COLUMN: The Wells library ought to be a better study spot

The library is where we go to read, study and get work done, with the most popular one being the massive Borg-like Herman B Wells Library, which some upperclassmen still ask directions for. However, the quiet, tidy space that we expect libraries to be doesn’t simply happen on its own — we make it happen by holding ourselves accountable for following the basic rules of etiquette.

I’m not writing here to whine with ad hominem attacks about the people who break those rules — I know we’re all just students trying to get by. 

But I will emphasize that we have to respect the library so we can have the best chance of successful studying while we’re there. This means following some basic rules of courtesy.

One of these rules regards eating. At the library, students often take their hamburgers up from the Bookmarket Eatery to the floors of the East or West towers to have their lunch. 

However, they tend not to clean up after themselves, leaving behind ketchup and residues that others don’t notice until they have set their books and papers down in them. 

Since elementary school we have been told, "don’t bring food to the library." Students have a right to a clean study space, and food will only soil that space with its smell and grease.

I understand that people get hungry, but eating should happen where it’s supposed to happen, not around books. That means keeping the food on the ground floor away from the shelves.

I recognize that when you consistently leave the library tables as clean as you found them, people won’t thank you for doing so; the larger group feels no immediate effect of one individual action.

And yet, compare that to if people always left their table dirty with food: We would think, “What slobs. Does anyone here care?” Although it may seem like cleaning up doesn’t impact people, it unconsciously forms a universal sense of mutual respect on campus.

In other words, by taking care of our environment as individuals, we actively create a collective understanding. It is one that everyone respects and that regards all students. It’s an unnoticeable feeling, but a good one.

Along the same lines is the problem of noise. Libraries are one of the few public spaces where people must be quiet. Or, at least, that’s what you would hope.

But think of how our idyllic study halls have been interrupted by phone conversations and loud Snapchat videos.

Here are some gentle solutions. When you’re in the library, put your phone on vibrate or silent. If you receive a call, don’t take it — step out into the stairs, or better yet, leave the building and call them back. Or simply don't call them back.

Secondly, while there is nothing wrong with talking on occasion to your neighbors, speak softly and infrequently. If your assignment does involve talking, there are plenty of collaborative spaces on campus to do so, so go there. There are even collaboration floors in the library.

If you want to listen to music or watch a video, use earphones. But keep in mind that when you turn the volume way up, others can hear, so be reasonable about it.

Clearly there isn’t much to acting well at the library: don’t eat, clean up and respect — nay, revere — the silence around you. Simple rules like these make the library the ideal place to study, but maintaining those rules is up to all of us.

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