Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Tallest Academic Library in the USA

I'm sitting in the W.E.B. DuBois Library here at U. Mass, Amherst, in what they claim is the tallest academic library in the country. (I suspect U.TX might argue with the claim, but that is another matter).

I have been told that when the architects of this fine library made their specifications, they failed to include the weight of books in their calculations. Librarians know what a serious error that is -- books demand more load bearing capacity than offices, than cars, than anything except microfiche (also in libraries, alas!). When the stacks were installed and loaded, the walls of the building began to bow. Windows and half-bricks from the facade were popped out as the walls deformed. There is a railing totally encircling the building, holding passers by away from the building by a good number of feet.

So, being at a poetry workshop, I was moved to write a poem, in tribute to the librarians here, who had to figure a way to accommodate the architects' mistake. They ended up using every 2 floors for books, and a floor for offices, all the way up. P.S., I have seen no falling windows or bricks.

and the bricks, like rain

The architects didn't include
in their calculations,
the awful weight, the walls bowed out
the accumulated tons
of dense-packed,
sturdily bound
.....popping out of the facade
containing the accreted mass
of scholarly written,
.....and the bricks, like rain
created by generations
of deeply-taught,
Minds.....Minds.....Minds intermittent hail
shaped by colleges
of highly educated,
.....tumbling to the ground


Marie S. Newman said...

Betsy: I enjoyed your poem very much, and your comment about librarians having to compensate for architects' mistakes really resonated with me. We recently finished a major renovation here at Pace, and had to do a whole lot of compensating for other peoples' mistakes. Thanks for sharing this with us.


Betsy McKenzie said...

Glad you liked it! I have a complaining librarian's back-door tour that I offer to every architect I can catch at my building. We were very lucky that most things were very well done, but there are a few OOPSIES that I wish I could do over!