Journey to the Center of Sterling

Design by Cleo Maloney

As a self-proclaimed collector, I can appreciate Yale’s commitment to what others may consider hoarding. Sterling Memorial Library boasts more than two and a half million volumes, apparently unable to amass the additional million books that it was designed to house. Indeed, James Gamble Rogers had even grander plans: the cathedral-inspired erection “as near to modern Gothic as we dared to make it.” Still, I give credit where credit is due. Where else could one find a comprehensive catalog of stamps from around the world and an aisle shrouded in shadows, containing countless editions of the Harvard Business Review? With each foray into the layers of the library, I can’t help but be beguiled.

On my first trip to Sterling, I was advised by an upperclassman in the rickety elevator to stay out of the Stacks: “don’t waste your time searching; just request your books on the website.” An enjoyer of dilly-dallying, I took this as encouragement to return to my expeditions, treasure troves abound. The Yale Film Archive’s unique offerings make me yearn for a 2012 MacBook Pro, as the arcane device would render DVDs playable. However, their screening room keeps me off of eBay, supplying plush red seats in lieu of a bidding war.

A far cry from the seventh floor, Gilmore Music Library is there to remind me of years of fruitless piano lessons. Contrary to its name, the Music Library is quite a quiet space, especially among the rows of librettos that appear to have angered a few too many theory students. With headphones in, of course, I’m looking forward to watching the 800-plus Metropolitan Opera performances offered on the library’s website at the rosin-dusted desks.

Traversing the tunnel to Bass (the only spot on campus that I’ve found with root beer in its vending machine), I’m thrusted into a little functionalist moment. Sterling comforts me with its chaos, but the impersonal design of Bass encourages focused studying, which I’m sure I’ll utilize… eventually.

Access to such collections, both displayed and concealed, feels ludicrous. While I sometimes take the spaces for granted when grinding on a problem set, it’s pretty incredible how much there is to discover.

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