I wended my way to Stanford's library to do research on the annual Tolkien bibliography, the third of about seven libraries I'll need to visit for this purpose, not counting the ones I got to virtually through inter-library loan.
Stanford's rule is that off-campus visitors may use the library for any seven days of their choice in a year's period following the date of registration. This is kept track of by a computer whose terminal is at the entrance. It used to be that when you registered, if you tried to use the same password you used the previous year, the system would crash. Last time this happened, I told them that since Stanford is supposed to be such a great comp-sci school, birthplace of Google Cisco et al, it ought to be able to come up with something better than that.
It has. No more passwords. Instead you identify yourself by placing a driving license or a passport on a scanner, tell the machine via a drop-down list which entity issued it so the scanner knows where to look, and it copies your name and address into the system. Except that the scanner's idea of which way ought to be up was the opposite of mine, pretty cool.
Stanford's library, despite its miles of stacks, has long since run out of shelving space. So have the warehouses on the other side of campus established for overflow. Now overflow books are shelved in a new facility 40 miles away. You have to order the books online and it can take up to 2 days for them to appear, though they will e-mail you to tell you they've arrived. (You then have a week before they send them back.)
In literary studies, at least, it's the new books that are sent off to storage. Of 12 items on my check list, 9 had to be ordered. I brought a canvas shopping bag to haul them upstairs where the study carrels are. (As at most college libraries, visitors can't check things out: this is all for in-house use only.)
While I was there, I also took the opportunity to read one of the reasons Stanford's book holdings are so large: Churchill's Rebels by Meredith Whitford, a biography of Esmond Romilly - in whom I have some interest - that's so rare that Stanford is one of only two libraries in the three more western time zones of North America to have it, and the other is the University of Alberta. More on that later.
It was also a day for a noon concert from the students of the Music Department, so I took the time to wander over there for that too. Four student cellists, and not one of them very good. Usually the student concerts are better than this. And the best of them was playing (with piano accompaniment) a movement from the Lalo Concerto, a work requiring tremendous bravura that even a halfway-decent student cellist is not equipped to provide. Anemic.
Afterwards, something new for me. Ever since I hit 300 reviews (mostly of restaurants) on Yelp a couple years ago - reviews I put there to avoid inflicting you with very many of them - I've been getting pinged with invitations from Yelp management to special events. Most of them don't look much up my alley, but this one did: a dinner-time tasting meal at a tiny yuppie-fusion semi-Indian restaurant that's located, better luck yet, in a shopping center just off the Stanford campus. So I signed up and went. There were eight of us plus the Yelp manager who keeps writing me, whom I thus finally met. I was by far the oldest person there, and about the only one not snapping smartphone pictures of my meal. The enthusiastic owner regaled us with a ten-minute lecture on his restaurant's background and culinary philosophy and then a running commentary on the ingredients and preparation of each and every one of the fourteen dishes we were served tiny cups of, but his enthusiasm was infectious, the commentary was illuminating, and, sure enough, the food ranged from the merely quite tasty to the extremely good. We were provided with menus with space to write notes on, and I threw down my pen in astonishment at finding carrots and beets so carefully cooked that even I liked them. This has never happened before. Of course I went home and wrote a review, because that's what Yelp is for, right?
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