Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A visit to the Library

Hello. My name is Kostas Economides and I am a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the South of England (USE for short). Well, actually that is not true really as the names of individuals and institutions in this blog have been changed to protect the innocent - and the guilty!

I didn't go to the cafeteria yesterday lunchtime. Instead I went to the Library for a browse and then a snack in the Library coffee bar. I don't go to the Library much these days. With all our journals available online in electronic form, and with any data that I might need accessible via the network, there is no real need. It is a shame really as one of the real pleasures that I had as a Masters student was working in the university library. Search tools are a very efficient way of tracking down relevant papers, and with automated contents alerts for journals too you should be able to get hold of anything you require from your desk, or even on the move via your laptop. But you do miss out on the times when you just stumbled serendipitously on something that you weren't really looking for but turned out to be of great interest.

I also used to like browsing through the more popular periodicals like the New Statesman and New Scientist. I do get tweets these days from people who point me in the direction of interesting articles in these magazines but I miss out on the letters page and other smaller items.

Wandering around the Library for the first time in a while I noticed that things have been configured rather differently from how they used to be. There are still shelves of books, but not so much space is devoted to journals. I guess we only subscribe to electronic versions of most of them now.

As well as the desks and benches where students were sitting working, usually with their laptop or iPad out rather than a notepad, there were also a number of round communal tables for students to work together in groups. It wasn't noisy, but there were conversations going on as presentations or project work was being planned or put together. In the old days you would soon have been hushed if you spoke in anything louder than a whisper.

After perusing the racks where the newly acquired books were on display I left the Library itself and went through to the Library coffee bar. It doesn't have the full range of food and drink that you can get in the cafeteria but I was able to get a coffee and a nice sandwich for my lunch.

I looked around hoping to see Jenny Jones, or some other friendly face but, apart from a few economics students who I recognised, there was nobody there that I knew.

I found a seat in the corner at a table where someone had left a copy of the university newspaper. The main story was all about a scam that was being attempted on students in rented accommodation. Men would turn up at the house saying that the landlord had sent them to undertake repairs to the shower. Once inside they would steal any easy to grab items - money, mobile phones, even laptops. The police were warning students not to admit anyone who didn't have proper looking identification. If you were not sure about someone there was a number to ring. The police had held a meeting with some of the main landlords and had asked them to inform their tenants in writing ahead of any work that needed to be done, and to arrange specific times for the work to be carried out, preferably when either the landlord or a student could be present.

As I was reading the story I suddenly became aware of someone at my shoulder. Turning round I saw that it was Jenny. "Can I join you?" she said. "Oh, please do" I replied and she sat down next to me with her cup of tea and tuna baguette.

I tentatively entered into conversation with her, remarking that she had done awfully well on the film questions in last week's pub quiz. She said that she really loved the movies. In fact, apart from travelling, watching movies was probably her biggest hobby. Remembering Jack Cork's suggestion that I should ask Jenny to go with me to the film club and that there was a Woody Allen movie showing this week I took the plunge and asked Jenny if she wanted to go with me. She said that she had been planning to go herself but that it would be great if we went together. I said that would be excellent and perhaps we might meet for a drink beforehand. "Why not?" she said. "We need to be at the film club by about 7.15 in time for the 7.30 start. Maybe we can meet at The Ship at around 6.15. She said that we ought to book tickets in advance as you can't always get in if you just turn up without a ticket. She said I could leave that to her - she would do it online when she got back to her desk in the Library.

We chatted a bit more. I showed her the story about the workmen scam in the paper. After a while she said that she had to be getting back, and off she went. I noticed then that I hadn't drunk any of my coffee which was now cold. Never mind I thought - I may have a cold coffee but I have got a hot date!

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