Be more curious about the Main Library
February 15, 2019
Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps you’ve even been, but I’d wager many of you have never appreciated the entirety of the Main Library.
Enclosed by Armory, Sixth and Gregory, the Main Library is an icon on this campus. From the exterior alone, you pick up on the impressiveness of the building. It’s Gregorian architecture creates a historic and epic presence.
My intention isn’t to inform you of the existence of this building. If you’ve been, you probably climbed to the second floor, noticed some cool statues, a couple of big paintings and a big room with big windows with lots of tables to study at.
My intention? To tell you how incredible the Main Library is if you truly start to look around.
For the small price of hiking up one more flight of stairs to the third floor, you will find yourself surrounded by various rooms that only creates more questions than answers. One of these rooms, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, houses over half a million volumes of the world’s oldest secrets.
Upon entering, there is a display to the left, showing off books and journals from hundreds of years ago. Any text you want to analyze, you must request beforehand. When ready, you are taken to a room, allowed only a pen and paper (no backpack) where you will be placed alone with the item of choice, whether it be a clay tablet from 3000 B.C., Latin inscribed papyrus or even the accounts of the travels of Marco Polo written by the man himself! The library is even home to an original copy of the Gutenberg Bible from the 1400s — one of the first books to ever be mass-produced.
This room is one of the largest special collections in the United States, yet so little people are aware of it. You can be the next great archaeologist, world explorer or historian, all with a visit to a library near you!
Another hidden gem of the Main Library is the second floor gateway to a region of dimly lit, low- ceilinged corridors that contains approximately five million volumes. Locals call it the Main Stacks.
The Main Stacks is possibly the most magical place on campus. It’s essentially where all the books that aren’t out on the floor are stored. The entrance is guarded by librarians, friendly as always. With a book in mind, you ask these guardians where to find it. If the book is in the Main Stacks, they will ask you if they should retrieve it for you, or if you are brave enough to accept the adventure and traverse the stacks at your own risk to find your book.
When you enter, you immediately feel as if you are in a different world. It feels like the world’s largest, secret-bearing unfinished basement. Metal shelves as far as the eye can see and not a soul in sight. On the very ends, there are tiny locked rooms with just a single desk inside. If you go to the elevators, you will notice the buttons give you an option to visit half floors. I get too spooked to hit the 9 ½ button.
Perusing the shelves makes you feel at an incredible loss for never ever being able to know even a small percentage of the world’s knowledge. You’ll find some of the oldest, largest and oddest volumes just laying around, books that haven’t been checked out for a hundred years. And when you find the book you were looking for, you find your way out of the maze and celebrate that you lived to tell the tale.
The Main library has many more interesting rooms and sections strewn about it. The building begs for you to be curious.
Inscribed in stone on the front wall of the building, it says, “The Whole World. Here unlocks the experience of the past to the builders of the future.” You can spend four years at this university completely unaware of the knowledge that surround you. It will only add more age to the secrets revealed to someone more curious than you.
Samuel is a junior in Engineering.