Writing on the Wall

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When you ask him to describe one of the best things he’s seen in his nine years working at the Perry-Castañeda Library, Frank Meaker doesn’t hesitate with his reply. A mermaid, he says, recalling her as “a bit on the chubby side” and her exasperated exclamation of, “Oh my goodness, I need to get some sleep!”

You might wonder if Meaker has been wandering the halls of the PCL alone for just a bit too long. But the UT project specialist isn’t being literal; he’s simply describing one of his all-time favorite drawings he discovered on the whiteboards in the study rooms of the PCL.

A few years ago, Meaker began photographing the simple sketches, elaborate drawings, professions of love, and other doodles he stumbled upon while making his morning maintenance rounds in the library. In addition to using the boards for planning group projects or solving equations, students take advantage of the blank canvases to let off some steam—say, by drawing an atomic explosion amid a seemingly impossible calculus problem.

“This is their lives,” Meaker says. “These drawings reflect the students’ day-to-day activities—especially during midterms or finals. That’s when we call them ‘the walking dead.’”

Since he first stumbled across the drawings years ago, Meaker has been taking pictures of his favorites—and adding some sketches of his own—every morning. He estimates he now has a collection of more than 1,000 photos, many of which are posted on the UT Libraries’ Flickr account.

With fall finals approaching, Meaker expects to see even more of the doodles, thanks to the addition of 16 new rolling whiteboards. The PCL’s newly added Collaborative Commons space—a book-free spot that features chairs, desks, and media areas—also boasts a whiteboard that’s wall-sized, offering plenty of blank canvas for some much-needed artistic stress relief come exam time.

“Another one of my favorites is of a girl who’s leaning over, falling asleep, with drool coming out of her mouth,” Meaker laughs. “That’s just what you see in the stacks every day. Some of the best drawings are those most simple, basic ones.”

Photos by Frank Meaker. Courtesy UT Libraries.


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