The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1926
Some Suggestions for Improving the Library
Some Suggestions for Improving the Library
Sir Anthony Absolute: Madam, a circulating library in a town is an evergreen tree of diabolical knowledge! It blossoms through the year! And depend on it, Mrs. Malaprop, that they who are so fond of handling the leaves will long for the fruit at last.
Mrs Malaprop: Fy, fy. Sir Anthony, you surely speak laconically.
—Sheridan: "The Rivals."
A few evenings ago I was in conversation with a fellow-student as to whether or not the Chinese once wore kilts, but, interesting as the discussion was, I was at last forced to inform him that the time for my appearance in the Library had passed, and in consequence thereof my studies would suffer.
This statement caused my friend to embark upon a long and violent tirade concerning this admirable institution, and the strength of his remarks held me so rapt that I temporarily forgot my intention of entering that abode of eternal silence. In passing, he mentioned that it was at least a year since the swing doors had closed upon his entrance, and I, with some diffidence, ventured to suggest that as it was so long since he had paid the library and its keeper a visit, it was possible that things were not now as they were then.
My friend smiled sadly and said, "Ah, when you have spent as many years within these walls as I, you will know that, like Time, these things change not. The whole trouble with the place is that the atmosphere is not congenial to study; there is an electrical feeling in the air which should not be present. I am convinced that this is produced by fear, the fear that some of the rules, both written and unwritten, may at any moment be transgressed.
"Let us take a few examples, to illustrate my meaning a little more clearly:
"One may not even whisper to one's neighbour, and this rule has been gradually extended, until one cannot look up and smile without fear of being accused of creating a disturbance.
"One must use great care in handling the card index, and rightly so, but one dare not stand in front of it for many minutes without being reminded that others may wish to use it, although those others may not appear until the next evening, there being no sign of them at the time.
"Then, there is that beautiful piece of furniture on which various periodicals repose; it is a heinous crime to enter the library with a book and tip-toe across the floor, place the book on the desk, and proceed to devour the contents of one of the periodicals, for some devotee of learning may arrive, and, picking up your book, waste half an hour eagerly scanning its pages before discovering his mistake. No, the book must be held firmly in the hand, or else be deposited on one of the regular reading tables.page 43
"Further, Stephen Leacock says in one of his books that he canuot understand why people insist on having fresh air for if a quantity of fresh air is taken and shut in a room it will keep indefinitely. There can be no doubt that he is correct, provided the air remains uncontaminated. The powers evidently consider that Stephen was absolutely correct, or else that we students are hothouse plants, for the air in the library is rarely, if ever, changed, and with the heaters going full blast the place is stifling. 'Tis no wonder that we catch colds, much to the annoyance of a certain Prof., to whose ear a cough is no music."
On my enquiring as to whether he had any suggestions to offer for remedying the defects in the present state of affairs, my friend offered, among others, the following, and they are here published for what they are worth. I wish it to be clearly understood, however, that I do not necessarily associate myself with what is expressed, for it is only my sense of duty which compels me to set down what another is too modest to write. The following are some of the remedies mentioned:—
|(1.)||There should be a complete segregation of the sexes. A male student cannot be expected to keep his mind on his work and at the same time study the good looks of the woman student sitting opposite. A high partition should be erected. The two portions should have separate entrances, one door being marked, "Women not admitted," and the other, "Men! Keep Out! This Means You."|
|(2.)||Mrs. Brook should remove with her staff to the women's portion, and there continue to dispense Sea. A great saving of time is thus effected. She should also keep in stock some good standard cough remedy to combat the hothouse effects, a free dose being administered to each student on departure.|
|(3.)||Mr. Brook should open in the men's department a wine and spirit business for the refreshment of the males. The cough remedy will not be necessary in this case, a drop of good "Scotch" being supplied instead.|
|(4.)||Cushioned seats and pillows should be supplied for the use of those who feel constrained to take a nap. The rule as to silence will continue to be strictly enforced, so that these shall not be disturbed.|
|(5.)||The space necessary for the alterations is to be obtained by removing as many books as necessary to the room vacated by Mrs. Brook. Any of these books shall be obtainable by requesting the librarian to fetch it, and he shall return it when it is finished with.|
|(6.)||The heaters should be fitted with a cold water tap, in order that any student feeling a little too warm may cool the atmosphere at will.|
|(7.)||A small amount of popular fiction should be provided, in order that students may read and get a first-hand knowledge of the class of literature read by the masses, thus widening their vision, and at the same time getting some idea of the class of book they should not read.|
The above are only a few of the suggestions and reforms mentioned to me, but if even these were carried out they would go a page 44 long way to foster that College spirit which is so noticeable by its absence.
—H.S.F.[Our own personal observation has led to the view that all spirit, whether College spirit or of any other kind, is invariably most noticeable when it has disappeared. For this reason we doubt whether the advent of Mr. Brook into the soft goods business, as suggested above, with its accompanying display of wares, would effect much improvement, though doubtless the Professorial Board would, with one possible dissentient, heartily endorse the scheme. —Editor.]