New Haven: first impressions

Certain people of my acquaintence have been known to speak slightingly of New Haven and its environs. The noun “hole” has come up from time to time, as has the adjective “dead”.

I am pleased to report that Havers is, at least so far (about 3 weeks now) turning out to be a very pleasant place to live. It’s biggest drawback so far is that it doesn’t have many names that lend themselves to hypocoristics. How on earth would we form a clippie on Quinnipiac? East Rock? Temple St?

I went to the library a few days ago to check out (literally and metaphorically) their Australian grammar collection. It’s definitely an Ivy League library. There’s no sign for the entrance to the stacks, it’s inferred from the presence of the security guard in front of a dark doorway. Once beyond the guard station, one is confronted by a dimly lit box-like room, with an elevator at one end and unmarked doors on all sides. A perusal of the 8-point shelf guide approximately 6′ from the floor (I am 5’4″) tell me that I want floor 2M for PL7000-. I’m guessing that this is what I want, because like all true Ivy League libraries, there are at least two call number systems and I don’t know exactly when they switched form whatever they used before to Library of Congress (at Harvard I once worked out it must have been about 1958).

I go to the second floor and the elevator* lets me out into a corridor with numbered (but otherwise mostly unmarked) doors. Eventually I find a door with no numbers on it at all, and on opening it come into a just about completely dark room with biggestmob books. This is the stacks. Harvard’s stacks are pretty dim but there are some actual windows. None of the hazards of natural lighting for Yale’s books though! Your intrepid Lara Croft: Verb Raider finds the light switch at the end of the stack row and proceeds to claim the treasure. There is one last piece of evidence that I’m in an Ivy Leage library… the shelf planks are sufficiently close together that the A4 Australian language centre produced dictionaries don’t fit upright, so they’ve been put on the shelves spine-down, so it’s impossible to work out what they are unless you take them off the shelves (or unless, like my Classics friend who could recognise all the AFL club songs from the preliminary applause patterns, you can recognise them by their thickness).


*No, I wouldn’t normally take the lift to go one floor, but I couldn’t find the stairwell.


13 responses to “New Haven: first impressions

  1. Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book Library has the original of the Voynich Manuscript. Maybe you’ll be able to get a peek at it.

  2. You’re right, I have to have a look! If only to check that it’s not in some Australian language.

    Harvard’s rare book library turned out to be a bit of a liability at times. For example, towards the end of my dissertation I wanted to look up what Dampier had written about Bardi people in his Voyage round the World. Harvard had about 5 copies, including a first edition, but the most recent edition they had was about 1800, so getting access turned out to be really hard! (This was before the new edition came out and it wasn’t online at the time.)

  3. hi there,
    i may be moving to new haven, but have no idea what it’s like. i’d love to hear more about your impressions…

  4. I hope the Yale library doesn’t have annoying dead-end stairwells like the Rice library does. I’d hate to be in there if the fire alarm went off.

    Dark hallways with unmarked doors? The stacks aren’t in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of The Leopard’, by any chance?

  5. No idea if there are deadend stairwells – I never found the stairs.

  6. While New Haven may be dead, it cannot possibly compare to the soul-sucking evil that is Hartford. The only redeeming qualities about Hartford are the beautiful capitol architecture, and the gingerbread wonder of Mark Twain’s house. The rest of the town is the depressing result of California highway engineering and the suburban exodus.

    Your discovery of hypocoristic resistance may point towards why clipping is not a highly favored form of expression in American English, at least not on the East Coast. On the other hand, the exuberant profusion of Algonquian names combined with ruthless Anglicization provides for a unique onomastic experience.

    You know, if you furriners wouldn’t print books in such bizarre sizes then there’d be no problem getting them to fit on the shelves…

    You should post some pictures of the stacks. I love seeing the obscure, dusty corners of libraries and archives.

  7. haha Lara Croft: Verb Raider =)

  8. Very interesting site & stories overall. I can relate a good bit !

    B.t.w. I assume you heard the story about the study of Aboriginal children who can “count without numbers” ? What do you think of that ?

  9. @Z: Glad you like the blog! Was it a recent study? It doesn’t surprise me at all, though, since counting and mathematical operations like addition can be thought of as either symbol manipulation or object manipulation. Neither of those skills require language.

  10. First saw the story @ Yahoo; apparently the study just came out this week:

    I like the idea that the kids can discern the “fiveness” of things, for instance. Totally turns upside down one’s preconceptions of “counting” and the (supposedly) rational/logical/objective thought patterns that we thought were always involved…

  11. Pingback: Some pictures from the library « Anggarrgoon

  12. You’re making me nostalgic for Sterling; after three decades I still miss the place. And I’ll hear no slander about New Haven; it’s a wonderful city (especially when the Yalies are out of town…). I hope you had some of the pizza, which is the best in the country!

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