‘Cat in the Stacks: Beauty in Simplicity
I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Memorial Library’s role.
The ‘Cat in the Stacks had the chance to wander outside of the library this week. I made it all the way across the front lawn of the Falvey Memorial Library to the fountain that sits a few yards from the main entrance.
(That fountain we’re talking about.)
The benches surrounding the fountain offer an excellent place to contemplate, converse or just unwind. On this particular day, I had the chance to sit, relax and just think.
What came to mind first was the question of what made watching the endless repetition of the fountain such an aesthetic experience. What makes this fountain so beautiful? The design is simple, with no elaborate carvings or etchings. The mechanism itself is simple as well; water is pumped into a central hub and then pumped up and out.
Let me now take a step back. In your mental picture of me sitting by the fountain, zoom out a bit. The fountain is still humming along, and I’m still sitting on one of the benches, maybe with like one leg resting horizontally across the opposite knee in that weird way that guys sometimes sit.
After zooming out, you’ll notice that I am not alone. Villanova students and professors are coming and going from each direction to and from classes. Few people give the fountain a passing glance, and certainly no one stops to think about it. No one has to; they know it’s there, and they know it adds decoration to an already picturesque campus.
Like a heartbeat, the fountain doesn’t acquire special attention unless someone points your thoughts in that direction. And like a human heart, the fountain utilizes a series of pumps for generating circulation.
I will ask you now to zoom out once again. Your mental shot now includes me sitting, the fountain flowing, and students moving to and fro, possibly not looking up from their phones but definitely not glancing around at the fountain and certainly not paying any attention to the ‘Cat in the Stacks sitting contemplatively. Pull back once again until you see the Falvey in the shot as well.
Picture this as clearly as you can, because the library’s importance in the frame composition is of utmost importance. The library provides this picture with a sort of thematic backdrop, for circulation – in addition to underscoring the fountain and the human hearts – underscores the library experience as well.
Like the people walking by the fountain, I myself am guilty of taking the circulation services of the library for granted. In past posts, I have mentioned the new spaces we’re building, the excellent databases we maintain, and the importance of resource librarians.
While these aspects of the library provide innovative technologies and resources for students everyday, the Access Services team continues to circulate books both at campus and among local and national libraries. Through EZ Borrow & Inter-library Loan and borrowing for the Villanova community, they provide the type of services that have defined libraries since as early as the 16th century.
Because lending libraries date back to a period of time just after the development of the printing press, the beauty of the process can be overlooked. After all, for the library visitor it all seems so simple: check the book out, read the book, and return it by the date stamped inside.
The research support librarians are hard at work, though. They reach out to other libraries for your specific book, track down missing pieces, and somehow keep the shelves in perfect order throughout the floors. Like the fountain though, materials go out into the world and come right back to our central hub for redistribution.
(The ‘Cat in the Stacks’ natural habitat)
The flowing of texts and information through the library into your hands, which seems so simple yet requires a team of experienced librarians to see through, produces the aesthetic effect of the library experience – the part of the experience that, despite all the innovations, makes you associate wandering through endless bookshelves to find answers with the word “library.” With all the fresh, innovative and technological endeavors currently happening at the library, one can easily overlook the circulatory process at the center of it all – even someone hired to promote such services.
Sometimes someone or something needs to point our attention to a process or object for us to recognize its beauty. With this fact in mind, let us return to the question of the fountain: what makes the fountain so beautiful?
Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.
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