Memories of Powell
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intrepid correspondent returns to the library and is relieved to
discover that five years and a major face lift-later, the Powell
she loved is warmer and mere inviting.
Wendy Soderburg '82
by Tim Street-Porter and University Archives
remember there were rumors about people being lost in the Powell
stacks forever. Someone told me that a body had once been found
there, that human bones had actually been recovered! --
Estelle Novak '61, M.A. '62, Ph.D. '68
just about everyone who ever attended UCLA, when I think about the
university I think of the Lawrence Clark Powell Library: History.
Tradition. Architectural beauty. The pursuit of knowledge. Backpack
imprints on flesh.
I was not exactly the most exemplary student. Fact is, when I'd
announce I was off to Powell to "study," my friends knew I was really
going to seek out the darkest, most secluded corner of the book
stacks, plop my head down on my backpack and crash out. I'd wake
up an hour or so later with a mirror image of Nike rayon on my face,
complete with alarmingly accurate impressions of the plastic clasps.
was my asylum, a quiet, crepuscular womb of knowledge. I especially
loved the stacks -- row after row after row of gunmetal-gray shelves
lined with comfortingly old books, surrounded by a maze of graffiti-encrusted
study carrels, which I found to be perfect upright cots for catching
much-needed zzzzzs. True, the stacks never really fit in with the
rest of the library's classic northern Italian architecture (Powell
was built in 1929; the stacks were awkwardly grafted on in 1958).
But their ungainliness only made them the more endearing to me.
fact, I loved Powell so much that in my third year at UCLA, I wormed
a job working as a student assistant in the undergraduate College
Library on the second floor. Following my graduation, I began working
in the library full-time and remained on staff for six years. Considering
the two or three hours I spent in Powell every day as a student
and the eight-hour days I put in as an employee, for the better
part of a decade I lived more in the library than I did at home.
it any wonder the idea that the old Powell stacks no longer existed,
having fallen victim to the library's recently completed, $35-million
seismic overhaul, filled me with dread? All those memories -- all
those years of sweet dreams -- sacrificed to fussy building codes!
The new stacks couldn't possibly possess the unaffected character
of the old ones.