viernes, 17 de septiembre de 2010

Odisea en la biblioteca

Estoy escribiendo para una publicación en Austin llamada UKeekly Austin. Es una revista diseñada para ciudades universitarias que cuenta con una hermana en Columbus, Ohio. Básicamente, me apunté a la jugada para hacer un poco de gonzo.
Para mi columna de opinión relaté la pérdida de tiempo que puede llegar a ser una visita a la biblioteca más grande de UT.

OPINION: An Odyssey in the Perry-Castaneda Library
UT Library Legendary for loss of tome and time

By Gabino Iglesias

You push your way through the heavy revolving doors and enter the huge lobby. The ridiculous amount of human traffic makes you wish there was a way to get in when it's closed to everyone else. Maybe you should try showing up at 1:30 a.m. You walk up to a computer, type in the titles you're looking for, make a laundry list of numbers and letters, and set out to find your volumes. Everything seems to be on different floors. The loud rumbling of not-quite-hushed voices and fingers tap-tap-tapping over greasy keyboards invades your head as you wait for the elevator. The booming voices cause a brief hallucination: you think you're in a downtown bar.

When you reach your floor (probably the first of at least three) you struggle to find the stack with the numbers and letters you're looking for. Once that daunting task has been achieved, you proceed to search for a larger combination of letters and numbers. From where you're standing, what surrounds you looks like an endless, dangerous, and abandoned maze of books, surrounded by inane chitchat. Finally, you walk into a silent, eerie pathway between two long, towering bookshelves and begin scrutinizing numbers. You bend, twist and kneel in search of your precious tome.
All your efforts are utterly ineffective: the book is not there. How can that be? The computer said it was available! You check again...and then again.

You walk over to another bookshelf and repeat the process. Again, you come up empty-handed. You're beginning to feel a tad frustrated. After checking the computer again, you decide to repeat the whole process. How can you be so dumb? The books have to be here - the computer said so! Twice! Empty spaces reside where your tomes should be. Numbers jump between one book you don't need and another you're not looking for.
You have a call number on your list that's different from the rest. You ask around and learn that it's part of the archaic Dewey Decimal system. Hope pops up like a colorful flower in the endless desert of your frustration. Maybe the path less traveled will lead to success. Ten minutes later, you're heartbroken and feeling like you need a shower. An unpleasant itch starts to tickle your nostrils, making you think of all the bacteria, dust and mold that you have probably swallowed in the preceding hour.

Then: Eureka! Maybe the treasures for which you hunt are on those shelves behind the wall opposite the elevator. You make your way over to them, passing a few skeletons and weird, hooded individuals that seem to be hiding in small cubicles along the way. Guess what? Your books are not there, either.

With tired feet, depression creeping up on you like a hoodlum overflowing with bad intentions, and a sense of having been defeated at the hands of an invisible foe, you make it down to the lobby again. If I'm lucky, you think, I can probably get some of them from the reserve.

After waiting in line for a while, you get to talk to someone who seems eager to help. You explain your conundrum amidst a thousand voices. Five minutes later, he or she comes back to you with a small percentage of what you thought you could find. Alas, you can only take these books out for a day. You look at your watch. There is no way you'll be able to read that stack of books and then what you have to read for your morning class and return them all on time. Maybe next time you shouldn't leave things for the night before. Maybe the computer shouldn't lie about the availability of books. Maybe everything should be available online.

You return home, defeated by the system. No one told you of these hidden hardships of college life. Maybe you'll never have to go through this again. Maybe next time will be a lot easier.

Sounds familiar? It does to Isabella Ferraro, a Broadcast and RTF major.
"I steer clear of the PCL. Why? All previous experiences proved themselves counterproductive," she said. "Everyone's there, so it's a lot of socializing, stop-and-chats and 'Hey, can I come study at your table?' I prefer quiet."

Quiet: a fading treasure. Books: a hidden treasure - at least at the Perry-Castañeda Library.

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