Yesterday at 2.45pm various members of staff gathered to usher out the end of the year by ushering out students from the Library. We were surprisingly busy, and by the sound of things several people needed a little polite encouragement to leave- in the same way that some people need it pointing out to them that, yes, that is the Fire Alarm, and yes, could you please exit the building now please, thank you.
Obviously, Christmas doesn’t figure as significantly in the lives of some and I imagine that many students are frustrated by our shutting down for a week. This year, as in recent years, our Library is open during the holidays, staffed by Security and (touch wood) with all of our requisite e-resources functioning effectively: and this clearly meets a need. Particularly at my institution, the Library is a real focal point for student activity, so it’s probably comforting to know that there is a safe study space to head to when everything else in the area is either shut down or full of revellers.
I also take my hat off to those dedicated enough to maintain discipline and focus when the world around them is all tinsel and bright lights and merry. Speaking as a student with coursework to complete, I’m already bracing myself for that moment when I eschew sleeping in, put down the mince pies and categorically state in no uncertain terms that I’m not having another glass of prosecco as I need to focus on reflective writing and literature searching.
And I can see the attraction of heading into a Library in order to get the job done, after all it’s quiet, warm, spacious (most people aren’t there) and above all there’s less temptation to stray into seasonal territory. The library is also neutral: it’s not going to judge the excesses of the previous night, and it’s not going to take responsibility for what you get up to on the way home afterwards. It’s an other space, a world in between worlds designed to meet your needs at the time you have them.
I remember one year during my UG degree I went in to use some specialist video editing software and it reinforced my notion that a University Library feels out of context during the Christmas holidays. There was something eerie about being on campus, a smattering of other students here and there, no staff, with just some bemused security officers wondering why we had nothing better to do. Like being on board an HE Mary Celeste filled with lost souls drifting inexorably towards damnation (well, a deadline at least).
I’m honestly thankful that the only festive spirits I need to encounter at this time of year are either the Muppets showing miserly Michael Caine the error of his ways or the ones best mixed with lemonade. The only problems I envisage staying at home to study are battling with my own willpower and a dodgy broadband connection. At the same time, I do hope that the students visiting the library next week are happy and on track for a prosperous new year- and that they’re able to take a moment, even a brief one, to enjoy this festive season as intended.