News

Recent commendations

"Confronting Asperger's in the Classroom," University Affairs, (January 2012), Finalist (Service, Health and Family), National Magazine Awards 2012)

Recent articles

"Daniel Alfreddson as Mental Health Crusader" Ottawa Magazine, May, 2013

"Ode to Bureaucratic Mayhem," University Affairs, March 2013

"Brave New Buildings," University Affairs, October 2012

"Keeping Up with the Undergrads," University Affairs, September 2012

"Out of the Shadows," Ottawa, May 2012

Professional Writing Program, Algonquin College

Read our 2012 Writing for the Web class e-zines, BARK, and SQUID/thINK on spineonline.ca.

Subscribe
« Happy light | Main | Save the Cephalopods »
Friday
Mar042011

Robarts Mansion

Quiet, please, girls...In 1980, as an undergrad at the University of Toronto, I managed to get a part-time job at the famed Robarts Library on Harbord Street. I instantly took to the work – the summer before, I had been a waitress at Ontario Place. Let’s just say the atmosphere at the library was a little different from Kelly’s Keg & Jester. I loved the hush, and being surrounded by vast troves of books and scholarly people seriously reading them. I also enjoyed no longer having to wear a shamrock-green serving-wench uniform.

Working in the Periodicals Reading Room, I discovered that many academic journals have the word Annals in the title. Eventually, I learned how to pronounce the word correctly, but only after being shooshed by the librarian training me, when I mispronounced it, in full hearing of several patrons. Small-town born and bred, I aspired to be Susan Sontag, but was more Ellie May Clampett.

Man! I feel like an intellectualWhy, you're kinda cute, Mr. Derrida It was at Robarts that I met Kathleen, one of my best friends forever. She and I were routinely stationed at what was then known as the Charge File, where clerks sat in a circle of desks, somewhat like at a quilting bee, and alphabetized the slips of paper on which borrowers’ names and due dates had been stamped. We also took calls for renewing books. I picked up the phone and said “Robarts Renewals” so many times the phrase seared into my brain. One evening at home, when I went outside to call my cat, I shouted “ROBARTS RENEWALS” – which was not my cat’s name.

Kathleen and I failed to make the cut as Sears' catalogue models. At least we have excellent personalities.Kathleen and I bonded big time at that table, and whiled away the mechanical task by making each other laugh, loudly and often. This led to being told off by the head librarian, who could hear our gales of inappropriate mirth from her office. We were cruelly separated and assigned other fascinating jobs, such as stuffing book request slips into pneumatic tubes and listening to them whoosh up to the floor where the book was shelved. I always thought that if I ever started a punk band, I would call it The Pneumatic Tubes.

It is fabulous to discover that University of Toronto students are still having some fun while they study at Robarts. Here is GEAK, performing “Robarts Mansion,” a hip-hop ode to the place. “Ain’t no place I’d rather be, hiding from students and family…” That’s how I felt too. Rock on, awesome GEAK dudes.



Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>