My day at Robarts: a report.

10.30. Arrive at foyer of Mills library in a fluster. A. is already waiting, looking more composed than I, with my stack of reference letters, transcripts, and writing samples. I put in my request to delay our library adventure long enough to mail out Ph.D. applications. Mailing proves impossible when we discover McMaster’s post office is out of pre-paid envelopes. How are they ever going to make it through the week?

10.38[ish]. Deciding to mail applications from Toronto, we leave the book store post office and set out for the parking lot. It’s rainy.

11.30[ish]. In Toronto. We park along the side of the road, and wend our way on foot to the main entrance (we think) to the library. A. and I discuss the building’s famous [?] peacock-formation. Deciding “peacock” doesn’t quite do the building justice, we discuss possible alternative descriptors. Decide upon “sphinx-like lego peacock from the future.” Muse further on why the books are housed in the peacock’s rear. Further musings on worse possibilities for animal muses in architecture: the turkey; what would be stored in the wattle of that building?

Nigh noonish. Confusion over where to obtain borrower status. Having visited three librarians already, and obtained temporary day pass, we finally locate the much-sought Librarian Who Can Bestow Permanent Borrower Status. We give the secret pass codes (mostly our names and student cards), confront the one-eyed stealer of faces (the camera), sign a blood pact, and, after five minutes’ nervous waiting, obtain the Key to the Book Vault (as well as temporary catalogue access).

Post noonish. We set out on our quest for a computer terminal marked “LIRA”. Realise we set about the task rashly, and have failed to obtain the knowledge of where to begin searching. In desperation, we search the fifth floor, but the local inhabitants can give us no further information. Dismayed, we abandon our quest for the simpler task of finding the books of “PR.” The thirteenth floor proves lucky, as we locate both the books and LIRA. Our good cheer returns.

Somewhat later. We begin our separate searches: A. to microfilm, S. to the stacks, while I remain with LIRA and search for the locations of the exciting and important accounts of the Stationers Company Registers. Our searches are fruitful, and S. and I reconvene to prepare for our search for the books of “Z”.

12.30[possibly]. On the lift. We select the thirteenth floor. The lift stalls. At this point, we realise we are, indeed, already on the thirteenth floor (see above).

By 1.00. We have located all of the books we are likely to find. Some are misshelved. Some missing entirely, and replaced, curiously, by wooden slabs that only look like the books we want (title and all!). Closer inspection reveals wooden slabs do not have pages. Or real covers. In fact, do not open at all and are, for the most part, entirely unhelpful for the purposes of Serious Research. Tired from carrying books, we return to the first floor.

Time indeterminate. On the first floor, we inquire about the location of the item mysteriously marked “pamph. econ. R.” Distracted & Not-At-All-Nice Librarian tells us the item is in storage. I put on my decidedly unheroic “I didn’t want that book anyways” tone, and we decide to find A. on the third floor (still in microfilm). D&NAANL asks us for our Keys to the Book Vault even though we clearly have books in our hands that we could only have gotten from the stacks, from which we minutes ago exited, and have not left her sight the entire time since then. We fumble for our ID cards, and regain approval and entry.

Still indeterminate. Enter lift. Select “3”. Lift ignores our selection. Up to 15. Determinedly select “3” again. Lift goes to “1.” Now note label that lift does not, in fact, stop on third floor. Wonder why this note is posted on the inside of the lift. Wearily give up on wonderings and exit lift. Enter lift that arrives only at floors one through five. Select “3.” Lift stops at third floor. Relieved, we exit and find A.

1.30. Waiting. Checking out. Attempted photocopying. Wrong book. Re-searching. Successful photocopying.

By 2.00. Faint from our errant librarying, we exit in search of late luncheon. First we locate the post office, where I finally succeed in sending out the mail from this morning. After a two-hour lunch (which includes drinks in the excuse of Robbie Burns day), we exit.

4.00[or so]. Despite S’s departure, A and I walk back to the car feeling cheerful and festive, a feeling heightened by the piper outside who, in the cold and rain, plays for Robbie. A and I aren’t much fussed with Robbie, but appreciate that he provides the excuse for the luncheon drinks (above). We thus muse good-naturedly on how the selection process might go for determining who gets to stand in the rain and play for Robbie (we suppose it’s whomever has bagpipes available). We collectively scramble for change for our parking. Having inserted 12.40, we realise we are .10 short. Crisis averted by A’s discovery of a ten-cent piece. We decide we aren’t quite ready to leave Toronto yet, and so, pretending to search for our car, we stop for a last coffee.

4.30. Find car. Leave Toronto. We will “leave Toronto” for the next 1.5 hours.

After 6.00. Returning home, we quietly slip back into the regular work habits of productive grad students. Our borrowed books and library cards, however, remain constant memories of the day’s remarkable adventures.

25 January 2010 ~ Hamilton

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