My love affair with libraries started back in the third grade, at Legion Park Elementary School in Las Vegas, New Mexico. The school was brand new, the library wide and spacious and gleaming. One day after school, I found the rows of biographies, grabbed one (the life of Annie Oakley), sat down on the floor, and started reading. It wasn’t until the lights went out about four hours later that I realized I lost track of time and was locked in. (A janitor let me out.)
Much of my college days were spent in libraries, too, and it was heavenly because they were much larger than the libraries I explored as a child. As an art school student here in the early 1990s, I spent nearly as much time in libraries all over campus as I did the darkroom developing film and printing photos. I didn’t restrict myself to the Art Library, either. I was just as apt to head to the Chemistry Library or Suzzallo or Odegaard or some other unit library because they all offered the glorious chance to clear my head, start in on a few hours of homework—and then wander around and be dazzled by what they had in store.
I was always filled with wonder. All those books and other materials, there for anyone and everyone to delve into. Is there anything better than that? What moved me even more was that beyond the information and knowledge and learning available inside a UW library, they are places of reverence and beauty, no matter how much they change with the addition of technology.
I have to admit, it took me a while to embrace the technology. Part of what attracted me to libraries in the first place is that they were tactile. Holding a book, or examining the contents of sacred boxes in the Archives or seeing a series of photographs in person was magical. But I came to learn that technology did make many things easier and quicker to find, which meant I could get my hands on the stuff even sooner. And that wasn’t so bad.
I am amazed to see the stats, to hear that last year the UW Libraries were visited 6 million times in person. Or that another 9 million used the UW Libraries’ online resources. That definitely couldn’t have happened in the old days.