In the age of Covid-19, when one turns up at the library, perhaps the only hardship is the weather. Scotland, as each of Edinburgh’s well-mannered students will know, is a place of radiant sun and cool, crisp wind. But as one approaches the ‘Serene Study Space’ (SSS), one forgets the glorious weather for the dazzling sight of the library.
Grand pillars rise up to the heavens outside the doors, pillars that have been called by some “bastions of modern architecture”. So famed is their beauty and resilience that many students have been known to smoke around them so as to tarnish a sight that, quite frankly, dazzles in its beautiful light-coloured stone. When one has finally torn their eyes away from the pillars, they can gracefully walk into the ‘SSS’. Awaiting them is a treat of magnificent proportions.
Ahead, in its calming beauty, lies the newly introduced front desk. Such a creation is perhaps only equalled by the grand nature of the library itself. One can barely saunter over to this desk, when the siren song of a smiling ‘Library Assistant’ calls them closer. Vulgar terms such as “hello” and “good afternoon” are thankfully not unleashed here. Rather a stern look through a well-appointed plastic screen, results in a smaller white screen being produced.
The screen is scanned with eyes desperate to discover a discrepancy, lest the paradisiacal setting of the library be breached. There are now two paths ahead: the first consists of a gruff nod or loquacious grunt followed by scuttling past and further into the deep chasms of the SSS.
The second brings out rage and shock in a combination that is rarely seen in the Seven Circles of Hell. ‘‘No booking?” ‘‘The wrong day?” Or even ‘‘You’re late.” All of these terms are uttered as if poison were dripping from the vaulted ceiling.
Thankfully one takes the path less travelled and scuttles away past the newly introduced front desk. The experience leaves the sweetest taste in the mouth, as if one is tasting the nectar of Olympus. The first delight of the Serene Study Space has been fully enjoyed. And yet there is perhaps a lurking sadness within, for as the best part of the day has now been experienced, it is most likely all downhill from here. But wait. One remembers a question they have about the SSS. That can mean only one thing.
A trip to the helpdesk. One almost skips over to the desk, such is their ebullience caused by anticipation of another Library experience.
The desk lies in front, perfectly semi-circular, like an apple from the Tree of Knowledge. But this apple holds far more than knowledge. Another well-appointed glass screen, almost glowing with beauty, pans around the desk.
One searches for a human face yet there is no face, instead a far better sight greets their arrival: a white computer screen. In today’s world there are precious few screens, so it is an honour to interact with one.
One starts typing their question and finds themselves emphatically impressed. Another example of the University’s resource and genius is that it has managed to find an anti-Covid computer. The computer keys should be perfect carriers for Covid-19, so it must clean itself after each use, such cutting- edge modern technology.
The computer is a perfect vehicle for communication and the question is answered instantly and succinctly, another Library experience that has lived up to the mark of brilliance.
While dancing away, the sheer joy of the situation is starting to overflow, but was there movement behind the screens covering the back half of the helpdesk? Surely there wouldn’t be people behind there? It must be the flicker of a nightmare; such an activity would be impossible. It would annul the point of the laptops and the University would never create a system so pointless.
One glides up the stairs, cherishing each easy step. One only needs to glance at the perfectly organised floor map to know where they are heading. There is a sigh of relief at seeing the taped bookshelves. Imagine taking a book out of a library, or even reading it whilst in the library. The ridiculousness of such an action sends shudders down the spine.
Walking through the one-way system, passing students who have probably been following the signs for hours, one smiles openly at how happy these students must be: eternally enjoying the fruits of the SSS.
Finally, one sits down. The desk name is a wonderful-sounding name that brings to mind a beautiful world post-Covid, and definitely doesn’t sound like the name of a low-grade pornstar. One realises how busy the library is at the moment. That isn’t surprising, because after such a joyful experience, how could it not be?
Image: Stinglehammer via Wikimedia Commons