I was in the library today, staring at the title of my essay, my mind blank as to where to even begin with writing the nasty little thing, when I found myself watching some of the other library users. It was strange, but revealing. Here I am, a final year university student, and I am in the library. For some, a place of refuge, for others, somewhere you only go when you have 24 hours to complete a deadline and you know you will binge watch X files if you stay at home.
I fall somewhere in-between, I go to the library to study, but there was the young woman in the cafe, lounged back in the hard back chair having staked out her corner. The table was littered intermittently with piles of books, her laptops, several notebooks, a plethora of bright coloured pens, coffee mugs and the remains of a half eaten sandwich. She had her headphone on, the big chunky modern kind perched atop her multi-hued hair, eyes slightly glazed as she transferred notes from the screen to the page. She is quite distinctive, and I have seen her there before. The staff know her, they stop to talk about how her coursework is as they clear away the rubbish she has collected in the corner. She is there often, and you wonder how many hours she whiles away, making notes and writing essays. Personally, I want to ask how she can stand sitting still for more than four hours without wanting to stand up and run around the computer room singing at the top of her voice. Sometimes I can barely even make four hours!
Then there is the guy who has yet to stay at his desk for more than ten consecutive minutes. He flicks through a few pages, checks his phone, laughs aloud, lounges in his chair before writing a few words and then leaving again. He returns after a further length of time has elapsed and repeats the process. I notice because he is in the corner of my eye, untidy and confident in himself. You can see he thinks he is the most gorgeous man short of Chris Evans in the way he lounges, confident, laid back, a deliberate laziness rather than the crooked back of most library dwellers. It doesn’t help that he keeps trying to engage the busty blonde next to him in conversation every time he leaves his desk, but despite her merely polite smiles, he keeps going. I can’t quite decide if he is merely there for a dare, the kind where frat boy wannabes pick up hot girls in the library, or if he has a deadline that he doesn’t feel he needs to worry about. I notice him because he is irritating in his inability to commit to sitting on a chair.
And then there are the chatters! The irritating people who seem to have forgotten that headphones are not noise excluding, so yes, I am listening to the How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack, but I can also hear you discussing how Marley got off with the guy from the rugby squad at sports night last night. I really don’t want to know. I would also likely to politely remind you that this is a library, and that most of us are here to study. Would you please take your conversation either to the cafe, or outside, so those inside, can still study. One time, I had a girl either side of me, having a conversation that I was studiously ignoring because I am British and I avoid being rude wherever possible, when one of them, opened a bag of maltesers, and shoved them across my face to her friend. She nearly took my eye out. Patience limit reached, I tugged out the headphones, and informed one of them to log off so we could switch places and I could get on with my work in peace.
And then there are the cheery student-staff librarians, and the more morose looking ones behind the help desk who have to field questions like ‘where are the printers’ and ‘how do I find this book?’. I feel you can tell how long someone has been working in the library by the resting expression on their faces, the newbies have a shocked acceptance on their face, like they weren’t sure what they were expecting from this job but this wasn’t it. Then the resigned acceptance, and the ones who are determined to enjoy their job and brighten up the days of stressed students wherever they can. Those ones tend to be the student-staff, they know how cheery to be before said stressed student wants to punch you in the face. And then the ones who have been there for years, who have heard every request, have a sort of, bored almost, look on their face. Like they are wondering if it is time for their tea break yet.
I love the library, its a hive of activity, and for people watchers, it is so easy to get distracted. But when on a deadline, distractions are not preferable! The quirks of some people help to break up the monotony of the essay writing experience. Of course, sometimes, I have become so involved in my essay that I have only sirfaced when cheery faced student-staff member taps me on my shoulder and informs me the library is closing in five minutes and I need to pack up. It turned out I had missed the quarter-to and ten-to bells and was the only one left in the room! A little awkward.
So, while I often go to the library to actually achieve something in may day, well, something more than a personal best for the number of X Files episodes I have watched, the library is not always the mentally soothing place I hype it up to be. Sometimes, the people in the library can be downright distracting! I may need to approach the headphone wearing girl in the cafe and ask how she manages such long library hours without getting distracted by the cross-section of university life that parades past her every day!
I expect a slightly wary look.