I use the library an awful lot, mostly as a route to borrow resources from other libraries (often on medical themes but just as often on Jewish topics, which probably confuses somebody). Usually, the library brings books directly to my office, which for me is the equivalent of lying on a couch in my toga being fed peeled grapes. The delivery guy is as reliable as the mythical appointed couriers of the Post Office, making it to my office with snow-covered boots and a plastic bag full of library holdings.
Last week, I got an email that a book I had requested was already available, so I would not get it delivered. "See Notes," said the email, and then, on the line below: "See stacks."
Stacks! I had never ventured into the Welch Library stacks. In previous stages of my career and years of school, I had always spent time among the books when I least needed to. I found it a refuge. When everything is supposedly available at your fingertips, sometimes you need to be lured into a space where you find by serendipity, not by search. But here, I have not made the time, or, more likely, not allowed myself the luxury of wasted time.
A friendly staff person showed me the way: "Go down that hallway. Take the elevator." Then she flitted away as if she had divulged a secret to me and was worried she might be found out. The elevator was a rickety thing, a banged-up box set on a shaft: "Be kind to the next user and close the gate AND the door!" The inspection certificate, defying my expectations, was up to date.
I found the book I wanted, but the quiet was an added gift: a surround sound version of that stillness found in a conservatory, a botanic garden, a chapel. I browsed a set of an Italian biology journal: glossy pages, full-color illustrations, the work of generations of scientists I would never know and never read.
The variety was luxuriant, rich, and ignored, a buried garden inside the very walls of biomedicine's fortress. When would the voice of the granting authority find me and cast me out? Where was the flaming sword to guard against intruders?
The security guard smiled on my way out. "Did you find what you needed?"
I nodded, showing her what I could from my brief voyage: a bound book.