The Updated Nelson Memorial Library

By Lainey S. Cronk on December 18, 2007

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“Have you been in the library?” a fellow student asks me, near the end of the first week of spring quarter.

“No...” I say, my voice trailing into a question mark.
“They’ve already started making changes,” she says. “You should go see it.”

I’m perplexed. These “proposed developments” are supposed to be vague dreams that come into being “when we raise the money” or “when we finalize the plans” – which means “when your great-grandchildren are attending college.”

I’m also curious. I have long loved books and the worlds contained in them. My growing-up library was a bright place filled with wonder and delight. But here, at PUC, I quickly gave up the search for wonder and delight in our own library. The drab walls and stark lighting seemed to sap the life from the books. Last quarter, I noticed that the heavy earth-orange of the staircase walls had been covered with layers of white. I was grateful, but the change did relatively little for the overall mood of the place.

If the library were just a building full of books, then it would make sense to wait and, when we raise the necessary funds, build a completely new library. But apparently the school administration understands that our library is about so much more—it’s about students. Seeing the need for a more student-friendly library, they’ve decided that now is a good time for action.

So now I go to the library to see what they’ve done. And I am astounded. When President Osborn said “like Barnes and Noble,” I guess he really meant “like Barnes and Noble.” Moreover, somebody knew what “Barnes and Noble” really was, and here it is.

In the entryway, I walk past the place where the “No Food and Drink” sign, now deposed, used to reign. As I walk in to the library, the smell of fresh paint drifts languidly around corners. Behind the door to the Reading Room, a painter kneels on the floor doing touch-up with a brush. The new green in the entry is dark, but it is elegant and warm in its darkness, not old and disapproving. New couches and chairs bring class and comfort to the room. At the study tables, the simple addition of small lamps makes a noticeable difference.

Trying not to look too touristy as I amble through the library, I stop to look for the shelves of children’s books that another friend had mentioned. To my surprise, I find them and spend some blissful minutes recognizing familiar old titles.

I could stay in the library until midnight, since the hours have been extended, but I have other places I must be. I leave the library with a feeling of pleased wonder. “It’s really impressive that they’re actually doing this now,” I think, “and doing it so beautifully.” Besides, I have Frog and Toad Are Friends under my arm -- and that’s a beautiful thing in itself.