Well, not really adventures. More like getting work done without any excitement or hooplah.
Today, after another inspiring brunch at the Kinsolving Dining Hall, my friend Matt (who is also in this History Seminar) and I made the long, hot trek to the Perry-Castañeda Library on the opposite end of campus. The PCL is the biggest library within the vast University of Texas library system. But unfortunately, it was built in 1972, so the building is kind of . . . ugly.
And that’s its good side.
Basically, it is six floors of concrete filled with mazes upon mazes of old books. And no matter where you go within it, there will always be someone around the corner to glare at you if you make a sound. Last year, I did everything I could to stay away from the PCL, going instead to the Life Sciences library within the tower because it’s gorgeous.
Woohoo fluorescent lights. Also, it didn’t help that my missions in the PCL last year as a freshman were all failures. This year, however, I’ve been spending much more time there, because I’m trying out this new system where instead of buying most of my textbooks, I can just check them out of the library. Smart, right? Especially for those philosophy assignments when you only end up reading less than half of the book anyway. This semester is my trial period, and so far it has gotten along famously.
Anyway. For the history seminar, we were tasked to go to a specific American History section on the fifth floor to find a book dealing with the late nineteenth – early twentieth century. Okay, cool. I had in mind a couple of recent books that were published in the early 2000’s that I was interested in. One talked about Quanah Parker, and the other was about New York City gangs in the 1860’s. But when Matt and I reached the section, I learned that this would not be the case.
“These books are really . . . old.”
Yes indeed. It was three aisles of books that looked to have been published in the late 19th, early 20th century. All of them had the woven cardboard binding with gold-or-black-embossed titles on their spines. I honestly hadn’t expected this. It makes sense, though, because most of them were either primary or secondary sources, i.e. most of them were collections of letters or memoirs. Going down the shelves, everything was arranged in chronological order. One of the first books I saw dealt with Lief Erickson of all things. Farther down were seven volumes over the life of Alexander Hamilton. Beyond that, most of the books were either about the American Civil War or the presidents. I scanned the shelves and tried to find something that interested me. “Hmm, presidents. Not quite what I was going for.” I had originally hoped to check something out about some obscure, intriguing event or societal issue from the late 19th century (like workplace reforms or something). However, I did manage to find a book that caught my eye: The Rough Riders by Theodore Roosevelt, a memoir over the portion of his life spent fighting in the Spanish-American War.
The copyright says 1899, but there’s no way this edition can be that old. I have no idea what edition the volume is, but it has a stamp that says it was bound in October 1946. And it comes in a box! It’s own little personal book box!
“This volume has been placed in a custom-made box because of its fragile condition.” Awesome.
Even though it wasn’t too eventful, I consider my trip to the PCL to be a success. Because reading Teddy Roosevelt’s personal account of his days with the Rough Riders? Awesome.
*Speaking of Teddy Roosevelt: Yes. I do realize that the photo of him riding a moose is photoshopped. And a large part of me is sad because it didn’t actually happen.