A professor I have recently made an analogy in class. She compared the rush that athletes must get when they compete to “going to the stacks.” To what was she referring? In our college library, “the stacks” are the four floors of books and periodicals that make up the viscera of the building. For one of my professors, “going to the stacks” is simultaneously calming and invigorating; both zen-like and a rush of creative energy. It is a source of literary inspiration.
It truly saddens me when my fellow college students don’t know where the stack in their own library are. Just come up to the front desk. I just might be at work behind it and I would be more than happy to introduce them to you. The stacks are not easy to find for a first-time visitor to the library because it means going past the open, neo-Gothic vestibule, and walking down a narrow pathway between the reference desk and a wall. Once you reach the stacks, you will know it. Rows upon rows of countless volumes span the basement and three floors. In the stacks you can travel thousands of miles, through thousands of years in just a few steps.
When I am weary from the cares of a student’s life or I am bored with my classes, or if I just need a study break, I too go to the stacks. I don’t need a particular reason or item that I’m looking for (although, experience has taught me that it helps to carry around a slip of paper while perusing, just so it looks like you have a purpose). A trip to the stacks is a paradox because it is simultaneously an escape and a reality check. If I am too self-contained in my own finite world, an eye-opening book from the stacks (a memoir on the Holocaust for instance) instantly puts my petty problems into perspective.
Pressed for ideas? Have writer’s block? Want a new hobby? Bored with your limited interests? Need to broaden your literary horizons? Find yourself some stacks and get lost in them.