Is it a bollard? Is it a sculpture? Is it a book?
A couple of weeks ago, as I biked past the University Library (my usual route from home to my Faculty), I saw what I took to be a series of new bollards 'under wraps'.
For years now, car-parking at the UL has been increasingly out of control. When I was a student cars at the library were kept firmly in the car parks. Then one area of the car parking was re-assigned to university staff who work in the central administration (a sign of the times . . .) and readers' cars started to spill over -- first along the grass verges, then right in front of the library steps themselves.
It was only a matter of time, I often thought, before "the authorities" will put a stop to this. And here were the bollards.
But what emerged from the wrapping was rather different. It was a work of 'public art'.
These are not bollards in the usual sense of the term, but a series of bronze sculptures of piles of books by local sculptor Harry Gray. The best ones are the four in the middle, whose books swivel -- allowing you to rearrange the piles from neat to messy (or vice versa).
A series of letters of the books reads EX LIBRIS. But apart from that there are no titles. (Actually I thought it might have been fun -- and deliciously invidious -- to have inscribed some titles on them. I would have had a whole pile, I think, being the 12 volume edition of the Golden Bough . . . and I would have banned any Darwin, of whom we have had quite enough.)
The idea is that the piles symbolise the literary treasures that lie within the building. And so it has been publicised, with full marks going to the new University Librarian for sponsoring this addition to the artistic environment of the university.
I gave her fuller marks. Because they are of course bollards. But by making them "works of art:, she has made sure that there is no bleating from readers about the removal of parking spaces.
A clever wheeze.