Libraries, since their first appearance in Aristophanes, have been stringently held as bastions of knowledge. The image of the library is typically one of austere scholarship, a place for serious learning. After all, why else would Albert Einstein say that “the only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library? Perhaps because Dr Einstein has not visited the Edinburgh University Main library.
The Main library has, in less than a term, somehow become synonymous with nothing typical of a library, except maybe the number of books. As a first year, this comes as a mild surprise. Early on it seemed very easy to dismiss those warnings from faux-wise second years and press for the occasional hour or so of scholarship. However, with exams’ dark spectre looming, it seems that those sages of older years may have been right.
If you can first dodge the “Chris Froome”s on cobblestone, you might be able to arrive in front of the library – anything but an achievement. Here, you are faced with some kind of ramshackle totemist gathering whose icon is the ever-charming cigarette. It is worth noting that the author is not a disgruntled anti-smoker, but the presence of at least twenty people smoking in front of the library is a surer bet than inopportune Edinburgh rain.
Once, or if, you slip past the wall of nicotine, you are met with the library interior. This is the stage of your journey where you might feel your optimism returning, for the main hall of the library, adorned with its inspirational quote about letters and countless touch screen set-ups, gives the impression that it is very much a possibility that you might get some work done. Unfortunately, this optimism lasts only as long as it takes to reach the study areas. These areas, and through one’s slow wandering about them, could drain the spirit of even the most resilient scholar.
It is almost impossible, with your hope very slowly but steadily fading, not to feel that everyone with a place to work is more organised and devoted to their studies than you are. The final nail in the coffin of your scholarship is the farce that is trying to get the lift. It is somehow the case that it takes longer to get into a lift that is going to where you want to go than it does to explore the entire library by foot. In any case, it seems a strange notion that such a small proportion of the student body of a university be able to fit into said University’s main library. I am sure that, by now, the reader might want to inform me of all the brilliant alternatives to the main library. Fair point, well made, but are there enough alternatives to fit the roughly 80% of students that the library cannot? Despite the tone of my “writing”, it is a serious issue for many, exacerbated – as I’m told – by the closure of the Teviot and the university are seemingly unbothered.
If, by some miracle, there are any Edinburgh higher-ups reading this, could you maybe have a think about it?
“File:30 George Square, University Of Edinburgh, Main Library 01.jpg” by Stinglehammer is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.