Falvey Memorial Nursing Home

Charles Myers

A conversation last year yielded the comparison of Villanova’s library to a hospital because of its sterility. Upon further reflection, I have decided that Villanova’s library does not resemble a hospital at all, but rather a nursing home for aged – and occasionally quite senile – books.

Each book – like an elderly person – is a delicate creation greatly affected by changes in the temperature and humidity of the air around it. However, our library-nursing-home does not really control these. Except, I assume, in the room marked “special collections.” The glue which serves as a binding agent plays a role similar to that of the cartilage in a person’s joints: it allows the books to bend without breaking.

Yet, after enough time, the glue wears down and fades away and the books are left to creak open and shut – crackling with each opening and slowly splintering with each turned page. Finally, once enough time has passed, our books can no longer tolerate the pain. It is at this point that the bindings break apart. Our elderly arthritis sufferers share the same fate with each step as changes in the weather make their joints feel better or worse.

The similarities do not end there, however, for in order for our library to be like a nursing home the books must suffer extensively in depressing conditions before passing away. Fortunately for our books, this happens frequently. The brittle pages of the Greek-English Lexicons on the third floor can attest to that perhaps more effectively than any other books in the library. This is so because – like many elderly who are forgotten in nursing homes – the lexicons are only visited when something is desperately needed.

A brief walk through the library reveals an obscene number of old and unused – but still useful, informative and interesting – books simply wasting away on the shelves.

Don’t believe me? Try the second floor, second shelf from the back, and look for “The Cambridge History of Poland.”

As it turns out, the books are like our elderly in another way. If you want a good story, they are perfectly happy to provide it.

The pages of these old books – worn down and torn apart by time – splinter, fracture and break in the hands of the untrained or incautious student. If dropped down the stairs, one could expect to see a broken spine accompanying the shattered and torn interior.

The fragility, however, does not change their utility. Anyone who has spent time in the section of the fourth floor devoted to Percy Bysshe Shelley knows how fascinating some of the aged books can be. Their content may have been rendered redundant by time; but, if you have ever wondered how scholarship got from point A to point B, volumes thought “useless” are often the most useful.

These, however, are often the documents that get thrown away during the occasional shelf-clearing purge in the library.

In this time of financial difficulty, I understand that it is incredibly unlikely that Falvey will get the retrofitting it desperately needs to preserve some of these books.

I also know that shelf space is at a premium in our library. But by removing these volumes from our collection we harm the scholars who come after us. The topics within these books may be esoteric – or even useless to everyone but one enterprising historiographer – but they are still valuable.

If Villanova wants to be a nationally ranked University, maybe it should consider giving itself a library worthy of such a ranking.

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Charles Myers is a junior political science, history and philosophy major from Elkins Park, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]