Playing to Type

 It isn’t always easy to remember how old you are.  A few years ago, I was waxing eloquent on some topic before friends and acquaintances.  I mentioned, en passant, a reference to my high school years, “Now some thirty years ago” I intoned.  My ever mindful and brilliant spouse who is about as bad in math as I am quickly responded as if a contestant on Jeopardy!:  “That would forty, sweetheart.”  The attendant conversation followed something like this.

“What are you talking about!” I demanded.

“Your high school years.”

“Yes, I know, I’m talking about my high school years.  Remember, we hadn’t met then.”

“Yes, but they were forty years ago, not thirty.”

Suddenly, my eloquence faltered.  I babbled like an incoherent ward in an asylum.  The shock to my system was so complete, so final, I could not finish my sentence, much less my story.  Besides, I didn’t want to.  I probably misremembered it anyway.

I wish I could say that was the only time recently when the realization of my age made me look like a deer in headlights.  I go to a hair salon (barber shops exist now only as anachronisms) where a young thirtysomething cuts and styles my hair.  Two weeks ago she was cutting away, showering my hair with compliments while running her fingers through it.  It was so beautiful and lush and thick and vibrant, she marveled.  I was feeling pretty good, I must admit, and was to the point of reminding her that I am a happily married man.  But I didn’t want to interrupt her.  She was on a roll and, well, I am a Southern gentleman, after all.

“No, really, your hair is fabulous … for a man your age.”  I’m on eBay searching for a Flowbee!

By now, of course, you’re wondering what all this has to do with renovations, libraries and that typewriter posing as a header to this post.  Hold on, I’m nearly there.

Dacus employs about 50-75 student workers every year.  A couple of them work in the dean’s office doing various assignments, one of which has to do with forms that invariably have to be filled out on a typewriter.  By now you’ve guessed it.  None of our students know how to work one and at least two-thirds have never even seen one.  It is perhaps one of the hardest tasks they learn while working for us.  Of course, our typewriters look slightly newer than the one at the top of this post, but they may all as well look like that one.  Our students stare at them like Neanderthals discovering fire.  Come to think of it, they stare at them the same way they look when coming into our building, before the renovations began that is.  Most of them find the “technology” quaint. Some even like the “retro” feel of them.  Most would pat us on the head if we’d let them, but they manage to learn to use them, albeit in starts and stops.

And this brings me, finally, to libraries and renovations.  Today, our renovators cut up our circulation desk into four parts and carried it away. Bear in mind our circulation desk is 44 years old, more years old than I am from my high school years. No going back now.  So, it was with some fear and trepidation that we watched its dissection, some of us restraining ourselves from cheering, others perhaps trying not to cry.  Our reference desk, too, is gone.  Both are being replaced by an all-purpose commons that will serve all functions.  Neither this nor much else we have planned in this new space resonates with the libraries those of us over 40 know.  Our new space will look very different, very open, very airy.  We’re not sure how it will work, and we’re pretty sure it will not work without some tweaking.  While the concept is not new, it’s an innovative approach, and one not without risks.

But I like the idea of it, and its so not-your-run-of-the-mill library-look.  My hope is that our students entering the new space this fall will no longer look at it the way they do our typewriters. 

Not bad, really, when you think of it … especially for a man my age.

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