After avoiding Gelman Library all semester for the relative seclusion of my off-campus apartment, I yielded to my better judgment on Monday night to camp out for a few hours in the fifth floor study room. I wanted to get ahead in some of my classes with midterms looming. Unfortunately, after an hour of studying, a pile of feces and an all-male a capella singing group proved to me that GW’s main library was the wrong place to engage in academic pursuits.
Of course, this isn’t a new issue. In the past, students have referred to Gelman Library as “Club G” – a moniker that certainly evokes the social atmosphere engendered by over-caffeinated, study-drugged students in pajamas packed into study rooms and cubicles. Still, I had hoped that with midterms a couple weeks away, the library hadn’t yet transformed into its more social alter ego.
A few minutes after sitting down, I was informed by a fellow studier that someone or something had deposited what appeared to be human feces on the first floor of the library, just in front of the elevators. Had this happened in my high school library, I probably would have laughed. As a senior at GW, I just felt embarrassment. Whoever committed this act was able to get accepted to the same higher education institution as myself – a sobering fact for a senior looking for increasing worth from his diploma in the years to come.
There’s a chance that the little package was left by a Seeing Eye dog. It’s also likely that the deposit was part of a pledge event devised by one of the fraternities inhabiting the library during “study hours” – the time during which most fraternity and sorority pledge programs require their pledges to study in the library. As a fraternity member, I understand the principles behind study hours. Pledging a fraternity is a large time commitment, so allotting time for academics ensures that pledges are able to complete their educational commitments as well as their fraternal requirements. In reality, study hours are often not utilized for their intended purpose.
Instead, Gelman is filled with gaggles of new sorority sisters socializing and yapping on cell phones. Ragged-looking fraternity pledges march around avoiding their work. Faced with the prospects of dealing with a large group of students in matching attire, normal Gelman denizens cower in their seats or occasionally shoot a nasty look across the room.
Finally, after study hours ended and the mess in the lobby was cleaned up, I thought that I could engage my studies without further distraction. This was precisely the moment that I heard the singing and clapping. Somewhere outside, an all-male a capella group decided that directly in front of the library was the perfect place to hold an impromptu concert.
As if there weren’t enough problems inside the library, I had to hear this group singing the lyrics “in my head, in my head again …. ” Needless to say, the song stuck in my head. When I went downstairs to confront the singers, I informed them that any other place on campus would have probably been a more appropriate venue – apparently they hadn’t thought of that. After a few hours of frustration, the distractions were finally over.
Talking to a friend every few minutes, whispering quietly about something totally unrelated to your work or even talking quietly on your cell phone in public areas is not out of line. People should socialize in the library to a certain extent. But when someone does this in place of studying, they should move to J Street, their dorm or basically anywhere on campus besides the library.
Last year, the Gelman Library staff, through increased signage and publicity about library decorum, tried to fight back against such sophomoric behavior. With a new freshman class, however, Club G is guaranteed to return unless library users become defensive about their territory.
Those who abuse the library by spending most of their time distracting others deserve to be confronted. The next time someone starts talking loudly in a quiet room, everyone should shush them. The next time someone is talking loudly on their cell phone near a doorway, ask him or her to take it outside. Gelmanites need to make the abusers feel like they are in the minority. Make them feel stupid and embarrassed for disrupting everyone else, instead of letting them make you feel embarrassed for attending the same University as them.
I know it’s out of their nature, but the library’s real users need to speak up for themselves – and then continue reading quietly.
-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet senior editor.