‘Access’ by Jan Hauters

We often take access to digital resources for granted. In this post, Jan Hauters, an online doctoral researcher who is also a poet, expresses his sense of joy, excitement and wonder at the vast digital library that is now available to him at UCL.

Image (C) animasuri’22

Access. From the moment I enrolled, I felt a virtual, metaphysical door opening. I have access now.

While most present-day digital libraries are void of Pascal’s pressure and the Earth’s electromagnetic weight as gravitation, the rite of access did feel as if a brass door; heavy and creaking –with gothic ornaments and gargoyles guarding its liminality– opened its sensual, visceral inners.

There was nothing digital nor cold about my virgin experience of UCL’s online library access. Nor was it flat, as a single yet textured page. Not as a platonic non-space of an algorithm nor string of encoded narratives.

My entrance into UCL’s online library felt 4D: space in multi-directional dynamics; multidimensional movement.

My first online entrance felt as if sitting smack in the middle of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, performing Beethoven’s 9th in the world-famous acoustics of 301 Massachusetts Avenue’s Symphony Hall: very specific, very located; very resonating.

Access to a resounding space, reverberating back at me with more than I could ever echo. There it was: the monolithic entrance, a bone-throw away into vast digital spaces of promised online learning.

Space is acoustics; acoustics reads the space; reading is sound; sound is logic; logic is words. Words are humane dialog in the spaces of our probability of becoming. That is the online library and I am smack in the middle of it; silently so with the others who are reading here ever-unknown of each of our avatared presence.

as if” is abundantly spread across this writing of mine. It is, triggered by the imagery found in Foucault and in the writings that hint lusciously of his Heterotopia. Although these thoughts and feelings are there, this is while this digital library, via UCL, is not a mere analogy nor reference to me. It is tangible and yet also otherworldly.

My username and password felt as if poetic lore. These two secretive strings were answering a riddle that had eloped away from me for years; ever since I moved to the country I live in now: a geographic space without a library space for my taste. Even its internet has special doors that most of its citizens shall not pass.

The internet is hiding libraries. My formal, official internet is hiding even more.

These spaces were not unknown unknowns to me. They were more like an orphaned book without its space to be read by the public (i.e. by me). I know it’s there somewhere. It’s simply very much compulsively guarded. I shall not pass, until now.

I have access, now, let the expectation and anxiety begin.

For the past few decades, I have had very little granted access to these spaces. While, due to such perceived information-access-drought, other means of access was eagerly or innovatively ventured. This I feel, as the “The library as Heterotopia…” suggests, is not merely as that English home with its elite library for sipping words and brandy. Elitism and snobbery are a few optional dimensions in this “mixed joint experience.”

The door giving access, or rather doors, I am hinting at, felt as if they were those granite passageways that needed a well-wintered well-tempered witch-wizard and her staff to touch the mountain’s steep face with some choreographed movement for it to appear to the mere mortal’s eyes.

Almost magically this access is. The access comes with a hint of conspiracy for the neurotic attributes in my thinking: that one large gate gave way to numerous other doors across the internet and into publishing houses; opening and spreading out across the networks of bytes and neurons alike, as if butter melting on a hot breakfast pan. This internet is nothing like the internet of my past.

Richness, almost as tangible as the bees-waxed wooden stool I sat on as a child, while browsing through my parental library: that kind of multi-sensorial access; however imagined you might think this all is.

Books, papers, references and more. Chaos due to abundance; order in discipline, and eye-blinders keeping my gaze straight ahead… I have a goal to obtain… Or should I play left, and here, right, or there enter that cobbled alley? Oh yes, let’s venture off. Let’s flaneur. Let’s play, ever so shortly and then: get to work.

About Nazlin Bhimani

Research Support and Special Collections Librarian, UCL Institute of Education, London
This entry was posted in Library and Archives, Research Support and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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