Things to do in a library
February 25, 2010
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When I was visiting colleges, the library was definitely an important factor in deciding how I felt about a school. Part of it was because I figured I’d be spending a lot of time there, but on a more symbolic level, the library represents the school’s attitude toward academics. However, the appeal of the library lies in something aside the fact that it’s a good place to study.
It’s mostly about the environment. For example, my friend at Oberlin felt that the rainbow couches and room full of typewriters in the library were a quintessential part of her Oberlin experience. In comparison, some highlights of Penrose Library include the quiet room, the windows, the view of Ankeny, the Napoleon room, the fourth floor, the canoe, the rolling bookcases and the fact that it’s open 24 hours. Some of these features make the library a nice place to study; others are just nice to have.
At Carnegie Mellon University, the library was sometimes a place where I could nap in between classes; they had this sleeping pod, which was maybe my favorite thing about the library. It was designed by an alumnus and was basically this reclining chair with a dorm enclosing part of it, so that you can pull it closed over yourself when you lie inside of it. It could play ambient sounds and had a timer that allowed you to nap for a certain number of minutes before vibrating to shake you awake. It was positioned awkwardly in the corner of the library café, so oftentimes you’d be eating a bagel with a person’s legs sticking out of the sleeping pod right behind you. But it was pretty awesome.
My roommate got a text the other day from her friends at Boston College, telling her that they’d found a secret library on campus.
“What should we do there?” they asked.
“Go streaking,” she texted back.
One particular usage that surprised me, however, was that the library was also a place where people checked out books. To read. For fun. Who does that?
My friend recently, on a whim, checked out four books on mysticism.
“I decided to check them out when I was studying there because it’s something I’m interested in and I was like ‘Hey, I’m in a library,'” she explained.
The library is an especially convenient place to get books from because, well, it’s right there. And it’s a place where most people would be going anyway. So in a way, the library promotes the reading of books by making books easily accessible.
But while checking books out is one thing, finding the time to read them is another.
I asked my friend Osta about why she decided to check out Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink.”
“This summer I did a lot of reading for fun,” she said. “So in the fall I was bored and I didn’t have any homework, so I was like, ‘Wow, school’s super easy, I have a ton of free time, I can continue to read for fun.’ In the quiet room there’s a wall of popular books and I saw “Blink” and I was like, ‘Oh, that sounds fun’: but I didn’t finish it.”
It’s nice to know that books still have a place in the library: amongst the studying, the sleeping and the streaking: even if they only sometimes are actually read.