Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Room of Requirement

This isn't just one of the most classically beautiful rooms I've ever visited, it has an impeccable pedigree.

During my recent visit to Stanford University I found myself with several free hours on my hands, so I was in the market for a pleasant place on campus to do some reading and catch up on email. As in all things Stanford, my professor friend and Cardinal expert David P. had an excellent suggestion.

There's a reading room on the fifth floor of the Bing Wing of the Green Library, he explained, that is among the more ideal places on earth to relax. And was he right. With soft leather couches, easy chairs, broad wooden tables, speedy wi-fi signal, shelves full of excellent books, Oriental rugs, sunlight streaming through elegant skylights, tasteful lamps, scenic views of "the farm" (Stanford campus), and an open, inviting layout, this aesthete's delight is about as perfect an answer to a specific request as I've ever gotten.

Interestingly, after twenty years on the Stanford campus, David himself only learned of the reading room in the past few months when a friend tipped him off. He's a math and computer guy who's toiled on the engineering and science side of campus since his undergrad days, eventually getting his Ph.D. in medical informatics (think CAT scans and cancer research), so he's never had much occasion to visit a humanities library like the Green. For him it was all about the science library, which I'll assume is known as the SciLi since everything at Stanford has a cool nickname: the Coffee House is the CoHo, the Florence Moore building is FloMo, frozen yogurt is froyo.

So when David recently asked a colleague to suggest a nice place on campus to sit and work away from their lab, and thus learned about the reading room, he couldn't believe that he'd never known about it. Although it's been sitting right there the whole time, it was an open secret unknown to him until he specifically went looking for it.

It felt to David like a Harry Potter moment. As our fellow Potterphiles know, when Harry needs a private room for a specific purpose (training his friends in magic spells, hiding something valuable, etc.) he repairs to a little-known hall in Hogwarts Castle that exists to help those who seek it, magically providing suitable materials and assuming the proper shape and size to meet the needs of its users. It's known as the Room of Requirement.

Since the reading room so perfectly answered David's request, he's come to think of it as the Room of Requirement. And since it so perfectly answered mine, so have I.

p.s. Thanks to David for letting me share this story. He has been overwhelmed by autograph seekers, groupies and fan clubs since receiving several mentions in this blog over the past few weeks, and after today it's only going to get worse. He might have to hide out in the Room of Requirement.

p.p.s. As a sumptuously comfortable place where students read or do homework, the Green Library reading room is also reminiscent of the Gryffindor common room.


Jenny Blair said...

Love it! Ben, let's talk soon. I'll call you back!

Ben said...

Thanks, doc. Are you coming into NYC in mid-Oct.? I gots me tix.