• Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

Life beyond the Main Library?

ByNancy Britten

Oct 26, 2023
image of the outside of the main library in the dark

It’s 8am and the sun has barely settled over the Meadows. Shielded against the cold with my Chilly’s cup and skinny scarf, I make the arduous trek towards the brutal visage of the Main Library. The closer I get, the more I feel like I’ve stumbled into an academic Hunger Games as students scramble like fire-ants towards the coveted fourth floor desks. This can only mean one thing: midterm season has arrived.
As I drift past yet-another seat “reserved” with a mere pencil case, I question why, when most of my time seems to belong to my degree, I choose to spend it in this soulless building of all places?

Deficit of seats, obnoxiously chatty freshers and bright headache-inducing lights aside, I wonder if the true root of my distaste for the main library is its tendency for harbouring an unhealthy attitude towards work. In a world of seeing my friends bedraggled at various library desks, post synchronous BeReals or my Snapchat maps being dominated by a mass cluster of Bitmojis in George Square, it’s hard not to feel unproductive outside of this environment.

Of course, the all-nighter has long been a legendary feature of student life. However, with this unsustainable pressure to spend every spare moment studying, it is all too common to view a trip to the Main Library as a reluctant chore rather than a privilege. I fear I have started to see it as a transactional service, used to extract value for my investment rather than to truly engage in its offerings.

Is it time to see greater potential in our study spaces? Can we look to our libraries as a place for human, as opposed to eduroam, connection? I’m not saying we need to romanticise every trip to the library, but rather to find ways of removing the clinical and conjuring inspiration from our studies beyond its cruel concrete vistas.

So if, like me, it has taken you until week five to decide that it’s time to start working through those tedious reading lists, allow me to make the bold suggestion of trying out the many lesser-known subject libraries or alternative study spots on campus. As much as I would like to gatekeep this, the history library in the Old Medical School is my personal favourite. Despite having to climb a seemingly never-ending spiral staircase (and it only being accessible to the lucky beholders of HCA student cards), the view from the top is well worth it, with its glass roof creating a well-lit mezzanine of marbled busts and obscure books from niche historical reading lists. To me, it’s a promise of productivity, peace and quiet.
Next, every dark academia fan’s favourite: the Law Library. Once you get past the inevitable wrath of actual law students responding to the threat of STEM students on their turf, studying under the fabled columns and lofty ceiling of this cosy spot makes it hard not to feel the echoes of Edinburgh’s storied past (or pretend you’re in the cast of ‘Suits’).

So, with this newfound perspective, I find myself standing at a crossroads, undecided whether this is a final farewell or merely a temporary hiatus in my relationship with the Main Library.

Although it has witnessed my triumphs and struggles, my late-night revelations and early-morning epiphanies, for now, I bid it adieu.

Image courtesy of Alex Baxter.