By Alisa Nosova, Marketing Assistant, McGill Library
When I was in high school I romanticized about what my life would look like in university. I pictured myself walking on campus with books in my hands. I imagined walking through stacks looking busy and inquisitive while searching for the next book to read or for things I would need for my research paper. Now, this imagery makes me giggle.
The twenty-first century university experience is very different. Every student has a laptop where they can take notes, store readings, write papers or reports. Technology has overtaken the usual stacks, however the sentiment of the poem above found in the McGill Daily dated February 5, 1940 is still true for a lot of students, or at least for me.
Soon after starting university, I began to notice a pattern throughout my courses, specifically around the material required to read. Professors either upload digitized readings or they simply send a link to an e-book for purchase. The traditional, physical idea of library stacks are not something that I actively use at this time. That isn’t to say that library stacks aren’t used by my peers. I’ve watched my roommate come back home with numerous books for her history research papers. For me, so far, stacks are a symbolic, important part of the Library experience in that they create an organized, calming, focused environment.
Over the past three years at McGill I’ve purchased twenty books in hopes of reading them when I had free time. I still can’t (or don’t try to) find the time to read even 10 pages a day of a book. Just like the sentiments expressed in the poem, as much as I would love to read for pleasure, I’ve got 100 pages of psychophysics to read… and then a 100 pages more on sociological theory of emotions.
Now that the finals season is here, I’m coming to realize that I haven’t read for pleasure this semester whatsoever, but I can confidently say that I’ve read at least a thousand pages worth of theory.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess. Looking at this poem again, I think the author does get one thing wrong. Even though theories and text might sometimes be boring and dry, they all have life embedded in them – whether it’s the life of a scholar or a field of study. We come to university to get a degree, get educated in the realm of studies that interest us. The material that comes with the courses uncovers the knowledge of past lives, concepts, and ideas. Through academic texts, we learn the ways that past generations have perceived the society around them. Reading course material is like time traveling, only very narrowly focused on the field that you’re studying. Funnily enough, there is life in the text, in the stacks, we just have to look at things in a different way.