Student Voices: (Partially) imagined rules for library life | Work of Arts
Student Voices: (Partially) imagined rules for library life | Work of Arts

Student Voices: (Partially) imagined rules for library life

Animal puppets, drama and rebellion: 4th year student Charlotte Forss talks us through some of her rules for library life on campus

Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and point of views of current Arts students around campus. Get to know our creative and passionate students through their “voices” and get a snapshot of life as an Arts undergrad. The views and opinions expressed within these student voices posts are solely those of the author.

This may be a square and deeply unfashionable thing to say, but I like rules. Not so much the written, official kind but rather, the unspoken, generally agreed upon kind. I like that most people understand, without being told, that life is just better if we all avoid eye contact on the LRT, walk on the right side of HUB and pretend not to recognize our classmates when we see them sweaty and red-faced at the gym. And in university life, one of the great centres of unspoken rules is the library (perhaps because you’re generally not supposed to speak in libraries).

Library 1Now, because my degree is one that requires the reading and writing of frankly unnecessary volumes of words, I have spent a lot of time in libraries over the course of my university career. By now I’ve memorized the locations of various call numbers. I have favourite spots to sit. My leg muscles are stronger from climbing to the fifth floor of Rutherford because I’m too impatient to wait for the elevator. And I am aware of a number of (partially imagined) rules for library life. Most of which I have broken at least once because that’s what rules are for.

The first and most important is not even unspoken or imagined — the need to actually be silent on silent floors. The thing that no one warns you about, though, is that “silent” is a term open to interpretation. In Cameron, “silent” often means a vague attempt not to talk at full volume. In Rutherford, you risk being throttled for whispering and receive disapproving looks for chewing loudly on a granola bar or wearing squeaky shoes. On rare occasions that I have had to venture into the law and medical libraries I have felt guilty for even the noise of my footsteps.

Which brings me to another rule, this one entirely fabricated on my part: the sense that people ought to stay in “their own” libraries. I feel an irrational thrill of invasion when I decide to leave hard-backed Rutherford chairs for comfier Cameron sofas. And the unexpected things you discover! Did you know that the education library has an entire section of animal puppets? (Yes, I know. Everyone studies wherever they want all the time. Let me keep my tiny sense of rebellion).

Library 3A set of rules that people tend to care more about are those that govern where to sit in the library. Outside of crowded exam season (who are all these people and what are they doing in my library?), I am reluctant to sit directly next to, across from or back-to-back with anyone else, and I hate when people arrive and sit too close to me. Call me unfriendly, but those cubicle walls just aren’t enough distance for me. On the other hand, I’m sure that I regularly incur the wrath of people with dying laptops by sitting next to plug-ins with my notebook and ballpoint pens. What can I say? I love me some natural light.

So you see, there’s clearly much more drama and rebellion than you’d expect. We’re a complex civilization, we library-dwelling folk. As the semester drags on, you may even feel compelled to join us — just leave your crunchy apples at home and bring your best passive-aggressive glares.

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About Charlotte Forss

Charlotte Forss

Charlotte Forss is a word nerd, travel enthusiast and 4th year Honors History student. When she's not freaking out about her Honors paper and having existential crises about the future, she can usually be found reading, writing and reading some more (both for studies and for fun!). Her many accomplishments include the perfect recipe for cheese scones, a wide repertoire of crazy living room dance moves and a seemingly inexhaustible collection of puns. When Charlotte grows up, she'd like to be either a wealthy eccentric or Margaret Atwood. But she'll probably settle for being a librarian.