When it came time to choose a location for my office in Robertson Library I had two options: joining Peter Lux in a relatively cavernous sunlight space formerly occupied by various technicians and programmers, and, around the corner and down a hall, a decidedly uncavernous, non-sunlit 50 square foot research cubicle. I choose the tiny cubicle because, despite the obvious advantages of proximity to Peter, to say nothing of the advantages of sunlight, I wanted to ensure that I could establish a “sense of place” for my base of operations, and that’s something that’s hard to do in an open-plan “bullpen”.
Given that my focus as Hacker in Residence is going to be primarily digital, you might very well ask why I need an office in the library at all. I’ve certainly asked myself this question, as the logistics of slogging myself up to campus, laptop in tow, from my already-rather-comfortable perch in my day-job Reinventorium are, given that my life is otherwise restricted to a small 3-block area downtown, somewhat onerous.
But I decided that it was important to be as much physically embedded as digitally embedded: I want to be able to work among the librarians, technicians, researchers, staff and students, and to be able to listen to and observe what they do, I want to understand more about what value having a physical library brings in a digital age, and I don’t want to limit myself only to the digital realm in my various experiments and enlivenings.
And so I’m set up in Room 322, tiny and, to my mind, perfect.
The office is just down the hall from the stacks, specifically the shelves that hold books from Library of Congress classification LB “Theory and practice of education” to ML “Literature on music.” Which is not a bad intersection at which to carve out a niche.
One of the other great benefits of being physically embedded is daily exposure to the eccentric collection of physical artifacts adorning the walls of the library. There are maps and plaques and new book displays and, around a corner here and a corner there, unusual bits of art like this uncredited work installed in a break in the concrete.
Taking a page from my father’s book – he is a great maker of maps and diagrams – one of my first acts, upon getting settled in my new office, was to borrow a measuring tape and take measurements, and then to use these to make a Sketchup model of the office. You can see a rendering below, or grab the Sketchup file itself if you want to walk around it yourself.