The McDonald’s ball pit of my childhood was the Kailua Public Library. This was the place where I transitioned from being read to by my mother to selecting what I would read to myself. Wednesdays at Aikahi Elementary School ended early, and so my babysitter Ms. Jolene and I would hop into her yellow jeep, drive those five or so minutes that I knew so well and hit the shelves.
It was here that I met my first librarian, an immense resource on library protocol and regulation. I was full of questions about where I could take my borrowed books (e.g. the beach, playground, family functions) and who I could lend them to. After I checked out a book, could I then check it out to my best friend? What happened if I was eating gyoza with soy sauce and spilled some on the corner of a page? This particular library had a robust collection of Sailor Moon VHS tapes and a children’s book section filled with giant paper trees.
Libraries offer a wealth of information to all those lucky enough to make their way into them. Over my years as a library patron, volunteer and just general groupie, I have seen the ways libraries function as makeshift community centers for the marginalized. Computers with Internet become tools for researching the citizenship process, staying up to date on current events and, most commonly, participating in popular culture by watching funny cat videos. Libraries give people access to the most human parts of existence – the words and language which make up thought and idea.
Stanford University, as it does with many things, has libraries quite unlike any other. Despite having frequented Green Library since my first year at Stanford, I realized this last week, after beginning a student job at the Bowes Art and Architecture Library, that each individual building has its own unique features and offerings.
The art library has an extensive DVD collection, with foreign and indie films you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere, including on the Internet. And what’s more, the building comes housed with two media viewing rooms, both equipped with chairs, enormous television screens and players for students to watch the films. The library has an uber-fancy scanner that may seem unnecessary but in fact makes the transmission of knowledge easier. It has a wall of periodicals, magazines costing $25 and offering the most diverse and current perspectives on issues within the art community. It also has an entire room of graduate student carrels, with shelf space and privacy for those Stanford students doing specialized research. It has display cases touching on a diverse range of topics; for example, a cursory glance can teach you about the role salt played in Indian independence.
While being trained, I interacted with the vast web of technologies accessible in this library, such as computers equipped with movie making software and graphic design media. I couldn’t help but revel in how fortunate I am to be here. Not a day passes that I don’t eat a delicious spinach stir-fry at my dining hall, go for a walk around Lake Lag, read a Zuni myth for one of my classes or stop in to hear Karen Fowler lecture that I don’t feel immense joy at the life I am living as a Stanford student.
People often wonder, “Where does my education money go?” Especially because tuition is as high as it is at Stanford, you can’t help but be a little confused. We are not only paying for education in its purest form, in our access to new ideas which will challenge the way we think about the world and how we interact with it; we are also paying for the forging of a life. This existence is one filled with food that will nourish our bodies; the constant and sometimes incessant opportunity to develop our passions outside of the classroom through extracurriculars, visiting lecturers, sponsored trips to San Francisco or really anywhere; exercise facilities equipped with rock climbing walls; the occasion to watch some of the best young athletes in their prime; entertainment; stimulation; access; it’s all here in abundance.
I’m happy to say I’ll be going to a free yoga class organized by one of my teachers from freshman year. Tomorrow I look forward to stopping by the Stanford farmer’s market to pick up a basket of strawberries and fresh flowers from the Stanford farm. I am grateful.
Contact Hannah Broderick at inbloom ‘at’ stanford.edu.