The Universe, the Library, and Everything


I spent several hours in the library yesterday, avoiding human contact because I promised I would do so in order to curb any potential of my catching swine flu or some other wicked demon disease launched upon the Earth to wipe out mankind. That wasn’t the only reason I was in the library, though. I’m still working on my research project and have been digging up books I still need to read in order to get my brain in the right mindset to write the 25+ page monstrosity that will be the finished product. The reality is that I think this paper will cross the 40-page mark, since as of this moment, with only the intro and one section (of about six) completed, I have about 8 pages–and those sections will be receiving extensive edits and adjustments over the next few weeks.

But this post isn’t entirely about that. Actually, it’s about how awesome libraries can be. One thing I find incredibly useful about UC Santa Cruz’s library (and the UC library system in general) is how many books you have access to and on what subjects: pretty much all of them. Books they don’t have they can purchase, and students (and non-students too) can borrow books from any library in the system, drastically increasing the size of the UC library’s catalogue. And don’t get me started on article databases…because there are too many of them to count that I have access to as a student. Hopefully I will have the same access wherever I go next.

I’ve never been a big library guy. I support libraries and think they have a tremendous amount of value in society, particularly for kids who don’t have money to toss around on books, but since I stopped being a book person for a while in my life (and have only come back in the last seven or so years) I haven’t really made good use of libraries until now. Obviously that has changed and I suspect that I will be spending more time in UC Santa Cruz’s library over the next few weeks (my last weeks, actually).

Needless to say, I love the library. A lot of the books I’m finding I need for my research project are ones I can’t get for a reasonable price–lots of academic books that run $50 to $100 easily. Many on science fiction and subjects related to the Other, (post)colonialism, imperialism, empire, etc.

With that in mind, I thought I’d ask all of you what kind of experiences you have had with your local library? I know that not all libraries can be as well-funded as a university one, but still, they are great places to find books and information. So tell me about a recent library experience you had, or, if you don’t go, say why you’ve never been.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy.

4 thoughts on “The Universe, the Library, and Everything

  1. You’re a jerk.

    And my local library is retarded, as I frequently rant at you about.

    My uni library was fairly useless, too, it was kinda small and it smelled bad. The only library I’ve never wanted to spend time in. Made me sad.

    My REALLY local library probably has about 500 books in it, which is just pathetic. They built an entire building for it, and just wasted it. Ugh.

    And you need to use the library more for fiction since you’re broke.

  2. I’m over the moon about my public library. They’ve got a pretty extensive collection spread over about a dozen branches. The only downside to the system is that it takes them forever and a day to get books through processing. I’m lucky if I’m able to get my hands on a new release four months after it drops. It’s usually closer to six. They also don’t catalogue paperback copies, so it can be tough to find stuff that wasn’t originally published in hardcover.

    My university library is wonderful. They subscribe to scads of databases, just like yours, so I’ve got easy access to more scholarly articles than I could shake a stick at. And if I can’t get my hands on a particular article through either the databases or the print archives, they’re happy to put me in touch with another school that may be able to provide me with a photocopy. The stacks are also pretty extensive, and contain a nice mix of older material and recent scholarship. (And by “older material,” I mean older material. I was pretty amazed to see books from the 1800’s just sitting on the shelf, waiting for students to borrow them). They’re also willing to request any books they don’t have on hand through interlibrary loans

  3. Ellira: Aww man, I should have taken you to UCSC’s library! It’s okay, though. UF will have an enormous library I’m sure :). There are something like 56,000 students there…

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