Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Personal Lost & Found

So I was on the second floor of the library, spacing out. I had been on the first floor spacing out, but too many people were looking at me. That didn't embarrass me or anything. I think I moved upstairs to save the other students the discomfort of looking at me.

Upstairs is where they actually keep the books. I found a good spot next to the window so I could look out -- it was a glowy gray day. Luminous instead of dull. I settled into the forty year old chair with its matching green metal desk. I looked up at the aged fluorescent lights, some bluish, some yellow. Our library has been the same since about 1963.

I thought about students studying here and talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. or Robert F. Kennedy coming to town. But mostly I just thought about how I like the peach and green linoleum floors and the stale scent of yellowing pages.

When my blank stare landed on a stack of medical textbooks, I started to have thoughts about the study of "sciences" like nursing. My school is a big pseudo-science school -- nursing, education, communication. And so on. I wrote on my notepad, "Students in the practical sciences are told what to think. Memorize; regurgitate. Take it in; churn it out." And I thought about how a literature student never quite knows what to think, and often has qualms about regurgitating anything.

Past freshman year there is no such thing as a "textbook" for an English major. All we have are texts. There are no model experiments, helpful pie charts, or inset boxes with "hints" in a work of literature. Unless you count the often intrusive footnotes. So we don't even want that kind of prescription of how to do things, the kind that the future nurses and child counselors get. But sometimes it sure is hard to be without it.

Then I noticed how every section of practical textbooks has the test guide for its respective grad school test. They don't put those in the English section. I got up to look. Nope -- either they know better, or they just forgot about us.

Walking down the last aisle of literature stacks on my way back to my chair, I saw something familiar at eye-level. It was my silver thermos, which I had misplaced almost a month ago! I had a feeling it was in the library, but attempts to recover it at the lost and found had failed. And there it was in the 809 section, sitting next to "Arthurian Myth and Legend," shiny, silver, and untouched with a few ounces of Good Earth tea fermenting in the bottom.

So you see how very often this aisle is frequented by enthusiastic students of literature. This is the aisle that contains titles on "poetics," "medieval writing culture," and "philosophy in literature," and in which you can pull out any given title and expect the last stamp on the card to read "nineteen-sixty-something." No one ever checks these out, or even pulls them from a shelf for a closer look. If they had, the librarian would have been back here by now and would have recovered my lost travel mug.

So I guess if I ever need to stash some contraband, or just run out of room in my bag, I can leave my stuff on my own little storage shelf at the library. King Arthur and his buds will watch over my goodies 'til my return.

The funniest thing is, I got an email from the library this morning listing all the lost and found items. Their collection was burgeoning, and they needed students to come claim their scarves and water bottles and rap CDs. Perhaps all of those things had been left in the nursing textbook section, and turned into the circulation desk by nightfall.

My library. I like it when they leave the windows open and
you can sample the book flavors from the sidewalk.

Library Lost-n-Found update: 3/2/2009 I actually left a valuable item in the library -- my laptop power supply. I wasn't intentionally testing my LnF theory, I was just working on a paper about Hegelian dialectic that nearly put me to sleep. Hence the forgotten power supply in my haste to escape the soporific screen glow and get some seasonable cold blasts of fresh Aurora air.

Sure enough, when I called the circ desk hours later, no one had turned the power cord in. So even my little study nook is not a popular hangout. I called back and asked if they could look in my nook, and there the library girls found my neglected computer accoutrement. I'm not sure how I remembered the exact spot where I didn't remember it. That is a mind mystery for another day.

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