By Chantal Gonzalez
Just beyond Winifred Smith Hall in UCI’s Claire Trevor School of Arts sits the Arts Media Center library. Found on the second floor of the Arts Instruction and Technology Resource Center is a gray, two-story building with a mysterious, obscure stairway surrounded by royal blue walls.
One step inside the library, past the yellowing security monitors, can transport you back in time to the early 90s. You almost expect Bob Ross to be sitting behind the front desk in blue jeans and a white T-shirt.
But instead, you see Kayla Johnson sitting at the front desk, greeting arts students as they walk in breathless from their walk up the long stairway. Johnson has been working at the library for the last four years, and has seen students come in and ask the same question repeatedly, with confused expressions, “What is this place?”
The Arts Media Center is an area that was established in 1992 and designated for arts students to access the available technological resources and the staggering collection of vinyls, CDs, DVDs, audio recorders, cameras, video cameras, a VHS player and even phonographs in the library. There’s a printer, too, which is more popular among the arts students because it offers free printing. It’s one of the main reasons why there’s always traffic in the library.
But the library has charms to it other than the free printing — like the vinyl and CD collection, available to any UCI student. And if you’re a hipster who likes playing vinyl on your Crosley player or someone who just really loves music, this is the place for you.
The vinyl collection in the room sits in the back of the library on dusty bookshelves that rest close to the ceiling. Many students studying back there tend to ignore the vinyls, but others, like Mira Rice, gasp — “It’s a music library!” — leaving them in complete awe and wonder.
A selection of noteworthy vinyls in the library can be found on the far left wall and are what Johnson believes is Library Director Ross Whitney’s personal vinyl collection. Among these vinyls sit albums like The Cure’s “Wish” from 1992, The B-52’s “The B-52’s” from 1979 and Mozart’s “London Symphony Orchestra.” These albums are not at students’ disposal, unfortunately, but there are rows and rows of others for students to choose from. Students can play vinyls in the library from one of the several Numark turntables. Student Ladelyn Boonlua discovered this as she pointed at the turntable with excitement and asked, “Can I use that?”
Other charms to the library include the piano sitting in the practice room, the Japanese art hanging on the walls in the hallway and the Beatles poster hanging above a computer in the MAC lab.
The library is easily an area where students can study, flip through vinyls, strike a key on the piano, or just enjoy an atmosphere that throws you back to a time when pastel colors and the Backstreet Boys were a thing.
But what keeps the library’s 90s charm alive is a reflection of the unsurprising lack of arts funding at UCI. Only recently has the popular printer been upgraded to a newer model. It’s been one of the few technological advancements since the library was first built. It would be nice if the library wasn’t so outdated and looked more like the rest of the buildings on campus: shiny, bright and (somewhat) new, with better equipment and more recognition from students. But that shouldn’t be a deterrent from going there.
So, if you’re ever looking for a place to get away from the bustle of Ring Road where clubs try to tempt you with $2 boba, visit the Arts Media Center and check out one of many albums for a rewind in time.