular basis. Haven’t been to Stanford’s section, but I’ll have to check it out. Because UCB’s PQs are 4 stories below ground, whenever I have to go do research, I call it “spelunking”.

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