Thursday, December 13, 2007
I went to the Reg today to get fun books, including one book called Libraries of photos by Candida Hofer with a funny introductory essay by Umberto Eco. I guess it's only funny if you're into that kind of thing, but I am.
The pictures are beautiful, and make me almost want to do research just so I can go spend more time in Harper or the oft-neglected Eckhart math library. Many of these libraries are in Europe and look like cathedrals.
I missed libraries very much while I was in Egypt, as there was simply no good place to study. Coffee shops are ridiculously loud with hovering waiters, public places are way too public, and my flat was generally cold and quiet. I did sneak my way into the AUC Special Collections library, housed in an old colonial mansion. I had to fake an AUC student number, but no one checked up on me. It is a lovely and silent old building (reading room pictured), with a few quiet students and a lovely green yard out back. I only went there once (the fact that I wasn't authorized to be there was a bit of a deterrent) but it was a great place to catch my breath after the exhaustion of downtown. I liked the AUC courtyard and bookstore a lot, and had no trouble getting in there, but while it was a nice place to sit or to meet friends, it was no library. One day I went to the public library deep in Zamalek. It is in a huge 4 story mansion, backing up to the Nile on the east side of the island, almost to the north tip of the island. I only found it because it was listed on my AUC map book as "Great Cairo Library." By the time I got there it was almost closed, but I told the guy at the desk that I just wanted to look around. It didn't seem to have a lot of books, but it had a labyrinth of tiny study rooms, towers, and back staircases. It was exactly what I was looking for, but it closed at 4. How ridiculous. Another day, I convinced Monty, the Australian who was always in the ILI computer lab with me after class, to come with me to the British Consulate library. It is a smooth and modern facility, with glorious English-language books and magazines, and even free computer access. But again you need membership, which costs a lot. We talked our way in for the first time, and spent a lovely hour or so on a rainy afternoon luxuriating in its warm, literary familiarity.
at 2:44 PM