Turf wars at the Mudd: Respecting the library

Kaye Herranen

As my work load for the term is beginning to pick up, I’ve found myself making the familiar trek across campus, back to the library. Like most students, I have my preferred corner of my favorite floor. It’s my own little corner of sanctity, peace and productivity.

However, I’ve had the extremely alarming experience of hauling myself and my bulging backpack all the way up to the fourth floor, only to find that my spot is occupied! Whenever I find myself in this situation, I’m filled with a sort of incredulous anger. How could they — don’t they know this is my spot!?

Last term I found myself in a passive-aggressive turf war with another student who also liked to frequent my corner of the fourth floor. Ridiculous as it seems, I felt obligated to make a claim for my corner and refused to give up my cherished spot. One morning I had settled into my corner just moments before my rival showed up, disappointed. Oh, the sweet taste of victory.

However, when I’m not so lucky and encounter someone in my corner, I begrudgingly relocate to a foreign spot and start working. Soon my temporary rage subsides, and I find myself somewhat amused with the visceral response I’ve just had. How silly it is to get so worked up and animated over a small issue, how strange that I have such feelings of attachment to a public space.

I’m aware — thanks to my loving roommates — that my affection for my corner of the library is probably a bit strange, however I don’t think I’m the only student who has a preferred study spot in the library.

Aside from not invading another student’s spot, I believe there is an unspoken code of conduct for the library.

For example, you don’t sit next to someone at a table unless they explicitly invite you; you don’t take phone calls; you don’t have extended conversations on the third or fourth floors; you don’t listen to music without headphones; you don’t take a desk or chair too close to someone, unless there is no other available space. This list is by no means exhaustive.

However ridiculous it may seem, I do get frustrated by small inconsiderate actions like this at the library. Maybe it’s just me, but I believe in the quasi-sanctity of the library. I revel in the peaceful silence of the fourth floor, and I go there to be alone and get work done.

The library is a space unlike all other campus buildings. It’s the only place on campus that allows students to enjoy a rare hour or two of silence to study or to complete research.

The campus center has a few rooms which can be used for studying, but they are not always silent, and lack access to resources for research. Dorms are cozy but rarely quiet, and offer millions of distractions to even the most focused student. Common lounges in academic buildings are nice, but finding a quiet secluded spot is always a gamble — and most academic buildings are closed on weekends.

Because the library is a unique space on campus, students should respect its atmosphere, resources and staff. The university spends a significant amount of money on the library, ensuring that we have access to a wide variety of accurate sources and a knowledgeable staff.

Regrettably, students’ lack of respect for course reserve textbooks led to a change in library policy in 2009. A few selfish students had been hiding and damaging course reserves, actions that prevented other students from using them.

Regardless of major, every student at Lawrence needs somewhere to study and to do research. Every student on campus can benefit tremendously from using the library. However, a student’s experience at the library can be completely ruined by one inconsiderate person who takes a phone call on the third floor or fails to return a course reserve item on time.

We need to learn to respect the communal nature of the library. We can do this by treating library materials with care, being polite to the library staff, following the written and unwritten rules of the library, respecting other student’s right to study in silence and by honoring each other’s turf.