Dear Butler Library librarians and staff, Milstein librarians, any individuals involved in moving Barnard’s collections to Milstein, and, finally, anybody who considers himself or herself a patron of the famous Unicorn Tapestries,
I have to sincerely offer you my apologies.
Butler Library sometimes seems like a maze with moving decor—the movement of books and students against the fixed background of the library means that we almost never come across identical study spaces (after a reasonable period of time). There’s always a book which some student discarded lazily, or some other student sitting in your seat, or used coffee cups waiting to be knocked over.
And that should be so. Such variability means everything is working well, with new students having taken study spots, old books returned, new books read, and meaningful work produced. It would beggar belief to sit down in Butler 209 and realize, “Hey, I studied here a year ago. Here are all the books I took out, basically unmoved.”
But that’s exactly the situation in which I found myself this weekend. After randomly choosing a study carrel on the 8th floor of Butler, I recognized the large and expensive books which lay flat on the cabinet above—all the books I had used for my ArtHum term paper on the Unicorn Tapestries, which I wrote a year ago. Thanks to my library rudeness, a set of important texts collected dust for nearly a year.
And these were not just replaceable books. They were the sum physical knowledge regarding the Tapestries, multiple versions of the catalogs produced by the Met Cloisters, as well as tangential texts on domestic tapestry use and Medieval fashion. I had taken them, did not check them out, and abandoned them in the dark.
Worse, they were part of the Barnard collection. Not only were they untracked and lost outside their library room, but now they were also gone from their rightful library building.
And that’s why I’d like to apologize.
I can only hope my placement of the texts—once I realized my crimes—in an indiscreet location on Butler 6 begins to absolve me of my sins. Until they are returned to their rightful place, I hope the collective staff of Butler and Milstein, as well as the art aficionados, critics, and researchers at Columbia can forgive me.
A Butler Patron
Unicorn tapestry in question via The Met