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Exemplary investment

Fausto Castilho

In the exact sciences and in biology, the work of knowledge depends on research laboratories. In the humanities, the results of investigation derive, to a great extent, from the support provided by an updated library. Even the study of, let us say, a Greek philosopher before our times has, necessarily of necessity, to base itself on the latest text, that is, the one established with the use of the latest procedures applied in papyrology.

In recent years, the library of the Institute of Philosophy and Humane Sciences of the State University of São Paulo has undergone and extensive and profound renovation. Today, I confess that, whenever I find myself there, I fall prisoner to a mixture of amazement and enchantment, surely explicable for the most personal of reasons.

44 years have gone by, since when, in the second half of 1967, I selected and forwarded to the librarian, Professor Zink, the titles of the works to be acquired, that started to form the collection of the future library. In the following year, I drew the sketch from which the architectural project was developed for the building in which the library would first be lodged. An unpretentious construction, to house some ten thousand volumes, if that much.

But, in its simplicity, the construction had a detail, for many enigmatic, which however distinguished it: there was in the basement an enormous empty and gaping hole, which thus remained for years and years. The reason is that, on my instructions, the architect had provided for a place where a strong-room could be installed that would provide custody for the Presidential Archives. A project conceived at the time of the foundation of the university that, like others, was not to be taken to its conclusion.

Over the course of 20 years, the building served us as a library. Notwithstanding successive reforms, it was not however sufficient to accommodate the growing stock of books that ended up filling it completely. Finally, in the course of the Nineties, it was submitted to the refurbishment referred to. A radical reform, which started with the reformulation of all its structure and which, as a result, allowed the institution to adopt its current style of functioning, which at last gives it the looks of a real library.

The reader must forgive me if I dwell at length in mentioning figures of a technical nature. Between 1995 and 2000, the area of the library expanded by over 100%, rising from 978 square meters to 1,985 square meters, when another two-story building joined the existing one. The numbers of seats for readers went up from 100 to 280. At the end of 2000, the Humane Sciences collection had 150,000 titles: although still a long way from some libraries in Northern Hemisphere countries, it was nevertheless already the most important in the country in its specialization.

The philosophy collection distinguished itself for being the most significant in the country, if not in the whole of Latin America, for its quality and constant updating. In 2001, another 18,800 titles, or 25,000 volumes, were purchased, thanks to funding granted by FAPESP in 2000 in the amount of US$ 750,000. To attend to the uninterrupted expansion of the collection, Unicamp has ready an architectural project to build a supplementary unit, which will increase by about one quarter the installed capacity of the current library.

As a short reminder, let us recall the major results of the reform: the recovery, re-equipment, modernization and expansion of all the infrastructure of the library: the installation of a central air-conditioning system and of a lightning rods system. For the storage of the collections: the introduction of sliding shelves and filing cabinets. Full provision of functional furniture. The adoption of new procedures for the conservation and usage of the special collections. A substantial expansion in the technological infrastructure: a facsimile service, calculators, electronic scales, access to multimedia bibliographical material – recorder, video, slide projector, multimedia overhead projector[RS1], stacks of CD-ROMs, books, printer, scanner, cd-rom database.

Computerization of consultations, by the acquisition of peripheral equipment, to access the internal network and to connect with the external network, including the international one. The installation of an information technology laboratory. Modernization of maintenance: sterilization, disinfection, restoration and binding of books. The elimination of excessive exposure to noise. Reinforced surveillance by internal monitoring, policing of the movement of books from the collection by means of magnetic labels. Infrastructure for special collections: TV, datashow, overhead projector,[RS2] etc.

All these changes that comprise what many regard as a transfiguration of our library we owe to FAPESP, which, timely, decided to finance – in the case of the IFCH, by means of ten projects – the modernization of the infrastructure for research at institutes of learning.

Founder of the IFCH-Unicamp and a professor at USP, Unesp and Unicamp. He is an emeritus professor at Unicamp.