Monday, December 7, 2009

Sleeping in the Library

[In honor of over 1,600 UC Irvine students in favor of occupying the library unless the University restored 24-hour library access for finals week, this reflection on library rules. The protest is part of UC-wide protests against 32% fee increases and the privatization of the University of California system.]

If singing was ever allowed in the library, no one can remember it; likewise drinking and sex.

Talking aloud became difficult early in the library’s history, certainly by 1300,* or perhaps as soon as a public appeared.

The common prohibition of eating may have been more recent, and of course of photography, as it became a security risk.

The Fresno Public Library specifically rules out “bathing.” Also “giving speeches or handing out literature.”** In Ann Arbor there can be no board games, “except . . . when such games are provided by the Library as part of an organized activity.”***

No one can sleep in such places. Nor, in Washington, D.C., may there be any “lying or placing head on tables or on the floor.” You’re allowed two bags: “the official Airport standard ‘carry on’ size—9”x 14” x 22”—will be applied to the large bag.”+

California libraries aren’t open long enough for dreams. In practice, you might sleep there for a short time, without a blanket and on the condition you’re not homeless. You must show your identity card (if asked) to the campus police.++

What are we going to say to the notice
that there’ll be no more studying in the library,
that reading and writing will no longer be allowed?
--Meet you at the library, the one named
after the real estate tycoon. No one has ever seen it
after closing time. Inside every book
is someone’s lost place,
between the books an out of order

*Scott Douglas, “Dispatches from a Public Librarian,” Dispatch 23, McSweeney’s, 8/14/06

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