The New Adventures of Old Emily: Spending a Full Day in the Library

A fourth year goes where she has never gone before.

Entering the silent section of the library, I wonder if it’s even possible for a human to be this loud when they’re walking. My shoes are squeaking, my bag is flapping around, my jacket is clinking. I swear I can hear my blood pumping. But despite my jingling, jangling appearance my head is clear, my body is ready – I know what I want and I’m going to take it.

The holy grail of library seats, the secluded booth with the many plugs. Perhaps a controversial choice, but I believe it is truly the king of seats. Privacy, charging points, and double level desks all give me plenty of room to dramatically drape my arms, collapse, and cry.

I see my target, the slightly pushed back seat beckoning me, welcoming me into its cushiony softness… But it’s not over yet. There could be a book there, the silent marker of territory, or God forbid an oversized water bottle or abandoned MacBook. Careening through the aisles of books, I see its clear white surface and throw my bag down. I’m in.

Throughout my four years at this university, I have somehow managed to spend a minuscule amount of time in the library. Maybe it’s the stress of getting stuck between the two sets of doors, awkwardly holding one and trying to get through while a stream of people pass, or having to climb two flights of stairs and pretend I’m not dying. But with less than a day to write an essay, I decided to set myself a challenge: a whole day in the library.

It didn’t get off to a great start, I managed to belligerently stay in bed despite 40 alarms, two workmen coming into the house, and a choir of seagulls’ best attempts to wake me, completely missing my goal of arriving at 9 am. Stumbling in at 10 am, nearly getting stuck in those intimidating sliding door things and traversing not one, but two flights of stairs, I reached my goal.

Sitting down, I take a deep breath, then look around – was that really loud? Do I always breathe that loud? And how do I normally swallow? I sit there gagging slightly and breathing erratically, trying to get some sort of pattern going and avoid the cartoon-esque gulping noise emanating from me every twenty seconds, until I decide that no, I just can’t function like a regular human and accept the Darth Vader breathing that comes from a damp student house and a perpetual case of freshers’ flu.

I open my bag. Every item seems to be extremely loud – a food packet screeches, a pen scrapes loudly, and a tissue packet crumples ominously as I pull out my laptop, which I swear has never made that creaking noise when it opens. It seems like my body and personal belongings are actually possessed by 1950s horror soundtrack noises. As I sit there gasping and creaking, I realise I should probably do some work.

After thirty minutes of strenuous typing (into Google to find tips on how to write more efficiently), I actually got down to the writing. I don’t know if it was the social constraints and absolute terror of the judgement of others, but the setting actually worked. I guess the windowless, soulless oppression and white walls in the area I chose worked for me.

Six hours and two lunch breaks later, I left with a rough draft, a gleam in my eye, and a sense of smug satisfaction. That is, until I went down an extra flight of stairs, ended up in the office basement area, and had an embarrassing trip back up to the real exit.

I realised this is probably the last time I would use the library, with only two essays and two exams standing between me and the crippling unemployment and debt of graduation. Suddenly the door etiquette, toilet queues, and weird whooshing noises on the top floor took on a certain charm. No one enjoys going to the library, but the mutual feeling of slight despair and the camaraderie that comes with it is slightly poetic. Who knows, maybe I’ll spend more time in the unflatteringly lit building after this experience.

Or I’ll just procrastinate and end up there twelve hours before my next essay. Only time will tell.

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