Libraries and carrels

carrel in sterling with an open book on the deskThe setting that comes to mind is one I haven’t thought about in ages: the libraries, specifically, the carrels tucked away in the hidden corners of the stacks in Sterling. This surprises me. After fizzling in physics and running aground on the rock (calculus) freshman year, I was a pretty indifferent student. I didn’t have a particular academic interest, and wound up majoring in history as kind of a default setting. I found it hard to study in my room; too many distractions, even when I had a single. But in the dark and quiet of the Sterling stacks I found enough focus to get through papers and readings well enough to manage an average mix of Passes and High Passes. And there was something mystical about taking a break and pulling random volumes off random shelves. I found books that had been in the collection a hundred years or more and had never been checked out, probably hadn’t been opened since someone pasted in a still-virgin “Due Date” slip. The Pierson library, a brightly lit Georgian style room in the gold-capped tower over the archway, was an excellent spot for night-before cramming.

It’s funny those are the places I think of now, when I spent so much more time at the Daily News building and in the Pierson dining hall. I’ve often felt that I didn’t take full advantage of the education Yale offered, but looking back, I can draw a line from those stacks to law school, where I excelled in book work, on to a career in which my greatest strength was research and writing, and into a retirement in which an easy chair and a Kindle play such major roles.

David Nix