Monday, December 19, 2005

The Library Life

One of the things I like about the Národní knihovna is that Monday-Friday it is open until 10:00 (I never stay that late) and Saturdays until 7:00. One orders stuff, and in a few hours it arrives (or doesn’t; if it doesn’t, the call slip returns with cryptic notations). In the meantime, one has the choice of running errands, roaming about the neighborhood observing the tourists, drinking vending-machine coffee in the anteroom, or, with laptop and wireless internet, contentedly working away in the reading room. And I must say, library life is certainly changing. Not only is it not torture to wait for books and periodicals, but it is quite pleasant. I plug in my laptop (well, admittedly this involves crawling around on the floor), open up my dissertation files (which are on the computer), perhaps start looking through a book that I have made into a PDF file so as not to have to carry it bodily to Prague, and maybe go onto the internet to see whether I would do better to seek some other book in physical form here, across the street at the Městská knihovna, or at the PNP. Since I have digitized a good many records and CDs, I can also bring forth my earphones and listen to those from the laptop (the ipod is back in Podoli plugged into the portable speakers). If I have a burning question for someone in the Czech Republic, I can send them an SMS—hoping that they will reply in kind and not return by voice call, as the protocol for receiving the latter requires dashing out of the reading room before the librarian can come over and give the dreaded lecture about turning off all cell phones.
So, it is a pleasant, peaceful sort of existence.
I do not, however, understand why the librarians periodically fling open the reading-room windows (which are extremely large) so that icy drafts will immediately blow upon the previously comfortable readers. If the librarians’ cave is so hot, they should plug in a small refrigerator for ice packs to apply to their fevered brows. Either that, or the heat should be kept lower and readers could work in their coats, although that would not be my preferred option.
The following photos are from the Library’s web site and are under their copyright.

The outside of the complex, from Marianské.

A sort of aerial view of the Service Hall where the card catalogs and photocopiers are stationed.

Another view of the Service Hall, more like what one actually sees when inside.

This picture of the main reading room must have been taken on a Sunday, when no one is there.

The elegant stove inside the main reading room (I have no idea whether it is actually used these days, but presumably it is not or I might have noticed heat radiating from it when I walk past it).

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Blogger Kristen said...

Oh the Czech library is light years ahead of the Russian State Library. Wireless?! HA!! They just opened an "Internet Room" this year. They like to brag that they've got 2 million entries in their electronic catalogue. The library has over 42 million items. You are lucky if the reading room administrator feels like giving you permission to use your laptop that day. (And yes, you need to get permission from each reading room you wish to enter.) Forget about plugging in--that costs money, you know. Oh, consider me absolutely GREEN with envy!

December 19, 2005 7:53 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

Well, I was pretty impressed myself. The wifi is new this year, but the electrical outlets were there in 2004...although there are certainly not enough of them; part of the ritual of entering the main reading room is to scan the rows of seats for outlets, as at most there seems to be one plug per set of seats and in many rows it has the light cord plugged into it.

I don't know how well catalogued it is, but my impression is that it's very well done. You can search for Czech articles by keyword, for instance. Well, not very old ones. But still.

December 19, 2005 10:22 PM  

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