Reflections on Temple Rome Librarian Pia Candinas' Retirement
Dear Temple University,
Pia Candinas is a vibrant gentle beloved sage, her generosity and warmth have created a hearth for Temple University in Rome. Over the years Pia has been a great wellspring to hundreds of students and faculty alike. The Library that Pia has created is itself a work of art - the product of infinite thought and true dedication to the intellect and to the imagination.
Although I had earned an MFA from the Yale School of Art and Architecture and a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and had won two Fulbright Fellowships and a Rome Prize from the American Academy, I was still terrified of teaching! Pia was like a rock for me she was such an important resource. She was always interested in what I was up to in my classes and was always ready with generous wisdom and a depth of insight that she gave so willingly without judgment. Pia was the one key person whom was always THERE – always in the library, a true font of knowledge and inspiration. I am extremely grateful to Pia for her ready suggestions and intelligence, for her ability to listen and her absolutely precious sincerity and integrity. I appreciated her attending my final critiques, and enjoyed watching her interaction with the students who all showed enormous respect and who all seemed to have their own personal dialogue with.
Pia was incredibly generous to me. I soon understood what stature, what enormous respect she holds in the eyes of so many Italian intellectuals and artists. Time and again Pia would advise and introduce me to various individuals in the cultural community in Rome. I admire Pia enormously and am forever grateful to Pia for making my decade long Roman Odyssey such a fantastically rich adventure.
I commend Temple University for encouraging the evolving collection and making Pia’s work possible. I am concerned that the Library that is such an extraordinary collection of real manifest source material be maintained and nurtured. I am concerned that the position of Librarian as accessible human resource and ever-present wisdom be understood as KEY. Without the living breathing humanity of a dedicated librarian TU Rome will lose its heart. The precious faculty come and go, the essential administrative staff have their essential roles that ensure the smooth functioning of the many challenging logistics or running the many programs. So although students spend infinite amounts of time on their computers and Google has become a major resource for virtual information, and the internet offers live interaction with individuals around the world, there is no substitute for a truly knowledgeable and caring individual who is present.
Pia has been the direct link to all time for both students and faculty. Pia is a living human treasure.
While the details from my memory may be a bit off, as this was during the 1991-92 academic year when I attended Temple Rome, I think most of the story is very accurate. I was fortunate enough to get a work-study position at the library with Pia, and worked there through the year. On this one particular day, as the two of us were sitting in the library, professor Gerda Panofsky walked into the library and began speaking to Pia in German, and Pia responded without hesitation in German as well. Then professor Jan Gadeyne walked in right after and began speaking in Italian, and Pia switched gears smoothly and responded in Italian. Immediately after this Pia’s sister called from Switzerland, and Pia began speaking to her in a language that was part German, part something else, a dialect of Swiss-German I believe, quite different from the High German she was speaking earlier. She effortlessly glided from one language to another. Pia and I started a conversation in English after she hung up the phone. I didn’t tell her how intensely envious I was of her. I have never seen anyone else do what she had just done in the span of a few minutes. She may not have spoken each language perfectly, but she could communicate in all of them. She was quite remarkable.
As I got to know Pia better during the course of the year, she slowly, with some prying from me, revealed elements of her life. She spoke of her love of Giacometti, her being on the barricades protesting in the 60s and 70s (with a few photos), her multitude of contacts with leading artists and intellectuals.
She was (and is) devoted to the library, to the books, to their ideas, to the conversations they contained. It was before the rise of technology, or rather at the beginning of it. There were two computers, make/model unknown, that never seemed to work, just outside the library. But inside the library, it was Renaissance art, classical antiquity, literature..
Now, of course, we are in the digital world, computers, digital libraries, lots of search engines on the internet, etc. Pia has managed to glide through these changes almost as easily as she does languages. And she still found the time to offer her art and culture lectures.
I am still envious of Pia, her multilingual brain, her history, her connections to art and literature, and I see it as an honor to be a part of creating a library fund in her name so that Temple Rome can continue to thrive as a center of learning in Italy. I hope others feel the same way as well and are willing to help in remembering Pia and honoring her by creating a fund that will to ensure the library at Temple Rome remains the best in Rome.
My experience at Temple University Rome was not only very important for my professional development, but was also very enriching on a human level, due to my encounters with various people, above all with the director of the library, "Pia" as she is known to everyone. I learned from her how stimulating the work of a librarian can be, work that is too often undervalued. "Pia's library," even if small, was constructed brick by brick, or better, volume by volume, becoming an oasis for students with a thirst for that art for which we Italians ought to be a bit proud. Beyond the part dedicated to art history, over many years Pia created an important collection of works of Italian literature in English translation and a collection of Italian cinema that includes films that are rare and impossible to find. But the shelves would remain covered with dust if it weren't for the presence of someone always ready to accompany the users in leafing through books and in reading through the subtitles of a film and in nurturing that feeling of curiosity that ought to be the basis of our growth.
It often happens that diverging paths of life cause us to lose track of people that we have encountered, but that doesn't mean that the mark that they have left on our lives is lost: thank you Pia because your mark is always with me!
I met Pia in 2002. Working with her was a very positive experience that greatly influenced my choices in work. From the very beginning, she managed to communicate to me that knowledge and passion for work that only people as competent and generous as she are capable of transmitting. She was always very attentive to the needs of her assistants and the students, stimulating them and involving them in her many cultural initiatives. Even after many years I think back with a certain nostalgia to the time I spent at Temple, because it was the beginning of my professional career and the beginning of a wonderful friendship. I wouldn't be a librarian today if it hadn't been for Pia.
When I first met Pia Candinas I was a student at Temple University Rome campus during the 1979 – 80 academic year. At the time, the library was housed in the underground garage; it was cool and dimly lit but I always knew that I could expect a warm welcome from Pia. Throughout that year, Pia proved to be an invaluable resource for navigating both my academic and personal life in Rome. Pia introduced me to the Centro Culturale Virginia Woolf and Italian cinema, taught me how to make a mean carbonara and strike the right balance between academic rigor and enjoying life in Italy.
I am a little worried for Temple library now that Pia is leaving. I can not imagine the place without her. Pia created it, not only the beautiful book collection, but especially the stimulating, energetic, warm atmosphere.
When I worked there as a library-assistant, I often observed her with admiration, how she had no intention at all to be the kind of librarian that disappears between the books, how she instead shared with everybody that crossed the threshold, her rich knowledge on topics ranging from art, literature, cinema to the streets of Rome and to life in general. Always with the kindest and understanding smile. Temple library will have to miss Pia (she should pass by once in a while to keep up the spirits), but other places and people will now have the lucky chance to come in touch with her warm and intelligent world. It will do them lots of good, just like it did me!
Its hard to imagine the Temple Rome library without Pia. In my first year as a graduate student, then later for two years as a faculty, and years later when I visited Temple Rome, I always looked forward to visiting Pia in the library. Pia was a wonderful conversationalist, knowledgeable, witty, and extremely well read. You could pick up almost any book of fiction in the library and Pia had read it and had an opinion. She was worldly, erudite, and disdainful of hypocrisy and mediocrity. All the while, she had a mischievous and delightful sense of humor. Her knowledge of Rome and its intellectual community, as well as her personal contacts were a great asset to the university.
Her efforts were greatly appreciated by those of us who benefited most.
To spend one's long working life, as Pia Candinas has, building a library that bridges not only the past and the present, but also the new and old worlds, is an extraordinary accomplishment, and one that will endure. Even so, Pia has built at least two libraries: the treasure that is permanently housed in the Temple-Rome building and the living library that is her collection of friendships. I first came to Rome to teach more than twenty five years ago as a young mother who knew barely any Italian and, like all newcomers, I was the enchanted recipient of Pia's advice and graciousness. It's an honor to have my books on the shelves of the Temple Library, yet I have been even luckier to be part of Pia's second, very lively, library. As future students walk through the big white doors into the light-filled and bright space that she has made, I know something of her spirit will send them--with their books!--back out into the streets and galleries and museums and concert halls, where they can learn from her living library as well.
Little Memory of Pia
My first vision of a live femme fatale in situ was of Pia Candinas zooming into Tyler Rome's Library on her colorful vespa clad in nothing but the most modern and chic of winter leathers and silk. She exuded an elegance and sophistication I had never seen before up close except in the movies. Very shortly she would warm my heart with her serious dedication and remarkable generosity to Tyler and to every student she met. She would treat each of us as if we were the most important student in the school. She was a magnet for the stylish European intellectuals who came to our openings and truly opened our minds. Instead of being asked where do you show, we were asked who do you read? Pia kept us on our toes! She will be forever an inspiration of great character and deed.
Wholehearted thank you to Pia.