Thursday, April 17, 2014


My five postings this week are in honor of National Library Week, April 13-19
East facade and main entrance of the M. Carey Thomas Library
The M. Carey Thomas Library, at my alma mater Bryn Mawr College, was at first glance, and superficially, far grander and awe-inspiring than any library I had so far encountered.  But beneath and behind its imposing structure were the same elements of every other library: books, and people to help me find the books.
Main entrance to M. Carey Thomas Library
The huge front windows allowed sunlight to stream into the main reading room.
I didn't like to use this room, however.  People talked too much in here! Instead, I went downstairs into the stacks.  Here I could usually find an empty study carrel.  Once ensconced there, I was always in heaven.  On my right, close at hand, stretched shelf after shelf of volumes on classical Latin, Greek Archeology, and Art History---my field of study.
And on my left, a leaded glass window that looked out into an enclosed garden of shrubbery and flowers. (I could not find a photo of the Thomas Library carrels, so I have substituted this one, which gives the same feel.)  I remember one winter afternoon in particular:  I sat in the carrel, reading Lucretius's "The Nature of Things" in Latin, its original language---a piece composed around 50 B.C.  Outside, snow fell thickly in huge flakes, building up on the evergreen branches that brushed against the leaded pane windows.  All around me was the smell and aura of books, of history, of thought; of a long handing-down from one generation to the next of words, excitement, ideas.  I was content.

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