I was here for just one month, but I know that I must say something about this awesome place, I know it deserves a lot of words, and beautiful ones, and I don’t know how to do because beautiful words about this very place were written by Aubreymcfato, so it’s better to just read those, since I 100% agree.
To begin, just let me play for a moment the role of the hardcore librarian: I must admit that the first impact with the library was weird. I was hoping that in the Kingdom of Open Access and Open Data the library had lot to show and teach; but I found that the seminal experience of the Open Bibliographic Data was a project stuck in 2009. I thought I found myself in a happy island, and it’s true, because the library is an island: it doesn’t participate to any collaborative cataloguing initiative, and catalogs every book from scratch, without taking advantage of any authority file or other existing bibliographic network. The major activites focus on the implementation of the database InSpire, which displays efforts justified by its importance.
But this is not a weakness, because the library works, it is appreciated, it is quite busy. Of course it is not immune from politics and hyerarchies, like any other place; the development of CDS itself is determined by the IT department, which is in a separate building far away (technically another state!) and this slows down the workflows. But people don’t seem to lose too much sleep on it. It is an happy island: it knows its community and shapes itself around it. It belongs to the core of the entire compound. It is a living place.
As Aubrey writes, the most beautiful thing, what you keep in your heart when you leave, are the faces, the people, their calm, their lack of arrogance, a pervasive serenity caused by the knowledg of being doing a good work surrounded by smart people, by trust and help. The german librarian, when we said goodbye, told us: “here is good place to work. Everybody starts shy and grav, but after few days people bloom“. A nice expression which struck me with its natural beauty.
Yeah, the people. Besid the librarians, friendly, funny, knowledgeable, kind, brilliant, humble, open, I met an engeneer who built the accelerators of the last 30 years, and a young PhD student dealing with the math for the next one; I helped an old Nobel prize to find an article, and shared a coffee with a young particle physic; I tried to speak french with the chefs in the restaurant, and drank aqvavit with the norwegian librarian and a merry professor who told us when he argued with Einstein; I looked at the young students and researchers rumble to get into the room where the seminar about the updates on the search of the Higgs Boson was held, while I was going to buy a TShirt with a formula which I don’t understand.
A lot of people, of all ages and from all nations, coming here among the Alps, on the border between two states, all together, like once they used to do in Alexandria, to share knowledge and conversations, to collaborate to the advancement of science.
And here I must quote Aubrey again:
I never found myself before in such a place of brains and diversity, and the idea of being a part of this community, even for just one month, really thrills me.
Yes, being part of all this, having lunch every day among 10000 people, even for a short time, even as the last one, was good. Knowing that the library is part of all this machinery too, knowing that even the smallest of the 10000 is not meaningless, and every single work trustfully relies on the work of others:
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Did he not have even a cook with him?(Bertolt Brecht, Questions from a worker who reads)
Even the young engeneer who guided us in the tour, when explaining how the accelerators work and what the experiments are for, he spoke using the plural “we”, even if his job was far from the tunnel and the particles.
Everyone here speak as “we”. This doens’t happen everywhere. We should make it happen, wherever we are, whoever we have around.