What Were These People Doing in Widener Yesterday at 4 p.m.?
Bill Emerson '77 traipsed through the cavernous Widener main stairwell yesterday with the air of someone on a mission. At a brisk half-trot, arms swinging, notebook in hand, he charged right down the middle of the rows upon rows of the public catalogue. Just before he would have crashed into the circulation desk, he wheeled to the left, grabbed a card tray under L, and riffled through it feverishly.
"Why am I in Widener? Actually, (he looked up, set the file tray on a desk, and pointed upward) I'm looking at the pillars holding up this room. It's the first time I've noticed them, just look at that. Gold marble and gold leaves at the top. Some story says that in Washington, D.C. all the leaves at the tops of columns are tobacco leaves. Goes to show the power of the American tobacco industry infiltrating our pores."
Emerson slammed the L tray back into place, jumped the aisle to the Ms, found a card and muttered "December 1948, December 1948" under his breath as he grabbed for his notebook to write it down.
Yesterday morning Bill Emerson received a notice that his senior English thesis proposal had to be turned in by 4:30 p.m. At 4 p.m. he was putting the last touches on a list of books for his proposal, and waxing eloquent about Widener Library.
"Have you ever looked at the ceiling in the Reading Room? I had to draw it once for Drawing 1313b. A very difficult ceiling to draw, really hard." (It is barrel-vaulted, with inset windows in triplets.)
He reflected a minute. "I never study in Widener, always in my room; here it's too noisy. And the stacks are dismal, like being swallowed by a Leviathan. Except they're entertaining too. Like every now and then you run across ancient books made out of sheepskin, or with pages bolted together with metal things, or even the Playboy collection down on some sub-level."
He stretched for a look at the clock. 4:24 p.m. He said, "Aah, I gotta go," flipped his notebook shut and dashed out faster than he had come in. Behind him four or five onlookers stared up at the pillars and the ceiling, oblivious for once to the endless reams of Widener's file cards.