Growing up largely in countries where I only had a rudimentary knowledge of the official language, I cherished the limited opportunities to read English-language books at public libraries - most of the time, I had to rely on a school library, or buy expensive imported books. When I was able to borrow books, the conditions were often stifling and restrictive - I could hold onto some of them for barely a week, which wasn’t enough time to absorb them.
Sprawling across the hill parallel to Professor’s Row is the Tisch Library, the main library at Tufts. Like many university libraries across campuses in New England, Tisch plays a prominent role in the landscape of the campus - the staircase along it forms a natural way to navigate between uphill and downhill portions of the campus, and it is very close to Ballou Hall and Goddard Chapel, making it a central location which allows easy access to most of campus within a 5-10 minute walk. It is because of this, and the culture of silent study, that many people choose to do their work here. However, I became attracted to Tisch library for a different reason: the book stacks.
As I was studying in Tisch basement one day, I realized just how many books were around me. In my immediate vicinity alone, there were 6 or 7 racks with around 400 books each. That’s close to 2800 books, densely packed around a small table where I was studying! Breaking my study time, I decided to go for a walk around the maze of shelves. At first, I found the organization of the library abstruse and indecipherable. Why were shelves containing Russian literature a stone’s throw from those containing Virgil’s Aeneid? I then realized that the library is organized according to the Library of Congress system, where letters are assigned to specific “macro-genres”, and numbers subdivide shelves within that genre.
With this knowledge, I was able to find books on behavioral economics, cognitive psychology, Wittgenstein’s philosophy, Jungian psychology and Cervantes’ life within 15 minutes, and leave to the comfort of my dorm for reading. I began to frequent the library a lot; it has excellent collections in any subject you can imagine, and borrowing a book from Tisch is a great way to see if you’ll be interested in a particular subject. For instance, going to Tisch has contributed to my desire to take a statistical psychology class at some point during my academic career, and encouraged me to add Applied Math as a major.
Despite being a small school, Tufts has an incredibly well-resourced library, and you can borrow books for far longer - up to a couple of months depending on what and how you borrow it. For a voracious reader like me who wants to explore everything, this is a perfect deal, and I know it will be for many other people who want the benefits of a large depository of knowledge and a smaller academic environment. What are you waiting for? Go read!