What do you picture when you think of a typical college library? Perhaps a grandiose, wood-paneled room with hundreds of tables sprawled across the tiled floors, bookshelves soaring up to the far reaches of a curved ceiling, students typing away at their laptops or clutching a highlighter as they hungrily read through the contents of their books. It’s quiet except for the occasional turning of thin, crisp pages and the low-level white noise of keyboards clattering away, only broken by the occasional screech of a chair or muffled cough.
Sounds like the perfect place to study, right?
Well, do I have a story for you.
It was a cool, winter evening of finals week. I’d been studying hard all day, cramming every book I hadn’t read during the quarter into my head. I finally couldn’t take the blank but disappointed stares of my three Pop! bobbleheads on my desk anymore who watched as I slowly procrastinated more and more.
I desperately needed to get out of my dorm.
I texted the group chat, asking if anyone else needed a change of scenery. The resounding answer was yes, conveyed through a series of crying and upside down smiling emojis.
So I gathered everything I needed for this journey: granola bars, gummy snacks, water, Advil—lots of Advil. The infinite amount of school supplies forever strewn across my desk. My dying and defeated laptop and my never-before-opened textbooks.
I felt like a pack mule as I hurried down the Hill, my backpack filled to the brim. I met up with my two friends, Allison and Rachel, at the bottom of the Hill. They looked equally as weighed down, physically and emotionally.
I greeted them and asked how they were to which they responded with the usual finals week response: “This sucks.” I agreed, happy to commiserate with other people.
“Where should we go to study?” I asked as we walked towards campus.
“It’s 5 p.m. so Powell is probably too crowded. We’d have to fight someone to get a seat,” Rachel replied.
She was right. Powell Library was the most popular library on campus, especially when it was open 24 hours a day for finals week.
“Maybe we can try YRL?” Allison suggested.
YRL, or Young Research Library, was the second most popular library on campus. The crowds tended to stay on the first floor where group studying was done in private rooms. The upper floors tended to be quiet and obsolete.
We unanimously agreed, deciding the fourth floor would surely be the quietest place to study.
We finally made the 20-minute walk across campus to YRL. There were no signs of life as night fell across the building. We made our way inside and up the elevators to the fourth floor.
The sheer quiet hit us like a wall as soon as we stepped off the elevator.
Our whispering as to where to go felt like glass shattering on pavement.
Now the thing about YRL is that it’s confusing as hell to navigate. The narrow hallways and all look the same—hospital-style tiled floors, fluorescent, flickering lights, bookshelves so narrow you have to walk sideways to get to through them. The dead quiet makes it feel like a horror movie. Once you find a table, you better hope you can find your way back to the elevator.
We searched through the library to find a table suitable enough to sit the three of us. Most of them were taken. After running around and passing by the same table three times, the guy sitting there gave us a dirty look as we exasperatedly wondered where the hell we were. We finally decided to try the third floor.
Another elevator down and we were on the third floor. We went through the same rigmarole and finally found an empty table. Like lions chasing its prey before another pack could get it, we sprinted to the table and threw our belongings on it. The other residents of YRL were not too happy about the noisy newcomers.
As we settled in, I realized the seats were just awful. They were those hard, plastic chairs we used to have in elementary school. The ones with the little metal buttons on the back of the chair that would catch your hair and, as you got up, would just rip the poor strands right out of your head. Also, my back was not about to take another five hours of studying sitting on a slab of plastic. So I thought it clever that I take a more comfortable looking wheeled chair from an empty desk.
The mission wasn’t hard—switch the two chairs without making a lot of commotion. Apparently it was harder than it seemed. When I announced my plans to Allison and Rachel, they eyed me doubtfully but said nothing.
I picked up the chair and immediately hit it against every metal surface in my vicinity. Allison and Rachel busted out laughing, stifling it as the other students greeted me with glares.
I mouthed an apologized and quickly shuffled the chair across the room. This time, I gently placed it down with little noise. Everyone else breathed a sigh of relief. But then I started wheeling the other chair to our table.
Thumpthumpthumpthump! The wheely chair slid across the room in the most noisy, plastic-y way possible. Allison and Rachel covered their faces with their hands as they tried to contain their laughter. I gave up and decided it was best to get the dang thing to the table as quickly as possible.
After successfully disturbing the entire third floor, we finally sat down and set up camp, taking everything out of our bags and spreading it across the table in an attempt to look productive.
It worked for some time. And by some time I mean 15 minutes before I got a Snapchat from Allison. Curiously, I opened it, wondering why she would snapchatting me when I was only two feet away. Turns out she had been filming Rachel, totally unaware, and comically zoomed in on her face until it couldn’t go any further.
I tried not to laugh too loud. Rachel hadn’t noticed yet so I did the same thing. Except, right before I finished filming, Rachel looked up and stared directly into the camera—I’d been caught. I burst out laughing but quickly contained it. Rachel whispered something along the lines of “I hate you guys!” But she was only half-serious.
The antics continued for a good hour until we went through all the Snapchat filters. The Snapchat frenzy had drained Allison’s battery so she went to charge it, finding the nearest outlet by an empty desk across the room.
After snacking for a while, we decided we needed some fresh air. We took a walk around the sculpture garden right outside YRL. What should’ve been a 15-minute walk took over an hour as we posed with the statues and ran to the student store for more snacks.
By the time we made it back to our seats, it was 9 p.m. We gasped in absolute horror at how much time we wasted and immediately flipped open our books and studied as furiously as we could for the next hour. We crammed five hours’ worth of material into a single hour of speed-reading and flashcard memorizing.
At 10 p.m., we gave each other silent looks of approval behind the complete deadness in our eyes. We were ready to go home. As we solemnly packed up, Allison gasped and froze. Confused, I whispered, “What’s wrong?”
“My phone!” she cried.
“It’s over—” I point to where she left it earlier, by an empty desk. Except the desk wasn’t empty anymore. Some guy had taken it over in the two-hour break we had and was now blocking her from getting it.
In the most awkward interaction I have ever seen, Allison went over and gently tapped the guy’s shoulder. He nearly jumped out of his skin, not hearing her approach because he was wearing his headphones. I think he thought she was asking him for his number because he didn’t quite understand what she said. A few moments of blank stares passed before he realized what she meant.
Allison quickly retrieved her phone and sprinted back to us. The guy watched us giggle our way back to the elevator.
I’m pretty sure he heard us finally laugh out loud once the elevator doors closed.
This is just one of many unproductive library study experiences that I’ve had. Do I still continue to go to libraries? Yes. Do I go to study? No.
I’ve found that libraries are the worst places to study but the best places to have some much-needed fun.