Like a Child in a Candy Store…

8 02 2007

Sydney University is giving away books.

You read that correctly.

The entire Undergraduate Collection at Fisher Library (thousands of books!) are being handed away for absolutely nothing to postgrads and academics. A man behind a desk on level 9 sits there from 9:00-5:00 and checks student cards and identification – the level is out of bounds to all those who are neither academics nor postgraduate students at the university. Inside – glory of glories! – rows of shelves stand solemnly and offer up their unguarded treasures to greedy, snatching hands.

I took thirty-one.

I may go back again tomorrow for, as tomorrow is the final day of this free-fest extravaganza, it is not too bad an idea that I return. I have to go in regardless, just to photocopy my hand-outs for this AAJS Conference on Sunday (gasp!) so I may as well appease my restless soul with some more free literature. What have I taken so far, you ask? Well.

Of the thirty-one books, eleven were not in English. Five were in Hebrew (a new book of Yehuda Amichai’s beautiful poetry; a new Rabbinic Bible: just the Megillot; a book of pre-Biblical inscriptions [Hebrew and Greek – replete with plates!]; a critical edition of Ben Sirah; AND – the best of all – Yigael Yadin’s official publication of the Ben Sirah fragments from Masada, plates included). Five of the books were also in Greek (Critical editions of the LXX for Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles) and one of them was in Syriac (a new Peshitta: just the Pentateuch).

Of the twenty English books, fourteen were directly related to the Hebrew Bible. Two of those thirteen constituted Structuralist interpretations of the Bible (one of them including contributions by Barthes himself), three of them were of an historical nature (Albright, De Vaux and Herrmann – marvelous maximalists, all), and eight of them involved either critical, compositional or lexicographic analyses of the text (including one by Milgrom on the nature of the `Asham).

Of the remaining six texts, only two were related to Semitic (Barr’s wonderful The Semantics of Biblical Language and a collection of Ugaritic texts translated by C.H. Gordon). I also took an introductory text on syntax, a rather complicated-looking text on the semantics and pragmatics of discourse, an 800-page Greek reference grammar from the 1920s, and a collection of essays entitled, Scientists Confront Creationism. Most unfortunately, it contains nothing by the wonderful Dawkins, but it does contain an essay by his erstwhile antagonist, the late Stephen Jay Gould.

They have all been placed in their appropriate positions on my shelves, allowing for some confusion regarding the placement of certain texts. Do Structuralist analyses of the Bible belong in Philosophy or in Biblical Studies? Does the publication of the Ben Sirah fragments from Masada belong together with the Qumranic texts? Does the scientific rejection of Creationism belong in Science or Religion? And so on and so forth. I was happily able to spend the better part of the afternoon today contemplating such important issues, and can now go back to writing up the paper that I’m going to be presenting this Sunday.

Oh, how we procrastinate.




8 responses

9 02 2007

You lucky bastard.

10 02 2007
tim bulkeley

Why? (Of course I’m envious, naturally I value electronic texts and publications, but why get rid oc a resource like this?)

10 02 2007
Simon Holloway

I know, it doesn’t make much sense to me either. They should have opened the collection up to the general public and charged between $2 and $5 a book. With thousands of books, they would have made a fortune. At the very least, if they don’t think that they need the money, they could have given it to a charity of some description – even if that charity was inwards-focused, like another scholarship to help someone who cannot afford to study full-time.

At the end of the day, I don’t think that they really thought too deeply about it. They only wanted one copy of each text so they got rid of the undergraduate library as a means of fulfilling that rather strange goal. Good luck to them. My room looks better now, thanks to their thoughtless generosity.

11 02 2007

So undergrads will no longer have access to those books? Seems a little unfair to them…

11 02 2007
Simon Holloway

The books that were given away were all books of which the university already has at least one other copy. Turns out that that which they did not get rid of will be being sold after all: I will be sure to attend the book fete too!

So far as undergrads are concerned (bless them), they’re now getting more priveleges than ever before. It means that I get to feel less special for being a postgrad (the 8-week renewable loans that postgrads always got are now given to everybody), but it is probably fairer this way.

28 02 2007
Joel Nothman

Jealous. I somehow managed to miss the sale of a local Montreal synagogue’s library… And I was told about it. I think I stupidly excused it by a busy week and heavy luggage…

28 02 2007
Simon Holloway

There were those who missed out on this one for the same reason. I can understand that. Although I did have to both ship and schlepp a total of four-hundred-and-something books home to Australia when the time came for me to leave Israel.

Maybe I have an addiction…

1 03 2007 » One person’s rubbish is another person’s…

[…] able to grab as he wished from the USyd Library Undergraduate Collection, as he described, “Like a child in a candy store…“, collecting 31 […]

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