The Life Science Library

2005-11-18 10:33:00 +0000

Iʼve heard that there are over 50,000 students enrolled at my school, the University of Texas, and Iʼve often wondered where everyone is. Iʼve decided I want to find out.

Armed with a robust iBook that I checked out from the Flawn Academic Center, Iʼm going to try to visit some lesser-known places on the campus and describe what I find. Today Iʼm in the Life Science Library.

This library is everything a library should be, and probably has been for longer than I have been alive. Iʼm in the “Reading Room”, a long rectangular room with lots of windows providing natural light. All around the walls, where there arenʼt windows, there are shelves full of books and periodicals. There are several big wooden tables with big, uncomfortable wooden chairs. There are even several standing-height desks with ominous-looking dictionaries on them.

I just walked over to check: Weʼve got Websterʼs Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged) open to “chiffer - china aster”. Thereʼs a cute black-and-white drawing of a chimpanzee in one of the columns.

Another volume of the same edition is open to “hanker - hard”. The only picture on the entire page is a hansom–the kind that Sherlock Holmes used to ride around in.

Also on this desk are three large atlases. They are open to Australia, Japan and Canada. One of them was printed in 1986.

I was sitting near the “new periodicals” shelf a few minutes ago when suddenly, three people came out of nowhere and started to stack up all the magazines and take them away. Then another man rolled a book cart over and filled the empty shelves with new new periodicals. I suppose this happens every week. I should probably feel awed that I was here when it actually happened.

In the entry hall of the library, near the circulation and information desk, are several glass cases displaying various copies of Don Quixote. There are forty copies total, all in different languages or from different time periods. Apparently, we have quite the collection of rare copies of Don Quixote.

Next come the stacks. The ceiling is only about seven feet tall. The space between the shelves: three feet at the most. Browse through back issues of Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology. Go up a level to find your favorite issue of Protein Engineering. Go down a level and crack open the American Journal of Physiology Vol. 1 Num. 1 (January 3, 1898). The very first article is entitled “Influence of Borax and Boric Acid upon Nutrition with Special Reference to Proteid Metabolism”. That sounds like a real page-turner.

Back in the Reading Room, I forgot to mention the quotes painted on the ceilingʼs support beams. Hereʼs one of my favorites, in modern English:

O would some power the gift give us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us
And foolish notion. [Robert Burns]