I can still remember signing up for my first library card. It was such an empowering feeling, walking through the aisles stacked high with books, knowing that I could take any of them home with me any time I wanted. It was the culmination of a love that started to blossom when I was four and first sounded my way through “The Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race.”
Libraries have carried a special energy to me ever since. But when I first was able to walk through the stacks at Paley Library, well that was closer to a religious experience.
I’ve talked to plenty of people who have complained about the layout and odor of the stacks, but I haven’t heard nearly enough talk about the sheer majesty of it. The amount of information that those shelves contain is nearly incomprehensible.
So, as you can imagine, when I heard last May that a plan was in the works — although not finalized — to build a new library where the Student Pavilion currently stands, I had a pretty strong reaction. You might expect that I would be in vehement opposition, but I was absolutely ecstatic.
I love Paley with all my heart, but I love the idea that Paley symbolizes even more. So if Temple wants an updated facility and make it much more modern and a tad more grandiose, you can count me among the supporters.
One of the critical complaints levied at Paley is that it isn’t a facility for the new millenium. It’s hard to argue with that, really, seeing as it was built 46 years ago. But even though the bricks and mortar may be nearing the half-century mark, the books, staff and other resources remain timelessly useful for students who are seeking to go above and beyond the most common classroom expectations.
This is a modern digital time, after all, where any student can find enough information online to write a paper or pass a class. This is a reality of the modern education system, and it is definitely a good thing. If you’re working on a paper about democratization theory, you can find hundreds — maybe thousands — of journal articles or book excerpts that can teach all you need to know about the subject.
But if you walk up the stairs at Paley, you can bear witness to the enormity of information that is that field. You can pick up texts by Samuel Huntington and other scholars who made that subject what it is. You can walk along an aisle and see, with your own eyes, the incredible volume of work and research that predates you in a way that results on a Google search cannot convey.
Speaking from personal experience, it can add both a level of intellectual insignificance and quiet determination.
The library makes it possible for students to pursue their academic goals in a way that a home laptop or the TECH Center simply cannot match.
With all this in mind, I find it appropriate that Temple has decided to include a new library in its 20/20 plan. As the university attempts to build itself into a greater institution for higher learning, it must consider all of the responsibilities that title comes with.
The university is constructing Morgan Hall, a dorm facility that will be the tallest building in North Philadelphia. This will enable it to house more students and, more importantly, to put more students in close quarters where the free expression of ideas can thrive. Several classroom buildings are at various stages of construction, some even finished and hosting classes. The purpose of these is rather obvious: to provide a more modern and efficient place for students to learn.
Temple athletics is moving to the Big East, which will help further a sense of community and pride among the student body in the unique way that only competitive athletics is able to do.
And, with a new library facility, Main Campus would create a new and improved haven for the most dedicated students to master their chosen fields outside of the classroom.
Paley has been and will continue to be another home for me. I’m not naïve enough to pretend that the place isn’t without its faults. But, I have enormous appreciation for the goals of the facility and hope that a new library would continue to fulfill this role — even if I won’t be here to enjoy it.
Zack Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ZackScott11.