An Assortment

Broadcast basketball games throughout the entire library so that there’s not such a crowd at the front desk. Ans.: We’ve measured the card catalog area and have concluded that a basketball court would fit. Negotiations over the gate share are underway with the Athletic Department.

How do you organize your thoughts — in LC or Dewey?

Ans.: Good point. Excessive organization invariably interferes with the creative instinct we all possess. Why not, then, randomize the book collections and let people browse among them. The result would be a genuine serendipity.

Who’s in charge here, anyway?

Ans.: Students, of course, are in charge. It doesn’t seem that way because for various reasons they’ve relinquished the reins.

Where do I go to order a Medium rare book?

Ans.: Go to the carry-out window out back of Rare Books and place your order. The staff in Rare Books can provide you numerous medium rare authors to choose among.

What’s a good 10-minute recipe that will feed a party of 20 people?

Ans.: Check out 20 books for a spiritual feed.

How do you get to be a really important person (like Coach K, Mr. Rogers, or Captain Kangaroo)? Do I really need all of this education to do it?

Ans.: The public’s approval or disapproval of one’s “importance” should be incidental to the well lived life. Education should matter more for the individual than for being important.

Who suggested the suggestion book?

Ans.: The idea came from the University of Colorado. We may be the only Library now that does it this way. Some do have more advanced approaches such as electronic bulletin boards.

Why is this called a suggestion book? It seems that people only use it to find answers to intellectually probing questions.

Ans.: Every now and then someone suggests we do something; sometimes this comes disguised as a question.

Why is it we have 4 million books, but the ones I need are never here!

Ans.: Fake out the system — pick a topic no one else could possibly be working.

How do they get the Ms on M&Ms?

Ans.: During their off-seasons, Santa’s elves and the Easter Bunny’s helpers hand paint each M&M. This explains both the seasonal shortages of M&Ms and the occasional fingerprint one encounters.

Why does the library have such heavy copper doors?

Ans.: Architecturally splendid, the doors are station 6 in the University’s “wellness trail.” The aerobic results of leaving and entering the building 20 times in 3 minutes are truly astonishing. Charles Atlas is envious.

So who does profit off of the poverty of student life?

Ans.: Visit OSU at Columbus, Ohio, with a college student population in excess of 50,000 for part of your answer. Private, run-down, housing for students has made some realtors into multi-millionaires. On the other hand, poverty may turn to profit for the individual if one believes that “sweet are the uses of adversity.”

Do you stock Undergrad repellent? I’d like to spray my carrel to keep the pesky critters away when I’m not there, so I won’t have to chase them away every day.

Ans.: We’ll see if we can bottle it once we discover the right mix of ingredients. Besides essence of hacky-sack, scent of keg and tanning oil, and a heavy dose of mindlessness, what ingredient do you suggest?

One of the small tragedies of my life is that nobody has ever asked me for the time at 6:42, thus depriving me of a chance to use my favorite George Carlin line: “It’s 9:00 in Denver, it’s 10:00 in Chicago, it’s 11:00 in New York, in Baltimore it’s 6:42. O Great Oracle of the Suggestion Book, what do you suggest I do to give myself the opportunity life has long denied me? You see, this line would only be funny at 6:42!

Ans.: You could dress up like Alice’s rabbit and run in and out of the lobby around that time; someone is bound to ask you a time-related question along with others to ascertain your “construct of reality.”

Why do they call Grape Nuts Grape Nuts? There’s nothing grape about them!

Ans.: Grape Nuts (breakfast cereal by General Foods) — The cereal was the invention of Charles Post, who three years earlier had developed the ‘food-cum-drink’ which he was to market as Postum Cereal. Grape Nuts was perfected in 1897 as a breakfast cereal made of baked wheat and malted barley. Post named it for its nutty flavor and because he believed (mistakenly) that grape sugar — a familiar name for dextrose — was formed during the baking process. Like Postum, Grape Nuts was originally marketed as a ‘health food’.

Perkins Library has to be the strangest building I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. It seems infinitely larger inside than it does on the outside, and the stacks seem like a surrealist’s best nightmare! Keep up the weird work!

Ans.: Because of your perceptive insights consider yourself a full member of the Perkins Partisans.

I only have three weeks before I graduate. I want to leave Duke in a blaze of glory. Suggestions?

Ans.: Strap yourself to a 6 foot Roman candle, light it, and do 4 laps around the stadium track.

Who is OTIS and where did he learn to make elevators?

Ans.: According to the National Russian Encyclopedia, Otis Ivanovich invented elevators shortly after the people’s revolution. Subsequently, the idea and technology were stolen by capitalists to exploit the laboring masses by reducing time to and from the workplace.

Is there really a phantom that lives in the stacks? If so which level? I think he stole my pencil once, but returned it before I realized it.

Ans.: Yes, the freshman phantom (’55) is often sighted in the old stacks, around level 8. A Duke blue beanie with propeller is her hallmark. Sometimes she terrorizes other frenzied frosh in the X Pers by dislocating magazines, tearing out pages, and knocking out the photocopiers.

Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?

Ans.: Humankind’s perversity is boundless.

If you are driving down the highway at the speed of light and you turn on your headlights does anything happen?

Ans.: Your odometer begins to hum something appropriate to the occasion.

Oh great library oracle. how does this library ward off the dust that settles like the sands of time on most mortal volumes?

Ans.: The assiduous attention of a dozen+ custodians helps considerably. The dusting of books is still practiced, from time to time, at Duke. Also, unlike many northern libraries, air conditioning has long been a feature in southern research libraries. This cleans the air and helps decrease the deterioration of books through excessive heat and humidity.

Why is there a cord on the back of the model of the Chapel (over there) and why isn’t it hooked up? The Chapel isn’t electrified, is it?

Ans.: Elementary, my dear Watson. A light bulb inside illuminates the windows. Alas, the accompanying heat does damage to the structure, hence the light remains extinguished.

Nice sign about No Pets! Did you have trouble with people bringing their dogs in?

Ans.: You mean the dog-height one on the front door? A long time ago, in the distant era of the “Quad Dog,” dogs appeared hourly in the library. Lately, few dogs can be seen anywhere on campus.

Why are librarians 20 years behind the fashions? Not just Duke librarians but all librarians?

Ans.: If they are indeed 20 years behind, they are then 10 years ahead since fashions recycle every 30 or so years.

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop?

Ans.: Just enough, as long as one’s teeth show restraint.

What happens if you have a major overdue book fine, and you are a senior and emigrate to Cuba? Will you follow me to the ends of the earth? Will this affect my credit rating?

Ans.: Your name and description goes to “Fat Albert” (the Navy blimp in the Florida Keys) with a “find and penalize designation” for its Bolt from the Blue program.

I just paid $8.40 in library fines because I never returned the book (obviously) until now. Should I have realized my own laziness when I planned to take the book out in November and just bought it? The book was a copy of Macbeth.

Ans.: Apart from the economic aspect, there is that more important one of depriving others of this material. We use fines to minimize the latter. A paperback of Macbeth can be had for probably less than $5.

Given that the tuition has risen 82% already since I started my degree, that the undergraduate financial aid budget seems to be consumed entirely by the cost of all the glossy brochures describing how great the financial aid here is, that the University is proposing a(nother) 8% tuition hike, when, according to the Duke Archives, was the last siting of the University’s sense of shame?

Ans.: “Shame” is a topic not represented in the Dewey decimal classification scheme. Would “guilt” do instead?

If money doesn’t grow on trees, why do banks have branches?

Ans.: To prove that even bankers are capable of poetical metaphors.

Could it be arranged so that library fines can be put on an American Express account? (Or would this be flaunting my affluence?)

Ans.: Wouldn’t you rather buy a Library Bond? Someone like you, no doubt, is interested in tax shelters and this is one of the best for the undivested student. The Bond’s tax free interest is used as automatic credit for fines which are then counted as a business loss — another tax deduction! We’re floating, er, rather issuing a slew, ahem, an offering of these this week. Only students with substantial portfolios of overdues will be considered. Remember our motto: “We’re peckish on Perkins!”

Today is 6/25/87, and I have just earned my Duke diploma by completing a 1/2 credit summer course in weight training. It was hard (those weights are slow learners) but I’ve done it, and someday when I’m rich & famous you’ll display this entry in Perkins’ lobby. J.A.S.

Ans.: Congratulations on your graduation. Your comments will be prominently displayed (and gladly so) next to the plaque commemorating the establishment of the J.A.S. multi-million dollar library endowment.

If Durham is the target of a nuclear strike — do we get a day off from classes to rebuild?

Ans.: In the event of a nuclear attack all students will be suspended, literally, figuratively and permanently.

What happens if you lose a book from the late 1800s that is considered irreplaceable. Will the library demand your first born in return?

Ans.: The punishment will preclude any concern over your first-born.

How in the world can a library with 4,000,000 volumes use the Dewey Decimal system? It’s ridiculous. Signed, student #929.000563002 L567H

Ans.: Probably the same reason the University of Illinois can for their over 7 million books.

Peace, love & happiness!

Ans.: Thank you and the same to you.

Whether they ever find life there or not, I think Jupiter should be considered an enemy planet. Do you concur?

Ans.: A pamphlet in our Rizzini collection of esoterica bearing an imprint of 1610 and the signature of a Rudy Galileo suggests that the Jupiterites will invade Earth in 1984. How? you ask. Most deviously and demonically. These crafty extraterrestrials will be disguised six packs of Tab and Mountain Dew and bags of Pepperidge Farm cookies seeking to immobilize us through obesity. To stem the invasion all of us must do our part; immediately all back packs entering Perkins will be searched for these alien beings.

Please help me. What is the real difference between a “queef” and a “felch.”

Ans.: These luminaries, observed in the southern skies in the early mornings, make up the lower toe of Orion and the outer extremity of Hercules’ club. Carl Sagan is said to have embroidered inside his corduroy jacket the difference between the two.

Where are my pants?

Ans.: They are usually between your waist and shoes. Their absence could mean either you are dreaming a standard type dream or you are about to be escorted off campus.

What happened to the Grad reading room? Where did they take it?

Ans.: Extra-terrestrials landed on the Duke campus August 8, 1993 at 2030 and departed shortly thereafter. The Graduate Reading Room was gone! The only traces of this sinister force were green slime oozing out into the second floor stacks and the night watchman’s scorched trousers. He wasn’t in them.

I’m a lowly second semester Freshman wondering why J-frosh are getting all the attention around here? Also, why does David Letterman always wear blue blazers and tennis shoes on T.V.?

Ans.: It’s the “new kid on the block syndrome,” pretty soon they merge with the mass. Re your sartorial question, surely it’s slimming.

Did you ever wonder why Texas is so big. It even looks bigger than Alaska on a map.

Ans.: Because Rand McNally is owned by a Texas corporation, both Alaska and Brazil are represented at different scales than the Lone Star State.

As I left the library today, I was attacked by the pre-exam fear (a.k.a. Orgo-itis). Please install a barf bag and bed somewhere near the front door for those pre-meds among us who can’t find the courage to face the infamous Chem 151 torture tests!

Ans.: Would listening booths with encouraging speeches from Winston Churchill and fireside chats with F.D. Roosevelt help?

Help! I’m becoming a slave of technology!

Ans.: Open your dorm room window and pitch out your P.C., phone, electric pencil sharpener, hot plate, Mr. Coffee, VCR, and stereo with compact disk onto the marveling crowd below. A less dramatic protest would be to open an old book, feel the pages, marvel at the type, and read.

What’s the purpose of those miniature metal ironing boards that are in many of the women’s bathroom stalls???

Ans.: They are for launching various offensive missiles into other stalls. For example, wet toilet paper wads or hacky-sacks. Affecting the proper arc instead of hitting the ceiling takes months of practice, probably accounting for the paucity of masters of this arcane martial art. In despair and frustration, most people simply place their books on them.

Is it true what goes on in the Rare Book Room from 11pm-12am Sunday Nights? And why is there no rare student room? I just cannot find a suitable niche.

Ans.: Yes, it is true. There are only medium and well-done students. Congratulations on spelling niche correctly.

Can people who write these requests be required to put in a picture of themselves? I’d like to meet some of them …

Ans.: Some of their pictures are already on display in Post Offices.

Why do squirrels chase one another?

Ans.: To avoid insertion into Brunswick stew, a Southern aspect of haute cuisine.

Is there any truth in the rumor that there is a new race of lemmings that are born with orange life preservers attached to their bodies?

Ans.: Yes. Some say that this genetically improved strain of lemmings confirms evolutionary theory. Others, such as Oris Grunigen in the J. of Lemm. Res. (vol. 43:303) say this is “bunk!” He is seeking to produce a parachute-equipped lemming.

Why does DUFS put the hamburgers on the wrong side of the bun, i.e., upside down? Why are all the buns stale? Why doesn’t the sky fall in??

Ans.: Inside out hamburgers are probably a sign of protest. Like postal employees who, reportedly, crush packages labeled “Fragile” or assembly line workers who flush oranges down toilets to flood factory bathrooms. Why the sky doesn’t fall in under these circumstances is indeed a wonder.

Stop letting silly people (like the one who wrote the last group of questions) exist. We need more conformity — it’s way past 1984, and we’re way behind schedule. Remember — “Peace is War.”

Ans.: A Thought Police member is stationed behind Mr. Perkins’ picture. He is looking at you now as you read this.

“What exactly is the difference between a duck?” asked Harold timidly.

Ans.: Sarah responded in a most diffident manner that she didn’t rightly know. Then, boldly without any hesitation, “Why would you even want to know?

Can you be your brother’s daughter?

Answer from another patron: Yes, if your parents are a woman and one of her sons, and you are female.

Ans.: Yes, if you live in a holler and play the banjo.

Have you ever thought about analyzing the handwriting of people who write in here? You could probably write an anthro paper on it.

Ans.: We note you printed your question. What are you hiding?

Who can I call when I want to have a good time in the library?

Ans.: It depends on your definition of a “good time.” Intellectually speaking it’s always party time in the Reference Department and counterpart in Public Documents. For those in for a real thrill lick your chops over a few rare books (no drooling please!) in the RBR.

When are Sam Wagoner, Don Eudy and John C. Brooks coming again (see elevator cert.) and when can we get their autographs?

Ans.: They’ll be back soon. If you get to the State Fair in Raleigh this week, before the rhubarb preserves judging and after the gerbils-as-food competition. Say “hey” for us.

If you stand on main quad near the small monument on the ground in front of the Duke statue and look over the roof above the undergraduate reserve room you see a small tower with a single window in it. Could you please tell where (in what room or hall, etc.) this is located and how to get to it. This really bugs me!

Ans.: It’s the Spinning Wheel Room; its current inhabitant, having pricked her finger, is a sleeping member of the Trinity Class of 1887. She is listed in the appendix to the class registers. In hopes of her awakening someday, the Alumni Office continues to send her mail and the growing stacks (annual giving, Capital campaign, Friends of the Library, etc.) create insurmountable barriers to any aspiring Prince Charming.

What is that tower over the library? really! Tell me the truth. No silly stories!

Ans.: OK, just this once. All towers, etc. are filled with faculty offices.

I have a question about procrastination, but I’ll ask later.

Ans.: The answer is in the mail.

How does one attain the spiritual achievement more commonly known as being on the library roof?

Ans.: Swami Bwowagon will, for the price of a Rolls Royce, enlighten you, both figuratively and literally. See his summer school catalog under “Ascension.”

Hello Silvie. Whass s’up? Wu dis?

Ans.: That’s correct; do not use this approach when interviewing for a corporate position after graduation.

How can we save the quad grass from dying during the summer heat? How can we help out the poor quad squirrels who seem to be asphyxiating in the heat? Where are all the quad dogs during the summer??

Ans.: The Quad Dogs, each summer, go to Vinal Haven Island off the Maine Coast and stay at the estate of an illustrious and generous Duke alum. They take part in croquet, sea kayaking, badminton, and other summer folk activities.

Why does haute couture not exist for men?

Ans.: What’s that!? You mean I’ve got to return my mini-skirt?

What do you do with a girl who has chicken legs?

Ans.: Talk to the Colonel. Sister Mary out on Highway 70 can get you in touch with him in the everafter.

A couple of weeks ago, I came to study in the basement here with my roommate. After a few hours, I returned, but my roommate never did. My question is, what do you do with students found lying in the basement?

Ans.: Your roommate was caught engaged in an illicit act. After receiving a fair trial before the Food and Drink Tribunal, he was found guilty and turned over to the paper pulp factory. Normally, for the first offense, the punishment is force-feeding of Moon Pies and mayonnaise-saturated Wonder Bread. But your roommate’s egregious mixing of Mountain Dew, Slim Jims, and M&Ms and slobbering on a library book shocked the Tribunal into making an example of him.

Are the traffic circles on campus really perfect 360 degree circles?

Ans.: They should be since Campus Drive was placed in between the two existing “crop” rings. Old timers still talk of the bright lights (lasers) that cold night in February out in the tobacco fields decades ago – when the cigar shaped hovering object flitted away (“just like a bodacious large firefly” one said). All that remained were two perfect circled burns into the ground. Nothing has ever grown there since.

What’s the deal with the large white rocks with green clovers on them on the way to the Engineering building?

Ans.: Leprechauns, of course, paint these each St. Paddy’s day. There is no truth to the fraternity’s claim that they do this as a service project each spring.

Update from an Engineering professor: The Engineering School student service organization, the Order of St. Patrick, was initiated in 1945 and painted the rocks about 1947 to mark the path to the then new red brick Engineering Building. With no lights in the pathway area, the white rocks reflected the moonlight to guide students walking to the building. The four-leaf clover is the symbol of the order of St. Patrick.

Are the cards in the card catalogue in any particular order?

Ans.: Yes, in humanoid order.

When one wakes up in the middle of the night, why does one’s digital clock always read an “odd numbered” time like 3:51 or 4:09 or 5:21?

Ans.: Digital clocks were outlawed in 1984; if you have one and are not hallucinating, take it post haste to the Post Office for exchange. Don’t let the 60-day mandatory psychiatric counseling daunt you; it’s for your own good.

If you throw books over the alarm gates & then run under it (& through the gate doors) and catch it on the other side, will you get away with a stolen book? — Criminal minds want to know!

Ans.: Possibly, if you can evade the 290 pound linebacker in the exhibit area. If you do, apply immediately to Coach Wilson, in the Football Office.

I think the book-theft device scrambles my brain.

Ans.: Put that down in the next blue book exam you write; it ought to be worth a few points.

Is the Pope really a CIA operative?

Ans.: Probably not, but I’ve got my doubts about Santa Claus. How else would he know who’s been naughty or nice?

Why do people call organic chemistry ORGO when there is no second “o” anywhere in the words? Why not ORGA?

Ans: We’ll ask our Chemistry Librarian.

Update from Chemistry Librarian: The origins are lost in the mists of time.

People tell me that to feel comfortable in public situations, it’s often helpful to picture everyone naked; but when I think of the librarians here it only frightens me out of the building. What should I do?

Ans.: Think about applying this confidence building technique in any work place and one could flee screaming, not just from libraries. Then again, laughter is the more likely response than fright, so the approach may be worthwhile.

Animals have hair all over — so why does human hair concentrate on our heads? And while I’m asking, what is the purpose of eyebrows?

Ans.: Eyebrows are for frowning, showing surprise, and catching dandruff. Humans have hair all over, it’s vestigial. Probably, why the head still has its crowning glory is related to hair’s insulating ability. Hair may have some role in maintaining the body’s homeostasis. If the above sound vaguely vague award yourself 12 good thinking points and check in the Academic American Encyclopedia under HAIR.

Am I going to be employed some where come May?

Ans.: Shake the crystal ball! Murky! The focus improves momentarily: we see someone below a pair of yellow arches picking up colored balls amidst numerous children. Whoops, let’s shake the old ball one more time. Ah, this is more like it. A corporate car and phone, but what’s in the trailer?

Does the library administration do everything dictated in this book? OR do they ever think for themselves?

Ans.: In the most traditional administrative, bureaucratic style, we resist any suggestion, especially those that require changing how we go about doing things; doubly so when such suggested changes may save the time of our student and faculty users. On occasion, because of potential embarrassment, we do adopt suggestions but then only when no other option is available.