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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian


If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.
-Frank Zappa

I spent a lot of mornings this term in the library, trying to get things done after 1A. More often than not, a tour group would come in and proceed to waste my attention, in one of two ways: If I was actually concentrating, I’d have to stop for 30 seconds to listen to my own caption; if I wasn’t, I’d have to feel bad about it for 30 seconds.

I figure it’s only fair to be annoyed for about 10 seconds, so during the other 20, I often wondered what the prospective students were thinking. What was my first impression of the Libe? And how has it become so much more?

Before college, libraries always seemed kind of irrelevant. Public libraries are where you go to get books, but you don’t read them there. You take them home, where there are fruit snacks instead of old ladies that hate children. When I got my first library card, I tried lending it to someone I saw reading in the library, assuming he had lost his. He had not, and he denied being homeless. I asked my parents about it; they said he was probably a creeper.

This logic went unquestioned for a long time. In high school, no one ever hung out in the library, and because I’m writing this in one, I can remember why: It was boring. The only remotely entertaining thing in it was Dino, a mean librarian that looked like a dinosaur. The most studying I ever did because of the library was not in the library, it was in a 2-hour detention Dino gave me for wearing a jacket that was allegedly warm enough to violate her ban on coats.

So when I came to Carleton, Gould Library was already a little ruined by its last name. “Gould [building full of books and obligation].” I found out we had a euphemism for it, but “Libe?” Really? You don’t call the Holocaust the ‘Caust.

I’d hear people talk about 5-hour “Libe” sessions and marvel at their focus, motivation, and relatively sound physical health. It took me a few months to realize that such behavior was reasonable here, because my cost-benefit analysis had been totally reversed: There are no fruit snacks in your room, there is no sun anywhere, and the library offers the chance to see friends, classmates, and of course, that guy you’ve been texting. By winter term, I understood that going to the library could not only be socially acceptable, but socially driven.

This complicates everything. The main problem is balancing studying and being seen studying. If you come to escape the distractions of your dorm, you cannot legitimately work on the 4th floor. A table on 4th is an open invitation for co-procrastination. Still, resorting to 1st or 2nd is a little drastic. I tried it once. It was like being stuck in the nightmare of some Chinese banker, with all the communist pressure to be productive, but all the capitalist pressure to do it on your own…The best you can hope for is the Silent Dance Party, where people are moving in sync to their iPods and it feels almost human, everyone momentarily united in hating them. But the tools only bring their A game like that once a year. The rest of the time, what do you do?

I went through several serially monogamous relationships with different study spots, each more perfect than the last. The first was a table on 3rd. It was quieter than 4th, but as I quickly discovered, the line of tables on 3rd is basically a landing strip for incoming bathroom traffic. For a while, I compromised by using the desk at the end of the strip. It seemed pretty great: The cubicle said fuck off, but the location meant I could still snag visitors in a pinch. In reality, though, they both just said, “I’m an asshole.”
At this point, I looked heavenward for an answer, and saw 5th Libe.

It was genius. The view reminded me of Chicago’s Water Tower, so I could almost pretend that the Libe was a mall, and that I was therefore having fun in it. Better yet, I could avoid the activity on 3rd and 4th without worrying about sensory deprivation.

This all changed when I realized I could throw things.

First I had to check every two minutes to see if anyone I knew was within range. Once they were, I didn’t know what to do. My only options were a banana, a balled-up assignment and a book, and it became painfully clear that Galileo probably just didn’t know how to make a paper airplane.

Unlike him, I had the Internet. But the tutorials were confusing, and nerdy, and oddly familiar…and suddenly, I had a better idea. I might as well go straight to the source, get an actual demo (and maybe even some awkward sexual tension!!), and ask the first guy I saw.

There were a few nearby. Sadly, none were attractive. I spotted one farther away that was kind of cute, but the question was also kind of juvenile and he might think I was shallow.

I looked down to 3rd again. The back of my friend’s head was beckoning. I looked at the guy next to me one more time.

I looked at my cell phone.

7:43pm Libe?
7:44pm Yea you?
7:44pm Where, i have a question
7:46pm 1st

The first person I ever dated had Tourette’s. It was pretty mild, and I’d almost forget it, if not for one cherished memory: He would sometimes yell, “FUCK” in the library, just because he could.
If only. Instead, I started writing.

-Hannah Watson is Carletonian columnist.

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