January exams have come around all too soon and this means only one thing. Let the battle commence between the students of Nottingham University and the staff of the Hallward Library. An increase in library attendance and fraught exam stress means enhanced levels of rule breaking, which naturally the Hallward Hitlers don’t take kindly to. But I can’t help feeling that their attitude is a little extreme in some cases…
My first bone to pick is the level of intensity with which they uphold the ‘NO CARD, NO ENTRY’ rule. Despite being able to prove in various different ways that you are in fact a student at the University and don’t just get your kicks out of gaining illegal entry into libraries, there is no budging them. I think that even if I broke down and wept, explaining tearfully that my entire degree depended on being able to print my dissertation off in the next five minutes they would gleefully shake their heads and watch me retreat dejectedly. They secretly love it, and nothing gives them greater pleasure than when they catch you smuggling an extra person through the barrier, or attempting to pass yourself off under the guise of someone else’s card. I wouldn’t be surprised if they go home at the end of the day (because obviously they all live together) and share stories around the dinner table, “Does he think I was born yesterday ‘Sarah Dartford’ my arse…I can see you’re not of the female anatomy young man, pull the other one…” (Pause for excessive twattish library-worker laughter).
We all know by now that taking hot drinks above the ground floor is forbidden. So when a friend of mine attempted to defy the system, he was inevitably stopped in his tracks pretty sharpish with that recognisable call of “Excuuuuuse me, you’re not allowed coffee on this floor.” He turned, mid-stride to face the small, mousey woman accosting him and deadpan replied “Thank God it’s tea then”. You can imagine the tirade that ensued from this mini Miss Trunchball. But given that you are permitted to take water to said floors, what exactly is the difference? Are they suggesting that it’s perfectly acceptable to hose down the books with a refreshing torrent of water, but god forbid that we might physically scorch and emotionally scar the poor things with a shot of caffeine? Books have feelings too you know.
I recently took great pleasure in wittily responding to the usual dressing down about bringing food above ground level. After a visit to Boots I re-ascended the stairs to my glass-box Reading Room haven, but was stopped in my tracks with the call of, “You know you can’t eat up here” accompanied by a swift, telling gesture towards by Boots bag. “Good job I don’t enjoy the taste of Tony and Guy hair mousse then isn’t it?”
The obvious solution is of course to venture up the back stairs to avoid such confrontations. However, the back passage is not such a safe haven as you might imagine. Whilst partaking in a particularly emotionally charged phone conversation recently, I naturally retired to the stairwell on the fourth floor for some privacy. My tearful exchange was rudely interrupted by a member of staff who happened to be walking past. She angrily informed me that people on the third floor in the silent section were being disturbed by my conversation. Are they really? Or did you just fancy having a go? I’d be impressed with their bat-like sonar hearing if they could genuinely hear through a wall, a floor, a set of double doors, and multiple aisles of books, but forgive me if I’m mistaken.
My favourite anecdote comes from my housemate who suffered a written warning for her unacceptable library conduct. The incident began when she was quietly studying and minding her own business in her booth. She soon became aware that something was amiss when the dark shadow of a small, bespectacled Scottish man suddenly loomed over her work. “Is this a joke?” he spluttered with a strong Glaswegian accent, whilst laughing unbelievingly at the sheer cheek of her behaviour. He continued, “You are disrespecting me, this library and the library books.” Given that the criminal in question still looked utterly bewildered he eventually managed to explain (after several pauses to allow the resumption of a regular breathing rate) “A RIBENA CARTON…NEXT TO A LIBRARY BOOK…” He took immediate action demanding the student number of the offender before marching off leaving a trail of steam emanating from both ears. Within five minutes an email landed in said student’s inbox, detailing the incident, with a warning that if caught again she should expect an on-the-spot fine and could even be barred from further library use. He also kindly attached a copy of the Hallward handbook suggesting she remind herself of appropriate library conduct.
Such ruthlessness has crept over the boundary into the library café like an unwelcome fungus. We are now unable to get a simple cup of hot water without incurring a charge, they’re unwilling to supply plastic cutlery for free unless it is used to consume goods purchased in the establishment, and most recently the staff explained that “condiments are to be used for purchases made from this cafe only, otherwise a charge of 50p will be incurred.” What about if I bought some crisps from the cafe but wish to use a packet of salt to flavour my Refuel chips? Now we’re in murky waters!
A quick note to the staff of Hallward Library: we’re not massacring entire communities, we’re not defacing the building, we’re not assaulting terminally ill children, we’re just having a bloody coffee.