Librarians discuss wonders of Watzek

Illustration of Watzek creature reading old book
Winslow Morgan / The Mossy Log

Aubrey R. Watzek Library first welcomed students over the bridge that once constituted the building’s entrance in 1967. In the years since, it has amassed an expansive collection of art, books, CDs, DVDs, records, nooks and crannies. Unfortunately, much of the student body (myself included) have experienced only the tip of the Watzek iceberg.

Hannah Crummé, the head of special collections, shared one of her favorite spots in the library.

“From the northeast corner (of the third floor), you can see Mount Saint Helens,” Crummé said.

Talie Bocci, the weekend supervisor and stacks manager, enjoyed how you can sometimes see the sun shining through the stained glass window on the third floor from the circulation desk on the second floor.

“Very rarely does the sun shine through it, because it’s gotta be at a certain angle and there’s so many trees out there now,” Bocci said. “The last time I saw it, I made some random student that was walking past come over and stand there and look at it.”

I was surprised to hear that, like the sun, the selection of books on the shelves was similarly dynamic.

“We have to shift our collection kind of all the time,” Bocci said. “We’re always doing big and small shifts, microshifts, because there are certain categories or subjects that a professor will really focus on and then suddenly we will have thirty more books of just that subject and then you have to re-shift everything.” 

One of the shifts involved moving a large collection of CDs from their current location behind the circ desk to the stacks accessible by the general public.

“Hopefully in the next year to two years, we’ll be able to get all of our CDs out there too. That’s, like, my next big goal,” Bocci  said. 

Bocci had a wealth of stories about the library, including a few cautionary tales.

“People need to remember that (Watzek) is open to the public,” she said.

She recounted a spat of thievery a few years ago. It turned out in the end that the thief wasn’t even taking the spoils — just stealing for the thrill.

“Like a year or two ago — I don’t know who or why — but somebody was poking around in the ceiling of one of the study rooms (and) found 10 or 15 jackets that had been stashed up there. They still had their student IDs in them,” she said,

For the most part, Bocci wanted students to spend more time in the shelves, browsing and experiencing the quiet energy.

“This place is awesome to play hide-and-go-seek if you’re very quiet,” Bocci said, taking care to encourage respectful playing only.

“Don’t climb things,” Bocci said, a hint of frustration in her voice. “The shelves are not ladders.”

There are a lot of less-well-known stories about Watzek, but there are also a lot of less-well-known texts within the library, especially in special collections.

“I think what people don’t always realize about special collections and about Watzek more broadly is the extent that it’s a resource for the students,” Crummé said. “We’ve got these documents that are 500 years old or 600 years old. We’ve got cuneiform tablets. They’re yours for the time that you’re here and they’re actually still yours once you’re an alumni.”

Like the stacks, special collections is also constantly changing, with new grants constantly coming in to find and purchase useful materials. The latest have been pirates’ logs from the 1700s, ordered in preparation for an upcoming class on maritime trade in that era.

“I only ever buy things that speak to pedagogy and the current curriculum of the college,” Crummé said. “But, it’s also kind of exciting. It’s a fun way to engage with history; it brings that otherwise sort of dry 17th-century trade to life. How often can you look at a pirate’s log?”

Both Crummé and Bocci stressed that the library, and more specifically the librarians, are a  resource for students. 

“The more you can use the library as a resource to invest in your own learning, the more you’ll get out of your own time here,” said Crummé.

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