Carnegie Library: Access to Journals
If you are a scientist coming from a large American University, and not a French scientist arriving at Cold Spring Harbor, you would not be able to appreciate what a pleasure the Carnegie Library can provide. Twenty-four hours a day access to journals! Direct access to the stacks! Air conditioning in the reading room! Laura Hyman and Susan Cooper ready to be of help without having to first flatter and coax them in order to obtain assistance! Photocopiers available for preparing course materials! No, you, the Americans, take all this for granted. And you expect all journals to be present in any respectable university library.
In Paris, before the arrival of the World Wide Web, in order to get the same material in a science library open to the public you had to pass through a librarian at the desk, request a maximum of two or three bound journals, wait about 15 minutes, at which time they would be delivered to you at your table and you would find that the title which led you to believe that the article would be relevant to your interests was entirely misleading. So another three bound journals would have to be requested, and the procedure started once again. No photocopying, so pen and paper were your only way to save the information for later consultation.
This also, of course, required going from the home laboratory to the other side of town for this frustrating operation. Being American from an Ivy League university where access to journals was total, I found this highly unnerving. The other possibility was to go to another "personal" library in some other laboratory where a professor shared some of your interests, who had in his private collection some journals you would like to peruse. This again required travel and no access to a photocopier...once again a day or an afternoon lost for 3-4 journal articles.
So when we arrived at Cold Spring Harbor, the Carnegie Library was one of our favorite havens. What amazed us the most was that in spite of the fact that our arrival at Cold Spring coincided with that of the arrival of the neuroscience program on the campus, a full range of relevant journals had already been acquired by the Lab. This kind of efficiency was not one we knew of first hand.