Contact me at because I'm always up for a natter about anything. Well, mostly.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Depths of the Library

Level 3B. It sounds like somewhere Buffy would go to vanquish some mutant creatures but, no, 3B is a level of one of the libraries at the University of Sheffield. For two years I've avoided going down there, despite knowing that's where all the obscure books that may have relevance to my thesis live. These are the books that are so old they're falling apart, that seem to have rested unopened for fifty years, that have taken over the basement of the library and made it into some sort of book breeding ground. In fairness, it sounds like it should be my idea of heaven - but it wasn't.

I reluctantly took my book list down with me. There were four books to start with, all with the dreaded preface '3B'. First off, I only went down to level four after I stepped in the lift. I think that was my subconscious telling me I really didn't want to go any further but if I start listening to my subconscious I'll never do anything. So I pressed the button for the lift again and accidentally brought up the book lift instead. After ascertaining I couldn't fit in, I tried again. 

So down I go. While there had been one person on level four there was no one in sight on 3B. The lift seemed three quarters towards the top end of the building and I had to go around it either left or right to reach the books. And, yes, there were lots of books. Dozens of lengthy rows of shelves stretching across the building with barely enough room between for someone to shimmy through the gaps. I set off walking, trying to find the pattern of shelving. I doubled back on myself when I realised I was going in the wrong direction then walked into a wall when the shelves ran out without taking me to my destination. Then I found myself in a bit of a quandary. I had no idea where the shelves would start from next. 

I walked down (further away from the lift) and found myself in a slightly wider middle section, where encountering someone quietly reading scared the hell out of me. She shot me a dirty look and I escaped, not caring in what direction. Consequently, I was completely lost. I walked a while then veered left and hit the back wall. At least in that situation I managed to find the lower numbers where one of my books was housed. So I grabbed that and made a note using the wall that another one was best read in the library because it was so short (an overview of the periodical press in Victorian England if you were wondering). At some point, probably when I was replacing my nice Parker pen into my bag, it escaped from my clutches. So, yes, the library ate my pen amongst other things. 

I was close to giving up. It was gloomy down there, quiet and my propensity to panic was kicking in. But the library trip had been a pain in the neck already - I had to go home with some spoils. I wandered around a little more and stumbled across my section completely by accident. Grabbing three more books (and noticing an ancient edition of Edmund Yates's Black Sheep nestled next to the two volumes of his memoirs) I somehow found my way back to the lift, all the while muttering to myself to keep myself calm. 

The relief I felt when the sunlight of the main hall washed over me was unbelievable. My brain told me never to go down there again but, alas, the best books are all down there. Besides, I think that place deserves to be immortalised in a story. As does the girl who gave me a death glare. So I'll be going back down there for two types of research. 

But not any time soon. 

1 comment:

*From_Me* said...

I tried to post this on the bus and it never happened. I love your writing and I'm sorry you lost Penwrith, but at least you have Penchester.

I looked like a mad woman giggling at my phone on the bus.