Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Back from the trenches

The play ended Saturday, and I’m still tired. Also, I’m realising how many things I foolishly said “yes” to, on the basis that they were in that infinite expanse of time marked “after the play”. So, this week I have two graduate halls (Wednesday, Thursday), a cast reunion (Friday), possibly a house party (Friday), the blind wine tasting society annual dinner (Saturday) and a Jeeves and Wooster themed gathering to read Wodehouse (Sunday).

I’ve also organised a “people’s direct action committee for cake”, to see that it is possible on Thursday’s at 4 pm to eat cake in graduate common room in college. So yes, still tired, still shaking my second (third?) cold of term and still procrastinating.

I did, foolishly, attempt some research today. After spending a few hours writing in the morning my afternoon consisted primarily of an hour spent chasing down a footnote to an irrelevancy.

This took me to that place where all good intentions go to die, the University Library. I understand the Bodleian Library at Oxford is a marvel of architecture. The Cambridge UL is a marvel of hideousness and was used as the exterior of the Ministry of Truth in a French TV production of “1984”. (True.)

The bookstacks are of the ugly metal shelving cabinet variety, and have very narrow spaces between. There are ugly green carpet squares on the floor, and lights on timer dials one can never find. In the South Front section of the building the actual corridors at the head of stacks are so narrow it is only possible to sit across the short side of a table while consulting a book.

Admittedly, there are some nice reading nooks on the ground floor and the rare books room is pretty. But the main stacks – claustrophobia, seventies archival ugliness and the pervasive smell of dust.

In addition, the e-catalogue is not entirely reliable pre-1978. The old catalogue consists of huge books with tiny slips of paper pasted in in three columns and runs to hundreds of volumes. I kid you not.

Some people complain about the modernity of the law library: bring it on I say.

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