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The Dartmouth
May 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

The Captain's Log: Getting Along in the Stacks

I would like to be "study buddies" with everyone on campus. Of course, I don't mean that I want to take you all out of a bottle I stole from some poor kid with Attention Deficit Disorder, chop you to powder in a third floor Berry library bathroom and snort you through a straw.

I'm also pretty sure I don't mean I want to freebase you before a 72-hour cram session (I'm not sure exactly what freebasing is, so I guess it's possible, if unlikely, that I want to do it to everyone on campus).

Nor do I want to eat a lot of you, since just two of you have as much caffeine as one cup of coffee. In short: I don't wish to use any of you pharmacologically in order to improve my powers of concentration or diminish my need for sleep.

Really, I just want to share study space amiably with everyone on campus. Until now, few of us can truly say we've done our part to reduce those little library conflicts that become incidents of gruesome violence and/or mild resentment. Sharing the library is like sharing any other public space -- Collis, the Green or the women's locker rooms -- we need to accommodate all students on campus, regardless of race, creed, color or gender. And sharing nicely is everyone's responsibility.

Of course, being a tolerable and tolerant library patron isn't rocket science, and so most people could probably give you many of the ground rules of library ethics after some reflection. Some actions are simply impermissible in the library -- full contact ball sports and acts of flagrant sexual indiscretion (streaking excluded), for instance. Similarly, animal husbandry in the library is also unacceptable (particularly insofar as it might involve the use of whistles and bullhorns), though again, concomitant with streaking, you might not really piss anyone off. Other actions are universally acknowledged as appropriate to the library: reading, writing, blitzing, brooding, woolgathering, and, apparently, snorting Adderall in the bathroom. (Is this freebasing?) These kinds of cases provide a backdrop against which it becomes difficult to imagine that people don't get along in the library.

And yet, some of us don't. For some reason, the finer points of library behavior remain shrouded in obscurity, and despite our best efforts we haven't really figured them out yet. Unfortunately, when it comes to library conduct, there has been precious little guidance available to students eager to use the library but without sufficient background in the theory and practice of library group dynamics. What these people need, and what I hope to provide this week, is nothing less than that apotheosis of reference materials: an advice column about libraries. So now, in the spirit of promoting good stacks-citizenship among a new community of "study buddies," I present a few small clarifications regarding library etiquette.

Dear Sage of the Stacks:

My friend Bellowing Drew and I come to the library once a term or so. We'd go more often, but people are always glaring at us when we come. Bellowing Drew insists it's just because the people in the library are douches who would glare at anyone, but I feel like they only glare when he starts talking about stuff like practice, his favorite Pop Tarts or how he thinks if he was an animal, he'd want to be an iguana that fought a lion. Is it possible that he's the douche? Who's the douche?

-- Glared at by Douches(?) at Dartmouth, with Drew.

Dear Glared At:

You're right to think Drew might be pointing the finger a little fast. Perhaps unbeknownst to you, one of the cardinal rules of the library states that students ought to be reasonably quiet. This is not merely the whiny constraint of some, as you say "douche", but a well-justified rule. Most of the people in the library are normal people, just like you. We don't go to the library because we can't stand to be separated from stacks full of bound proceedings of the New Hampshire State Legislature; we just find our own rooms too distracting. Of course, if something as prosaic as a bed, a desk, and some clothes on the floor can prevent us from doing homework, clearly we're hungry for distractions. Even the most banal conversation will transfix us. So, if people glare at Bellowing Drew for asking you if you remember when, in elementary school, that rumor went around that calling someone a dude meant that you were actually calling them an elephant's butt hair, forgive them. Their options are to slog through another chapter of factoids about antibodies or to eavesdrop on a conversation about butt hair. Worse, they're doing the latter. So if Drew knows French, try telling him "Close your 'bouche,' don't be a douche."

Dear Sage of the Stacks:

I'm not usually the type to get in someone's face, but this girl just came into the library and has been talking on her cell phone for 20 minutes, and loudly playing a hip-hopera through some speakers. She thinks that just because she's in a study room, that no one can hear her, but everyone can. I've tried glaring at her through the window, passing her a picture of a talking girl being eaten by an angry whale (me), and asking her to please talk out in the stairwell, but nothing's worked. Would it be out of line if I went and yelled at her?

-- Exasperated in Evans Map Room

Dear Exasperated:

You need to confront her. It has long been said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (or women) to do nothing. But wait -- why did you depict yourself as a whale in that picture? Are you actually a whale? Return to your ocean home immediately or you will get dangerously dehydrated!

I imagine that should more or less put to rest everyone's pressing questions. Further inquiries and correspondence can be delivered by shouting messengers on horseback, scavenging the stacks and playing polo.