Room 112 is not actually a room. It’s a clearing in the middle of periodical stacks on the first floor, north wing of UW’s Memorial Union. Walking to it, I weave through the maze of 8′ tall, army green, metal bookshelves and arrive at a half dozen tables arranged between the shelves. The walls of this room are made not of drywall or concrete, but bound books of periodicals organized alphabetically and chronologically. The titles are common and obscure; I sit in the “T” section, between Tibetan Bulletin and Time Magazine.
I came in search of a cover story featuring Sears, published in Time in the late 70s/early 80s. It’s been so long since I had to navigate through electronic library databases, I figured it’d be easiest to ask the rosy-cheeked librarian downstairs where the old issues are kept. When I arrive in section AP .T58246, my heart sinks looking at the number of volumes I’ll have to page through to find my elusive article. Five full shelf rows. Quickly, I give in and decide to reteach myself how to use electronic databases on my laptop. I can hear myself think because the silence in the room is stark. The only noise is the humming of the fluorescent light tubes overhead and my fingers typing on the keyboard.
Aha! Less than five minutes into my search, I have an electronic copy of the article. Still, I am in no hurry to leave. This room holds me, time suspended, in a way I can’t articulate particularly well. All these books. All the writers who sat to put pen to paper or fingers to keys to preserve their thoughts and understanding of the world. It’s overwhelming and wonderful.
I am grateful for electronic databases, libraries, and the fact that there is an old school pencil sharpener mounted to one of the walls here in Room 112. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those.