Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm Back

I'm currently sitting in the Reference Room of the Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan, and for the first time in twelve days, I feel at home in Ann Arbor.

I had to come to the library to check some references for the ridiculous weaving tools paper that I started way back in January. When I got to DS110 (the call number for books on archaeology in Israel), I found myself in a wonderland of knowledge, books I'd only dreamed about or heard of or never knew existed. DS110 at the University of Minnesota was rather pitiful, about six or seven shelves in total, and spread out among regular size, quartos, and folios to save shelf space by putting the tall books only with other tall books. DS110 at Michigan is at least 3-4 times as big. Minnesota, annoyingly, stopped obtaining archaeology books around 1980, and had the habit of only acquiring one or two of a series, ie the book on lamps from the City of David but nothing else. Then, you had to engage in a big fight with the interlibrary loan system to convince it that you needed City of David IV, and the one in the collection was City of David II. Here at Hatcher, serials are prettily lined up in rows because they're all here! Plus all the Atiquots, Tel Avivs, Palestine Exploration Quarterlies... heaven. Just heaven. And that was before I turned around and discovered all the books on Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

Granted, I could always ILL this stuff, and often did. But as great as the modern computerized card catalogue is, and as helpful as bibliographies are, sometimes visually perusing the shelves is necessary in order to find just the right source. For example, I found a 2008 book called Textile Production in Pre-Roman Italy (in GN799, not DS110, just to be clear) which looks to be relevant and beneficial to the weaving tools project.

The move has been overwhelming in many ways, full of "we're not in Minnesota anymore, Toto" moments. With three and a half weeks between my arrival and the start of classes, I've had a fair amount of time to think about just what I'm getting myself into, not just for the next 5-7 years, but conceivably for the rest of my life. And I've had some doubts, to be honest. But my little sojourn this morning reawakened some passion and excitement, like a little reminder ribbon of who I am and why I'm here. I'm not in Michigan to sit at the DMV for three hours, or to discover the local grocery stores don't carry Rosetto tortellini or the small size of frozen pizza or Mrs Renfro's black bean salsa, or even to go visit my sister only four hours away. The reason I'm here is to utilize the books in DS110 and elsewhere to learn new things and discover new ways to think about those things. And maybe, just maybe, influence the way others perceive and interpret those things as well.

Speaking of, I suppose I should get started on just that.