Letter: Library concerns off the mark

By Letter to the Editor

Claire McNear’s worries about the new library (“Sticking It to the Man,” 5/12/08) are sort of humorous, but it also sounds like she genuinely has something against the construction of the new library. I seriously doubt that “the newest campus library will be like no library before it.” It will probably be much like the other U of C libraries—for some it will feature as the center of campus life; for many, it will be a place to get research and other schoolwork done; for others, it will be a place to take naps, download music or shop online; and probably at least a determined few will never set foot in it.

The phrases “millions of books stored in dank claustrophobia” and the “pit of despair” actually sound a lot like the atmosphere of the current Regenstein B-level to me, and I’d be more than willing to let an automated machine retrieval system replace the experience of standing around in the dimly-lit stacks, waiting for that nth-year grad student two rows over to quit taking his time browsing so that the compact shelves will slide over and I can get the book I need. With some luck the “massive glass atrium” Grand Reading Room will be something like the lobby of the new GSB—a sunny, well lit, and pleasant place to study (although I admit that may have more to do with the attitudes of happy GSB-ers than with the actual architecture of the building), rather than a “hellish ice cavern.”

As for the University’s goal to turn the block into a “terrifying postmodern playpen,” I will admit that I’ve read the University’s Master Plan for construction a few times in the past few years, but I must have missed that section. I don’t think Max P is a particularly beautiful building, but then, neo-Gothic architecture also has this weird way of evoking images of hundreds of years of oppression in my mind. In fact, the practice of trying to make buildings look far older than they are by transplanting ivy vines and sprinkling around a few capped spires is simply disingenuous.

I’m sorry if McNear will have nightmares about an amorphous blob inhaling Kim Goff-Crews, but personally I’m just sad I won’t be here to experience the new library once it’s built.

Liz Selbst

Class of 2008