Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Deadlines and doorstops

GOT THIS PHOTO during a visit to the Drudis-Biada Gallery around finals week when the senior exhibits were being set up. It nicely sums up the atmosphere of crazy stress that was going on inside. We all have days like that.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Women & Spirit

The opening this weekend of the Women & Spirit Exhibit at the College gave me an opportunity to gather some of our amazing historic photos of the religious faculty and students.

I created a small gallery here.

Hope you'll take a look.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Chalon Library

Dickens volumes in the Chalon stacks.
CHALON IN THE SUMMER is down to the few regulars, including the librarians and year-round staff. One of my favorite regulars is Paul Martin, who has been on the Porch near the College Archives doing some writing.

Paul has a wonderful blog, The Teacher's View, in which he ruminates on books, reading, literature, and the life of the mind. In the world of digital noise, he's virtually a throwback; his blog reminds me of my favorite senior honors seminars when I was a Lit. major in the last century.

I was delighted to find his post last month titled "Joy," about the very library I work in. Here's an excerpt that I hope will inspire others to read the whole:
The first floor is my destination. The stacks. Far side, a long narrow room of tables, shelves of art books, and windows with a view of the Pacific Ocean only a few miles away. This is where I belong, my home. Outside the window, a twisted pine stands sentinel. I am the monk at my wooden table dedicated to a life of study and reflection, staring out the window at the world. Here I can think, reconsider, revise. Here, there are no cell phones or computers. Here, paper and leather binding rule the world.
The photo is one I took in those same stacks. Thank you, Paul, for exactly capturing this wonderful place, and reminding me of why this job is such a gift. May I never take it for granted.

Speaking of monks, I'm off to St. Andrew's Abbey in Valyermo for a few days. Those Benedictines, the guys who saved civilization, know a thing or two about how paper and leather binding rule the world.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Found! The Brady Hall Chapel

BRADY HALL, BUILT IN 1930-31, was supposed to be the first of several College buildings constructed one after another in the early 1930s. Thanks to the Great Depression, it ended up the only building for quite awhile. From 1931 until Christmas Eve, 1939, Brady was everything to everybody, students and sisters alike, from dorms to dining hall, labs to library, classrooms to convent to chapel.

John Deeb of Chalon Facilities and I have spent a little time here and there looking around for the former chapel in Brady. The old blueprints showed a couple of small dorm rooms on the 2nd floor with the partition removed. A purple pebbled-glass window in the Student Lounge opposite the elevator was a hint that this was the place. Finally, a passing mention in an old article confirmed it. The room, it said, was too small for pews so they used a dozen or so padded kneelers. The altar was made of painted white wood, and overflow attendance left people out in the hallway on folding chairs. Everybody turned out for the daily 7 a.m. Mass in those days.

We even know about the tiny Stations of the Cross, because they were later photographed and enlarged, hand-tinted and placed in Mary Chapel, where they remain to this day. But what did the Brady Hall chapel actually look like?

I stumbled today on two tiny snapshots. I've posted them here. The handwriting on the back says that they were taken the day before the very last liturgy celebrated in the little temporary chapel. That must have been a few days before Christmas Eve in 1939, which is considered the inaugural Mass of the new Mary Chapel. (It was formally dedicated by Bishop Cantwell on the Feast of the Ascension in May, 1940.)

I'm sure that both students and faculty had mixed emotions about the move. They were undoubtedly delighted with the beautiful new Mary Chapel, but the memories of crowding the entire Mount family into a tiny space for worship must have lingered for a long time. If you've ever wondered why Mary Chapel has such small Stations of the Cross in such a soaring space, that's why -- a little memento went with the community to the new church.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How bad was that mold?

Going through my photos for yesterday's post, I came across this one -- clearly the most disgusting book of all. Seldom in book mold do we get to see such rich texture, such vibrant hues. The pic doesn't really do justice to the black stuff, which looked like silk velvet and was probably an eighth of an inch thick. The white mold was more lacy while the greenish variety looked like old-fashioned penicillin. By the way, the Mount brought in experts to test it, and it was declared safe and nontoxic... which was good, considering how much of it we were dealing with (eventually, after this picture was taken, with rubber gloves).

Monday, June 6, 2011


NEARLY SIX MONTHS AFTER THE FLOOD in December, the formerly wet, disgustingly moldy books are trickling back into Special Collections from the book hospital -- Kater-Crafts Bookbinders of Pico Rivera.

First among the patients was St. Augustine of Hippo, whose Opera Omnia in eight big tomes took a direct hit when the ceiling collapsed in a rush of rainwater. The 17th Century paper rapidly developed mold (middle photos) and the bindings -- already pretty wrecked -- started to crumble. In the opinion of my friend Kristen St. John at UCLA, there was nothing to be gained by trying to keep the old bindings, which anyway weren't original. After their page by page vacuum job, I drove the books over to Kater-Crafts and waited for the results.

The fine binders at K-C matched the original raised-band spine and labeling, right down to the gold-leaf dingbats in red and black (top photo). To save on costs, the binding is partly synthetic

They're beautiful. Are they too beautiful? This is one of the knotty questions in library preservation. Should old books "look old"? If the old bindings aren't artifacts unto themselves -- and St. Augustine's weren't -- should they be kept, even if they're falling apart?

It's a matter of taste and policy. We're a library, not a museum, and the books are here to be used and looked at. But like the critics who disapproved of the Sistine Chapel restoration, some people think a bright and shiny new binding on an antique book is jarring.

The way I see it, one goal here is to ensure that the books are around for another 350 years. They were already rebound a couple of times, according to Kristen, so one more round isn't going to hurt. Neither does it mean binding them in standard library buckram, as someone suggested, and if you want to see some heartbreaking rebindings I've got plenty of buckram to show you.

In fact, I like the way the new bindings juxtapose with the old, water-stained pages (bottom photo), especially on St. Augustine. The bishop of Hippo wrote these works in the 4th and 5th Centuries, and yet they're as current as today, with new translations appearing regularly and e-book versions widely available. Shiny new bindings are a vote for the bright future of a timeless author.

They definitely liven up the place. And they're a pretty good reminder that rain gutters require annual maintenance.