Adventures of the 6th floor

On Thursday evenings the media center sits like a lonely tower. From the height of its windows, the outside world is small and silent as people in Lego-looking cars anxiously speed out of Leroy Collins Boulevard looking for an early weekend. A few exceptions linger on this top floor of the library.

“There’s something comforting about this place for me,” senior arts major Angela Caine said. “I’m not in an Ybor mood, and I knew I’d find something cool here.”

The major entertainment of the media center is the collection of DVDs and videos. The variety of movie selections ranges from fun-forgettables of the ’80s to foreign films to educational documentaries. Sometimes these selections merge into multi-purposed options, such as the artsy, intellectual DVD Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. This documentary by Errol Morris features his pared-down style of interviewing with a wild-animal-trainer, a topiary gardener (in the likes of Edward Scissorhands), a robot designer and an expert on naked mole rats. Because of its rarity, the DVD is expensive, even used, and you can’t find it at local rental stores.

Another hard to find DVD available at the media center is one that “bears passionate witness to a man whose charisma swayed an empire and sparked his exalted belief in his own destiny.” No, it’s not Forrest Gump, although they have that too. Napoleon, by David Grubin is a wonderful film first aired on PBS, and shows that the struggle of Napoleon’s empire is not reduced to dry historical textbooks. Napoleon is a tour de force documentation of the emperor and parades a variety of characters that happen to know the man’s story better than anyone else.

It’s a certain type of student that frequents the media center. Student media center employee Lina Vega said that art, language, mass communications and women’s studies majors are predominant, which makes sense because the media center also offers books on tape (and their advanced cousins, books on CD), CD-ROMs, framed art prints, musical CDs and a slew of cool records predating the ’90s. Music major John Russeul is there almost every day he is on campus.

“I try to study the music scores as much as possible because there’s just so much here,” Russeul said.

The media center maintains a quasi-thrift-store aesthetic because many of the items are donated. Media Resources accepts donations through a case-by-case review. Materials must be in accordance with the general collection policies of the department and Library. Anyone with a surplus of useable, not needed media has contributed to the collection. It includes materials from professors’ personal collections or donations from radio stations. Generally, outdated formats like filmstrips and reel-to-reel audiotapes are not accepted.

The Tampa Library Media Resources Department has allocated a separate material purchasing budget annually, and media materials are also paid for by academic requests. In other words, the media center collaborates with librarians, faculty and experts to judge what’s appropriate.

Chances are you’re not going to find the world’s wackiest bloopers at the media center. However, the collection is edgy with NC-17 rated movies like Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, where Harvey Keitel is an ethically abandoned NYC cop whose drug and sexual lusts are haphazardly juggled amid the downward spiral of his gambling addiction. Sure, the idea of art is completely subjective, and one could say that Weekend at Bernie’s is a rollicking good affirmation on life’s absurdities.

But rationalizing emptiness to push a product is already grid- locking campus. One can say that everything is art, just like Forrest Gump can say “life is like a box of chocolates,” because anything perceived is a reflection of life. As far as tastes go, discrimination is a good thing. To have access to a professor’s collection is far more preferable than the collection that’s shoved down our throats at the local Blockbuster.

This lonely tower provides a different kind of early-weekend escape that lets students begin their leisure time with education found on the sixth floor.