Today we attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Mike Fink Aerie, a reading alcove in CB 521 (aka, the Old RISD Library, the hallowed shelves of which have been all but bare since the Fleet Library’s opening in 2006). Poet and English professor Mairéad Byrne introduced the space and the guest of honor, noting that she hoped this reclaimed nook would be the first of many here that would “redefine the library by going back to its original roots.”
Mike Fink, RISD English professor for some 50 years, storyteller extraordinaire, and keeper of collective memory, reminded us of the Old Library’s long history as a place for contemplation and, in wartime, respite from a troubled world. He described the provenance of the wicker chairs in the aerie (they once belonged to RISD professor George Sullivan, for whom the Library was the heart of the campus), as well as the inspiration behind his selection of books on birds, recalling his recent course on the topic and likening himself to the hummingbird, which “flies backward like my mind. I like to go back and tap the past.”
With that, a group of well-wishers applauded professors Byrne and Fink, who invite the whole RISD community to visit. Enter the Old Library and look up: like the real thing—a bird’s nest perched on a cliff—this aerie is nestled up high, on the balcony.