Thursday, August 10, 2006

Back at the Library, Now and Then

While it hasn't felt like I am getting anything done on the dissertation this summer, it turns out that that's not actually true. The other day I printed out a chapter to look over and made the horrible discovery that two of my sources had vanished (being replaced by notations like "REUSE" and "Prague: Torst," which told me that in my drive-swapping I had apparently not copied some database files and was seeing old duplicate entries that, somewhere, I had rewritten with new sources).
While this was an appalling discovery--I knew which sources they were supposed to be, but how many others might I have messed up?--it forced me to print out the whole thing so that I could have a stable reference before I messed up anything further.
I had two reactions as I flipped through the pages. The first was to feel depressed that I had written all this stuff and it was not in better order. The second was to realize that, actually, I had changed and added a lot of stuff over the past few weeks.
It was nice to be reminded that my several days of going to the library and finding 1) stuff on and by the early French surrealists; 2) the Standard Edition of Freud; 3) books on early 20th-century sex and gender HAD ACTUALLY BEEN PRODUCTIVE. I could see a lot of footnotes that no longer said "quoted in so-and-so," and a lot of places where I had incorporated useful new data.
The main difficulty for me in working at the UC Berkeley library is that I don't have a carrel for book storage. Either I have to finish using what I find while I'm at the library, or I have to bring it home, where it is likely to sit around while I pet Ms. Spots or show my father how to do something on his computer (especially now that I've changed his email program). I guess I could try to hide a stack of books on one of those rolling shelves, but this does not seem wise. And usually if I find one book I want on the shelf, I discover ten others in close proximity that I would never have known to look for. (This is why I oppose closed stacks and putting books in storage.)
Speaking of storage, I also have easy access to the NRLF (Northern Regional Library Facility), which is perhaps two miles from the house. This is where all the storage books from the UC system's northern campuses go. And, in fact, it's a very pleasant place to work, especially after the recent remodel job. You drop by, hand the receptionist a list of the storage IDs you want (not even the titles), and shortly someone brings everything to you. The reading room is spacious and has lots of electrical outlets, and you can either leave the books there or check them out.
I spent a couple of hours at the NRLF yesterday, which proved to be exactly the right amount of time for the four items requested. I am sure, however, that the page wondered how Soupault's Ecrits sur la peinture and Aragon's Une Vague de rĂªves related to Wiener's Deutsche Dichter aus Prag and Van de Velde's Sex Hostility in Marriage!

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