The Barr Smith Library Reading Room

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I love the Barr Smith Library reading room.

I never managed to study in there, though. Instead I’d have to hole up at some 70s style desk, in a dank corner, behind the stacks on level 2, because the beauty of the reading room made study impossible. Sometimes I’d sit in there though, pretending to work. I was always amazed by the air. Unlike the rest of the library, dull, stuffy and smelling of old books (surprise surprise), the reading room seemed to have the natural airflow of a European cathedral.

The reading room embodies my romantic ideas of universities; the paradoxical mix of tradition and history with freedom of thought and inspiration. I love that as I sat there my feet would rest on an old pipe that ran beneath the desk as a testament to a bygone era (someone once told me, the pipes used to carry hot water to keep the students’ feet warm). The old wooden desks, with inkwells in the corners, were inlaid with bottle green leather, and I’d smile as I looked at the various etchings and carved graffiti that I romantically imagined predated the war era (but that were probably circa 1990s).

The Barr Smith reading room made me feel like I was a part of something great; that I was one in a long line of scholars who had and would change the world. It almost whispered to me, ‘Seize the day girl; make your life extraordinary.’

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