Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Old Books Stink

Yesterday I went to the library to pull some books on working-class fiction. I was there for a couple hours but spent very little time in the actual stacks -- hunting for 19th century British working class fiction is computer labour intensive because the catalogues of 19th century lit still suck a bit. So most of my time was spent in a fairly new study carrel, in a fairly young building (40 years, and recently updated or being updated), dealing with my own fairly new and clean computer. And I left the library feeling like I'd inhaled a pile of asbestos, dander and dust.

It's not just the stinky carpet or the construction dust -- there's actually not a lot of carpet in the library, and the construction work is confined to outside the rear of the building, and the windows looking over that area don't open. Fact is, old books make me sick. The library has about 2 million paper holdings (plus multi-media and microfilm/fiche) -- that's 2 million dusty, decaying, smelly tomes ready to attack my mucous membranes.

I left the library looking like a pot smoker, but a pot smoker who holds the joint on the left side of the mouth almost exclusively (my right eye was far less red and puffy). Feeling itchy and stuffed up isn't a great incentive to work in the library. I actually find the basement a little less allergenic (possibly because there are fewer paper holdings there, possibly because the carpet is newer), but all the books I need are normally on the third floor. Oh, and sitting by a window won't help. There are only a few windows that actually open, and they're small and near the floor. There's also no air conditioning and the ventilation system is generally horrible, which is bad for me, but also bad for the books and thus exponentially worse for me.

The university is springing for a huge library expansion, but my suggestion is to fix up the air filter system, rip out the carpet, and for god's sake rebound some of those smelly books. A million computers aren't going to make the place any cooler or less dusty, or my face any less pink. Ugh.
doctor T 11:34 p.m.


Sadness, dude. Welcome to the daily plight of the early modernist. Thank GOD for EEBO and ECCO, that's all I have to say.

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