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dirtsider
02-09-2011, 01:15 AM
I've got a scene where one of my MC's is going through her university library looking for some largely ignored/unused books. It's been a long time since I was at college so I've largely forgotten what my college library looks like.

So I'm basically wondering if it's common to have a section that's generally viewed as restricted access but not actually restricted access? And for the restricted section, how does one get access to this section?

Unfortunately, the few public libraries are relatively new (rebuilt within the past 10-15 years) and are, thus, relatively modern in their building structure. (If anyone can point me in the direction of a library set up with pictures, that would be fantastic!!)

alleycat
02-09-2011, 01:22 AM
Just an idea . . .

Many universities have separate libraries for the various schools, in addition to a main library. You could have one that's in an old building (or an old mansion taken over by the university; which is not unusual). In the upper floor is a section of books that are rarely requested (maybe give it a nickname like "the tombs" is for newspaper archives). If you want to make it restricted, you could make it so a person is required to obtain a key to the section from the front desk (which is easily done). Something like that anyway.

Lil
02-09-2011, 01:25 AM
The easiest way for a book to be ignored or unused is for it to be mis-shelved. If it is a reasonably esoteric or unusual book, it may remain ignored for decades.

Or you might shelve a book that belongs in a specialized library in the undergraduate library. The catalog will say it is in one place, where no one can find it, and none of the undergraduates will be interested.

Medievalist
02-09-2011, 01:26 AM
Reference has non-circulating books, with no restrictions.

Special Collections requires an approved ID from the school, and often letters of support. You may not be allowed to have any writing instruments, and you may need to wear gloves.

You might look at Web sites for various schools, and go to the Library sections. Many have virtual tours.

For some libraries, like the British Library, you need to have a "Reader card," which requires credentials and letters of rec. The Huntington Library is another like that.

alleycat
02-09-2011, 01:32 AM
Also, universities are much more security conscience now. Unless someone takes steps to disable the security strip they can't just walk out with a book under their coat like they could many years ago.

Or at least that's the way it was the last time I was in a university library, which has been some time ago, come to think of it.

dirtsider
02-09-2011, 01:35 AM
Thanks. This is very helpful. My MC is a student at the university so she has ready access to its library at large. I do live near a university so I may head on up there one day to ask about procedures there. (I'm not a student, just a local.) If nothing else, I think I may walk around campus to get a feel for the place, the outside at least.

alleycat
02-09-2011, 01:41 AM
This is the website for Vanderbilt Library, where I live.

http://www.library.vanderbilt.edu/access/libraryhistory.shtml

It has a link to the Special Collections, with access policy.

dirtsider
02-09-2011, 01:55 AM
Cool! Thanks, Alleycat. I did a quick search of the local university library and I think I can get an access card for a fee. And I think I'll do a quick trip to a couple of other libraries I know are in older buildings to get the feel for them. if they have nooks and cranies, so much the better!

Kitti
02-09-2011, 01:57 AM
Unless someone takes steps to disable the security strip

Heh. Some of the books I've got checked out for my diss. haven't been looked at for so long that I had to bring them to the circulation desk to get ID strips and security strips installed - all they had was the old punch-card slots in the back. And some didn't even have that!

On that note: largely ignored and unused books are EVERYWHERE in a large University's library system. In my University, it's the 1st floor (you enter on the 4th) where the dissertations and theses are stored. No one ever goes down there, unless it's undergrads looking for some privacy to... you know. Some of the old published series (like the Victoria County Histories, or other series of books published over several years/decades by various small presses) don't get individually catalogued and are rarely referenced, much less checked out. It's easy to lose a book in the system that way.


So I'm basically wondering if it's common to have a section that's generally viewed as restricted access but not actually restricted access? And for the restricted section, how does one get access to this section?

There are three types of "restricted" access at my university. The first is special collections - the 1000-year-old book, the book autographed by Pres. Thomas Jefferson, etc. Those you have to have IDs, references, etc. and are insanely closely monitored when you access. Restrictions vary by library (PM me if you want details) but in general you will not be allowed to have anything with you but a laptop, paper and a pencil when you consult these documents.

The second is what I think you mean by restricted access - books that aren't on the circulating shelves because hardly anyone uses them. Library staff have to fetch these books, which may take hours or days depending whether they are on-site or not. But they can usually be checked out just fine.

The third is books that can't be checked out of the library - reference books, usually, but also books on reserve for a course. They're usually in their own sections of the library.

A good point to remember is that most universities have multiple libraries, some of which cater to undergrads and some of which cater to other groups within the university. My U's health-science library is a pain in the *** because it insists on treating all of its books like a special collection, even if they're books you can order on amazon for $10. My U's math library is interesting because it's very small, housed in the math department, and only open for 2 hours a day, a few days a week. Math faculty and grad students have a key to the library and can access it at any time (and run off with books without checking them out, but it's honor code). We actually used to take students down to the library to do make-up tests. It's pretty lonely/quiet down there.

Medievalist
02-09-2011, 02:09 AM
Cool! Thanks, Alleycat. I did a quick search of the local university library and I think I can get an access card for a fee. And I think I'll do a quick trip to a couple of other libraries I know are in older buildings to get the feel for them. if they have nooks and cranies, so much the better!

Ask the Reference librarian if you can buy him/her a cup of coffee and talk about libraries.

Explain that you're a writer.

One of my favorite college libraries (I grew up on a couple of campuses; I'm a faculty brat turned academic) as a kid had a basement used for storage--books that were rarely used, but were important in terms of the overall collection, books that they had multiple copies of and so saved shelf space by storing them elsewhere--and steam tunnels.

You could go from one building to another via steam tunnels, and not-generally known access routes.

Another library at a different campus had one of those pneumatic tube systems used to send messages.

alleycat
02-09-2011, 02:18 AM
Heh. Some of the books I've got checked out for my diss. haven't been looked at for so long that I had to bring them to the circulation desk to get ID strips and security strips installed - all they had was the old punch-card slots in the back. And some didn't even have that!

Yeah, each library seems to like doing things its own way.

Most university libraries seem to be secure, but I'm amazed at how lax my public library is (for anything other than their archive collections). It's mostly self checkout now, so if I wanted to steal a book all I'd have to do is not scan it when I go to checkout.

I'm glad they trust me; I'm just not sure they should trust everyone.

Does anyone want to see my ex-lib collection of first editions? (I'm just kidding!)

backslashbaby
02-09-2011, 03:20 AM
If it's nooks and crannies you're after, some of 'the stacks' can be very creepy and remote, yes :) I don't know the coding system enough to know what section would be very unused, but the WFU (NC) library, for instance, has floors of dark stacks that you just kind of creep quietly around in.

My undergrad campus was literally part of a historic site, so its buildings date back before the revolution. You could dream up nooks and crannies because the buildings could have been used for something much different earlier, but in reality that one was just so small that privacy was rare.

Medievalist
02-09-2011, 05:12 AM
I didn't know until I was fairly advanced in a Ph.D. program that I'm allergic to mold, mildew, and dust mites.

I found out when I checked out a stack of old journals from the 1800s.

Did you know it's possible to get hives inside your throat and on your scalp?

dirtsider
02-09-2011, 05:18 PM
Thanks. All of this is helping visualize my scene. I think a trip up to the University campus might be in order on Sunday, even if I don't make it to the library.

Shakesbear
02-09-2011, 05:41 PM
I used to work for the British Library. The building I worked in had a huge basement where rarely requested books were stored. The other stacks were in concrete rooms that had no windows and were gloomy and depressing - except for the books which had a unique smell. The books in the basement also had a unique smell - partly caused by the mice that nested in them. One of the senior librarians, who dealt mainly with incunabula, smoked a very smelly pipe and some of the books had picked up the aroma of his tobacco.

The resticted access books were stored in the basement in a locked room. The valuable ones were kept in a safe.

It was a completely wonderful, mad place to work. The public were not allowed in so the eccentrics had full reign to do what they wanted...

shaldna
02-09-2011, 07:07 PM
Queens have a massive library, divided into rough sections for each school.

In addition there is 'special collections' which is a sort of restricted section of stuff too valuable, old etc to be left in the main library.

There is also the archive, which is full of letters, books and random oddities that have generally been donated to the library.

From my experience, and according to my hubby who worked in the library at QUB, and in Public Libraries for years before that, librarians know exactly what they have, and they are careful with regards to cataloguing and preservation etc. The only place where stuff can sometimes get lost is in the archive, and usually before it get's catalogued. Sometimes he would have come across stuff that hadn't been catalogued properly, but that was the exception rather than the rule.

Most universties and schools have failry modern libraries, and computer systems allow a better record of stuff, but things can and do still slip in through the crack.

dirtsider
02-09-2011, 07:14 PM
From my experience, and according to my hubby who worked in the library at QUB, and in Public Libraries for years before that, librarians know exactly what they have, and they are careful with regards to cataloguing and preservation etc. The only place where stuff can sometimes get lost is in the archive, and usually before it get's catalogued. Sometimes he would have come across stuff that hadn't been catalogued properly, but that was the exception rather than the rule.

Most universties and schools have failry modern libraries, and computer systems allow a better record of stuff, but things can and do still slip in through the crack.

Thanks. Thing is, the books my MC is looking for have, most likely, been purposely hidden away by previous librarians due to the nature of the books. What better place to hide books than in a library? Especially if they're a bequest/donation from an eccentric donor. The librarians who 'hid' them were in the same 'brotherhood' as the donor and would've known what to look for and therefore, hide.

the bunny hugger
02-09-2011, 08:58 PM
Some unversity libraries have 'the stacks'. This is where the shelves are on rollers and you need a crank to open up the shelf you want. These will tend to be you less frequently used and/or older/obscure books.

Medievalist
02-09-2011, 09:24 PM
Thanks. Thing is, the books my MC is looking for have, most likely, been purposely hidden away by previous librarians due to the nature of the books. What better place to hide books than in a library? Especially if they're a bequest/donation from an eccentric donor. The librarians who 'hid' them were in the same 'brotherhood' as the donor and would've known what to look for and therefore, hide.

Actually, it would be more likely to be a faculty member.

Faculty members at most academic libraries have special privileges.

Like checking out a book for thirty years (really!).

Also: an easy way to hide (or lose) a book is to have it rebound with the wrong cataloging data on the spine.

dirtsider
02-09-2011, 10:09 PM
Librarian or faculty member would both fit the type of person 'hiding' the books. And yeah, having the wrong cataloging data would also work well.

Snowstorm
02-09-2011, 10:28 PM
The University of Wyoming has a rare books library (http://ahc.uwyo.edu/about/departments/toppan.htm) separate from the university's library. While it's open to the public, it's best to have an appointment. It's not a library that's ignored or unused, but it's not busy--but it is spectacular. Perhaps this might give you an idea for a facility and resources.

dirtsider
02-09-2011, 10:34 PM
The University of Wyoming has a rare books library (http://ahc.uwyo.edu/about/departments/toppan.htm) separate from the university's library. While it's open to the public, it's best to have an appointment. It's not a library that's ignored or unused, but it's not busy--but it is spectacular. Perhaps this might give you an idea for a facility and resources.

Huh. That might be useful at some point but not quite for the scene I'm currently working on. This is fairly early in my story where my MC is just getting her feet wet, so to speak. But your suggestion could prove useful later on - either as a place where my MC's need to go to get something, or as a clue to the antag's movements.

idempotent1729
02-09-2011, 11:08 PM
My university had an enormous main library with a strange and tortuous classification system, housed in a strange and tortuous old building like a giant castle/cathedral. I was always discovering new reading rooms that looked as though they belonged in the captain's quarters of an 18th century ship, or as though they had once been ballrooms and the chandelier got coated in a huge blob of plaster.

There were many floors and also half-floors between certain floors, and cage-like elevators that only went to specified areas, and tiny elevators only for books. The stacks were remote and creepy with inscrutable lighting arrangements and bizarre color-coded lines on the floor that were supposed to help you find your way (not). A friend worked there for around a year and still didn't get the hang of everything.

I remember big caged-in areas in the stacks for books that needed classification or special treatment (like rebinding or something), and stuff was just piled in there. It would be extremely easy to hide books if you had access. We had to show student ID to get into the stacks at all, and those caged areas were padlocked. In addition to the main library, there were numerous libraries for particular schools and departments, and a dedicated rare book library (extremely secure, to protect things like the Audubon prints and the Gutenberg bible in temperature-controlled units). On top of all this there was also an off-campus shelving facility that no one ever saw, where the librarians kept books they thought nobody much wanted (you could request them for delivery and pickup at one of the normal library locations).

Lots of students hide prime books by intentionally misshelving them. Then the library marks them as lost in the catalog, and voila! Only you can get hold of that book, but you don't have any fine on your library card as you would if you just didn't return it. But I think you are envisioning a much higher-level kind of hiding. Sounds intriguing!

Medievalist
02-10-2011, 12:21 AM
This is the list of UCLA Collections and Libraries (http://www.ucla.edu/library.html).

This page lists the actual libraries (http://www.library.ucla.edu/libraries/533.cfm).

Kitti
02-10-2011, 12:40 AM
Lots of students hide prime books by intentionally misshelving them.

Also by "shelving" them behind other books where you can't see them.

Our library also has "study carrels" with shelves and (lockable) drawers which can compound the missing book quandry. Students are supposed to "check out" books to the carrels, but don't always. And a book locked away in a drawer would be impossible to ever find so long as the people assigned the carrel were all part of the conspiracy.