Or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the S-Bomb
Turkey, Peacock, great-concrete-brutalist-monolith-of-doom… whatever you prefer to call it, I spent the first four years of my undergrad without studying in Robarts library. I had never felt the need. There were so many other spaces on campus that seemed less, well depressing. And even then, I rarely used the other libraries either. I was content, where-ever I was living (I’ve moved every year) to study in bed, on the couch, in the park, anywhere but the library.
There was something daunting about the size of the library, that you need ID to access the books, the mysterious 5th to 8th floors, the consummate concrete, the artificial lighting, and the air of agony of studying students, which made it seem all-too-like a prison to be a comfortable space to study.
And the triangles. All those triangles. The lights: glowing fangs. The library baring its teeth.
So I avoided Robarts. Then, in fifth year, a series of unfortunate events found me willingly entering Robarts, inviting myself into incarceration, into the belly of the beast (if a turkey can be considered a beast): 1. An article I needed was not available online, and 2. I don’t have internet access at home (I’ll talk about 2 a little more next week). As a result, I had no choice but to tackle the turkey, to pursue the peacock, to reconsider Robarts.
To be brief, it wasn’t so bad: an anticlimactic realization five years in the making. I even got used to the triangles. There’s little to say about UofT libraries at this point: you all know that they’re top ranked, full of great books, have plenty of study space, etc. That’s not new[s] to you, nor me. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the “s”-bomb…
…that is, to “shh”. Starting to use the libraries means I had also to transcend my private notion of a study space: there were other people there. And people can be loud. If there is one thing that is misunderstood about the UofT libraries, it’s that they are not sound proof: study rooms are not sound proof. They are not meant for dance parties. They are not meant for rocketing laughter or full-volume conversation. They are not meant for catching up on Spongebob episodes. But sometimes people forget this fact. And that’s okay—people forget things. Still, it can still be infuriating. So, what is one to do?
In a future post, we might go into more detail about how to go about shushing; it’s not always easy to do. But, I’ve made a new habit of shushing, and have a few quick tips to tide you over until that later post.
- Make eye contact, or don’t. There are pros and cons to each. If you don’t want them to know you are the shusher, shush into your lapel or your book. But, if you want to guarantee maximum shushage, look them in the eye. Single them out. Let them know that shush is for them.
- Speak if you can’t shush. If you have to confront a study room, it can be a little weird to open the door just to utter “shh” and walk away. Use your words: it also means other people can hear you, and the shushees will know that everyone knows they got called out.
- Be polite, offer alternatives. It’s hard to quarrel with politeness. Say “sorry to intrude” or “thought you should know”, and suggest that they might like to prefer to move to the cafeteria or a common space to talk (a polite ultimatum). They might not know that they’re being loud, and may appreciate the note.
- Borrow Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows. This option might not be available to you, but if you want to make sure you’re holding on to your assertiveness while being polite, Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows can’t do you wrong. Be polite, but on the attack.
- Bask in the approving nods of other library patrons. You’ve conquered the noisesome enemy; you are a library hero. Rejoice!