Today we take a look at the Fisher Library, but not the one you may be familiar with, standing proudly next to the monolithic “stacks”. The former Fisher Library, now the MacLaurin Hall, was located in the neo-Gothic building at the south-west corner of the Quadrangle. The upper floor, with its grand chamber used as the reading room was a bright setting with large, multi-panelled windows filtering in light from each wall. In the northern arm of the building (where the grand entrance staircase is now situated) stood five floors of book stacks.
There was a rife tradition of students complaining about the noisy reading room, but the librarians were the most incensed, continually posting less than discrete messages for students to be quiet or leave.
But to get the best sense of the queer creatures who inhabited the Fisher, we only have to go so far as the Hermes publication of 1924 where a distracted student writes about the characters there.
… The books drops again, and I look around for enlightenment.
Close by, is a classmate who, I know, is preparing the same awful essay, but, what a difference! Apparently quite happy and unconcerned she writes page after page of notes, oblivious to all else. I shake my head in awe and admiration of one who does not understand, and pass on. Essays are evidently very pressing just now- most heads are bent and motionless in the effort of perfect concentration ; legs offer much more variety, I think.
There is a gentleman perched on the extreme and perilious edge of his chair, with his lower limbs extending marvellously before him ; his head is thrown back, and his expression is one of rapt and profound cognition, evidently a perfect specimen of the student species. At length he sies and his hand fumbles for and in, his waistcoat pocket. Breathless, I gaze- the plan of some new invention, perhaps? The data of a new discovery? Alas! the sporting column of a “Daily Guardian.”
Dissolusioned, disappointed, I turn away and resume my observation of the attitudes of study. There, is a pair of legs encircling in wondrous wise the legs of a chair, there- another stretching far behind and beneath their apparent owner, and so on, as far as the eye can reach continues this pageant of positions.
I select the most effective looking and prepare to copy it, but my chair scrapes and all the library looks at me, whereupon I develop a profound interest in the principles of logic. But before I find the place, I hear a low murmur and a suppressed giggle- two girls are doing prose together…
For whatever they lack in gravity, however, their neighbour fully atones- he is what the disrespectful and irrelevant might term a “dictionary fiend.” His hair is ruffled, his brows drawn, and, despite a pyramid of books before him, he rises from time and time and, with determined tread, strides over to consult another and yet another mighty tome. Behold! a model of mental application, I reflect ; an object lesson for all, such as I. He will become a language authority- one of the epoch- making men of our time perhaps, but- how uninteresting to spend one’s glorious youth ensconsed behind a dictionary!
….Suddenly, the clock strikes one o’clock! Guiltily I grab my book, chairs are moved noisily and therre is a general stir. Shall I?- I think longingly of Manning- Ah yes! I join the procession streaming towards the door- Oh, unhappy one! a whole hour and you have learnt nothing- nothing? Ah, surely no! There are other things than books, to study in the Fisher.