Larry's Column

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Larry Spongberg

I thought you might enjoy some light reading after the weather that we have encountered this winter. (I did not compose this column earlier because my attention was “drifting too much,” I can be a bit flaky.)

In a previous column, I described the time that I stood on a table in the old library to get the attention of the students in a very noisy main reading area. I mentioned that I never again had to get up onto a table for that purpose.

I did stand on the tables in the old library’s first floor reading room quite frequently for another reason, however. During the first few years that I was at Assumption, the library was illuminated by incandescent bulbs. Whenever a bulb was burned out during my shift, one of my duties was to replace it. I had to stand on the table under the light to perform this task. As you might guess, the operation would get the attention of the people in the room, but the replacement itself was not a noisy procedure except for occasional reactions from the crowd.

One memory from that time that still amuses me occurred during one of the summers. As I checked, I saw that yet another bulb had burned out. At the time, the reading room was completely empty except for one student who was sitting under the burned out light struggling to read. (I was good. I made no comment at the time.)

I was also responsible for replacing the bulbs on the former library’s second floor. I had to stand on a study carrel (side desk) to reach a light along the aisle, but replacement was a quiet procedure. Whenever possible, I would wait until the carrel was empty unless the student involved asked me to replace the bulb.

The lights within the aisles of the second floor collections (stacks) presented a different challenge, however. In order to discourage anyone from stealing a bulb, each light in that area was covered by a globe that created a loud scraping sound whenever the globe was turned. It was impossible to replace a bulb without being heard throughout the second floor. Since that part of the library generally allowed people to study quietly, I tried to do this task when very few people were on the second floor, but that was not always possible. The second floor had about 70 seats to serve a campus of around 1500 students. (Another 70 or so could find seating on the first floor, but that area often was noisy for various reasons even when no one was talking.)

Although this situation was awkward much of the time, it did provide me with another humorous incident. Whenever I needed to change a bulb in the stacks, I always took a book truck to set the globe on while I was making the change. I would put needed fresh bulbs on the truck to take with me. At least once, a student worker thought I was just being a wise guy when she saw me pushing a book truck with one little bulb on it.

I describe the lights in the old library on pages 12-13 of my second book, I Have Pun Being me, published in 2008. In that chapter, I observed that sometime around 1984, the decision was made to replace the lighting with fluorescent bulbs. After that time, the maintenance department became responsible for any needed replacements. To quote my comment in that chapter: “When my library colleagues and I heard the announcement about the new lights, all of us brightened right up.” (p. 13)

I hope this column has helped to “brighten your day.” Of course, I realize that thought may be just a “filament of my imagination.

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