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ERIC Number: EJ757235
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Feb-23
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
In Quest of the Perfect Library
Holleran, Andrew
Chronicle of Higher Education, v53 n25 pB27 Feb 2007
There is a sad truth about college libraries: No matter how attractively designed and cleverly constructed, they cannot disguise a central fact--that the undergraduates in them are seldom there to read books they want to read. The author explains that when he walks through the library at Georgetown University or American University, his heart goes out to the undergraduates sprawled under the fluorescent light like animals that have been euthanized. He knows that whether they curl up in easy chairs, stretch their legs under long tables, or hunch over desks, nothing can alleviate the ordeal. The reason is simple: Only an adult can walk into a university library looking for a book he actually wants to read. In this article, the author describes the various libraries on the Harvard University campus that represent for him rites of passage. In a corner of Harvard Yard, there is a library called Lamont, a mid-century, redbrick, functional building, but across an asphalt path lies Widener--an enormity where murals by John Singer Sargent that flank a marble staircase leading to a vast reading room in whose shadows the beautiful green shades of reading lamps glimmer like emeralds. Forbidden to freshmen, she constitutes a rite of passage when, at the beginning of sophomore year, one is finally allowed to leave Lamont for Widener. Obtaining a pass that allows one into the stacks of Widener means: I am growing up. Yes, getting into Widener may be a thrill, but getting out soon becomes an even bigger one. When they become sophomores, students are expelled from the Yard and sent to live in individual colleges, or houses, near the river. Each house has its own library, small (like Lamont) but atmospheric (like Widener). The Lowell House Library is, in a sense, perfect. The Lowell House Library, for instance, looks like the men's club in a "New Yorker" cartoon, with wood-paneled walls, brass chandeliers, dark tables, and red-leather chairs. But it takes perfection to realize a crucial truth about the limitations of architecture and decor. The reluctant reader searches for the perfect room, the perfect desk, the perfect lamp, the perfect chair, as if they will make it easier for the literary castor oil to go down. Deciding to spend the rest of his college years reading under a low ceiling, with a crummy little lamp, flat on his back in his room, the author finally realized he had been searching for something that cannot exist: a library that would read the book for him.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts