Photo by Dustin Snipes

So much information is now digitized that college students are blasé when they type a research topic into a search engine and almost instantly see a list of books and articles appear on their screen. But some of those publications are decidedly analog—the same heavy, leather-bound classic texts consulted by generations of students.

The Times-Mirror Reference Room in the Doheny Memorial Library on the University Park Campus has served as a home for these tomes for more than eight decades. In the inset photograph, believed to date from the 1950s, students sit at the room’s rich walnut tables surrounded by stacks of books. When the library opened in 1932, the reference room was meant to accommodate 400 students, some 6,000 books and the main reference desk. Today, it remains one of the busiest rooms in the library.

Contemporary Trojans might still find inspiration in its intricate gold and blue coffered ceiling. Or they might daydream while staring at the room’s original bronze and pewter chandeliers, just as their predecessors in the 50s did. But the room also has seen some important updates. More than a decade ago, engineers conducted an extensive seismic retrofit of the library, including the reference room, to protect both future students and the historic building itself. And, of course, computer monitors have migrated and settled into the room, ready to produce those lists of articles, books and e-books from USC Libraries’ holdings — all with a few keystrokes.


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