As a brand new library assistant at the University Collections Facility, the biggest challenge I have faced so far has been learning to navigate this somewhat labyrinthine building. Those bewildering first few days whilst I tried to get my bearings I dwelled upon my favourite literary representations of labyrinths – those appearing in the works of Borges or Mark Z. Danielewski. The most persistent, however, was the Doctor Who episode “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” – a show which is a favourite topic of our morning breaks. In this episode, Clara becomes trapped in a maze of ever-changing rooms as she tries to escape the crashing machine and ends up stumbling from a steel corridor into the Doctor’s library. In this blog post, I likewise hope to take you with me on a journey to the centre of the UCF, as I work to become an intrepid navigator of its shelves.
Sitting at my computer desk, an online request arrives. It’s for a medical journal, “Neurology”. I double check its shelf-mark, print off the request slip and off we go. Out of the office and down a set of stairs, past the hard-working cataloguers and into the lower portion of Unit 2. This is not my final destination but is worth a linger. I stride down the central aisle, past the Vet library and books from the Edinburgh College of Art, turning right at a large blue painting and through a door into Unit 1. This is where most people’s stereotypical vision of a library store will be satisfyingly fulfilled. Vast rolling stacks tower above me and I am reminded of a fight scene in the recent Captain Marvel movie, where Nick Fury took on a miscellaneous alien in amongst an archive (I remained tense through the whole thing – mind the collections!) Thankfully, the UCF is more peaceful than that, and I walk towards the stacks at the top of the room, scanning the periodicals for the correct shelf-mark. I spy my target, a run of journals neatly bound in post-box red with “Neurology” stamped in black on the spine. But, alas, they are on the highest shelf and several metres out of arms reach. Never-mind, I manoeuvre a large blue ladder into place and climb its steps to retrieve my item. Then it’s back down the ladder, along the row, into Unit 2, through the corridor, up the stairs and into the office. This book will now be packaged up and sent to its destination across the city. The rest of its journey from here to reader I cannot follow, but I’m glad to have helped it along its way and, in doing so, added another pathway to the detailed map of the UCF building in my head.
Daisy Stafford, UCF Library Assistant