The Reference Department

We Eleventh Stack bloggers come from different departments and branches, but my work home is in the Reference Services Department at Main Library.  When I moved to Pittsburgh, before I began working here, I found the second floor of the library to be a little confusing and intimidating.  That big reference room in the middle; the stacks with those tile and glass floors…it was all a lot to take in at first.  But then I started working here, and lost that feeling of being overwhelmed by everything.  When you spend a lot of time in a place, you also start to take for granted how amazing that place is.  Every now and then, when I’m sitting at the reference desk I’m struck by what a gorgeous place I work in.  Not many people can go to work every day in a building that has murals, marble steps that dip in the center from the thousands of feet that have worn them down, and books all around them.  For those of you who might not be as familiar with our Reference Services Department, I thought I’d share a few pictures.

Card catalogs in the International Poetry Room.

Card catalogs in the International Poetry Room.

Even though our catalog has been online for years, we still retain some of the old catalogs.  This picture shows the catalog that lines the wall in the International Poetry Room, and believe it or not we still use this occasionally!  This file contains records of our science and technology collection, and sometimes if we aren’t having much luck finding something on, say, the Pittsburgh steel industry, we’ll turn here to see what we can dig up.

Some of our new nonfiction titles.

Some of our new nonfiction titles.

When you walk upstairs, you’ll find yourself in a hallway lined with books.  This is where we keep a display of new titles of note.  You can find bestsellers and other popular new books on the First Floor, but look for things like new literary criticism, religion, or history books here.

This mural is based on a title page from a book published by Balthasar Moretus in 1654.

This mural is based on a title page from a book published by Balthasar Moretus in 1654.

The Reference room itself is one of my favorite places in the library. The entire room is circled with mural panels, ornate plaster work, and high ceilings.  The murals depict early European printers’ marks: marks which served to prove that a book was the product of a certain publishing house.  It’s easy to let your eye skim right by these murals as you look at shelf after shelf of reference books, or try to find a free computer or empty table, but next time you’re in have a look.  Stop at the reference desk if you’re interested in learning what each one depicts.

We've got books.

We’ve got books.

You might have found yourself on the second floor because you wanted a quiet place to read or study, because you wanted to work on a computer or plug in your laptop at one of our tables, or to locate a book.  The Main Library has three levels of open stacks: the first floor, where you’ll find fiction, teen fiction, and cookbooks, and the mezzanine and second floor, where you’ll find the bulk of our circulating nonfiction collection.  Religion, history, philosophy, business, law, fitness, and social sciences are all on the mezzanine.  Literary criticism, music, science, health, language learning, gardening, and craft books are on the second floor.  As a bonus, you can even see the dinosaurs in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History from the second floor windows!



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3 responses to “The Reference Department

  1. Steph

    It was just this weekend that I figured out I could sit on a windowsill with my book and look out over the dinosaurs. All the parents with little kids were pointing everywhere and telling them to look! I wonder how many were pointing at me, the person in the window above them. The second floor is pretty sweet.

  2. Sheila

    The catalog in the Poetry Room from Sci-Tech is called a “Class Catalog”. It is for pre -1972 Dewey Decimal books and is arranged by strict Dewey call number, not by subject as you would find in a typical card catalog. In other words it is arranged as books would be found on the shelf. There is a subject section to identify what “classification” you would browse in in looking up a specific topic. This charming anachronism is has been kept as it is the singular access to isolated sections of the science and technology books from this era as they have not been reconverted into the online catalog. Only a few class catalogs still exist although they were often found in libraries in days gone by. Someday soon?

  3. Pingback: It’s Called Gratitude (And That’s Right)! | Eleventh Stack

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