In the Stacks


I’ve discovered since I (re-)started school at Cal last month that its main library is amazing. I’ve had a couple topics to read about that are pretty arcane, and I’ve been pleased to discover that the library has the books I’ve been looking for and, to my surprise, they’re all available in the stacks. (The stacks themselves are another subject: since the last time I frequented the library, a gigantic underground annex was built, and that’s where all the books are now.)

I’m looking for material on reactions in Ireland to the American Civil War. One reason: About 150,000 Irish immigrants and Irish Americans served in the war. And for another: The Irish in America turn out to have been, in general, pretty unsympathetic to the idea of emancipation; in fact, “pretty unsympathetic” could be seen as a euphemism for “virulently racist.” Exhibit A for that might be the New York Draft Riots in 1863.

Anyway, I started looking for stuff on this subject, and to my surprise I found a book that deals explicitly with this topic: “Celts, Catholics and Copperheads,” a 1968 book (actually available online) by someone named Joseph M. Hernon, Jr. It’s a short book, perhaps a good fit a narrow topic. I checked with the UC-Berkeley library catalog, and sure enough, it was listed. Not only that, but it was on the shelf. I went and checked it out yesterday.

After I got home, I took a look at the loan slip just out of curiosity about how many hands this book has passed through. There are two slips in the book; the one pictured above is pasted over the original. The slips show the book came into the library in 1969 and was checked out four or five times in its first three years in the collection. Until yesterday, it had been checked out six times in the last 36 years, with gaps of three, two, ten, eleven, two and two years between borrowers. The last time it was checked out was six years ago. From the wear it has suffered, you would guess the book has had a more active life; maybe it spent some time in the home of a graduate student whose kids used it as a Frisbee.

I’m sure there are plenty of volumes in that big vault of books that have been borrowed even less frequently. It makes me wonder about the volume of library patronage on one hand and wonder at the commitment to keep all this stuff available. Maybe I’ll be able to dig up some library statistics; too big a project for this morning, though.

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2 Replies to “In the Stacks”

  1. I love that library. For my relatively brief stint there I found a larger portion of my on-campus time spent browsing the shelves. I think it would be an ideal place to be a graduate student. No lack of random knowledge to fill a dissertation with 😉

  2. This reminds me of playing “Librarian” when I was a kid. I found a date stamp in the house and put slips of paper books and stamped from the pad to the paper, the pad to the paper. At some point the library got a time-stamp machine that made a fantastic ker-KLUNK. But the stamp-STAMP was still a very satisfying endeavor. Kind of Zen, the rhythm of it: open book; stamp left, stamp right; close book; place on pile.

    Another favorite game was gas station, played with bikes and a garden hose – which we stole drinks from after filling ‘er up.

    Now kids read MySpace. And play Grand Theft Auto. Hmmm…

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