College Libraries I Have Known and Loved (Plus Two I Didn’t)

central library

Jean and Alexander Heard Library.  Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.  I didn’t have a lot of luck with this library.  I was young.  I was scared.  I had no sense of direction at the time, so the tour I took as part of freshman orientation made absolutely no impact on me.  But none of that lead me to my defining moment with this library, the time I went to study for an economic test and found myself in a carrel located near a shelf holding general interest books.  I read a romance novel I found on the shelf.  I failed my test.


steely library

Steely Library.  Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY.  I did better with this library.  Not big enough to get lost in, and no romance novels that I ever found.  My relationship with Steely Library soured forever, though, the day I was searching the online catalog and another student selected the computer next to me, pulled up a chair, pulled out his cheeseburger, then pulled up on the screen in front of him.



Regenstein Library.  University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.  The Reg.  A truly serious library for truly serious students.  I spent most of my time in Special Collections with MS 116, a sixteenth-century martyrology on which I wrote my Master’s thesis.  Serious students in serious libraries take things, well, very seriously.  If you couldn’t find a reference volume you were looking for, it was quite likely that one of your classmates had hid it from you, either on another shelf or in one of the lockers available for use.  Of course, hiding reference books was highly verboten, but that didn’t stop people.  One of my friends lost her locker privileges after a surprise search revealed her misdeed.  I didn’t know she had it in her.



William Rainey Harper Memorial Library.  University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.  O, Library of Libraries.  I used Harper primarily for studying.  And for pretending I went to Hogwarts.  Magic.

The Statement Necklace

I read the reviews, and then I went ahead and read Wednesday Martin’s Primates of Park Avenue anyway.  I am one of those Real Housewives fans: I am endlessly fascinated by people who take themselves, and their luxuries, seriously.

Martin and the Upper East Side women upon whom she trains her “anthropological” lens are very serious about the “megastatus symbol, perhaps the ultimate one, for women,” the Hermes Birkin bag.


The Birkin features prominently in the book’s most entertaining–and ridiculous–anecdote, which finds Martin as the target of a well-heeled woman, carrying a Birkin or its ilk, who “charges” her on an Upper East Side sidewalk (80-81).  Martin observes the phenomenon–a woman with a more exclusive handbag charging a woman with a lesser handbag–again and again.  The bags, Martin writes, “were armor, weapons, flags, and more it seemed; everyone who charged someone seemed to have a fantastic bag, and to revel in brushing her opponent with it.  This was the coup de grace” (83).  Continue reading