What really goes on in libraries?YouTube/NukezNitro

Nature blossoms: in the light, expansive months of summer, golden days unfold in a haze of sparkling wine spritzers, velvet-soft lawns, and the slow rise and fall of the sun. March-born lambs gambol, children cartwheel, newly-elected MEPs sunbathe on Brussels concrete.

And we find ourselves, in the full bloom of our prime and youth, in the confines of Cambridge’s 110 libraries. We force ourselves, gently perspiring, into these damp enclosures, confronted not by pollen, midges, or sunburnt European representatives, but by bookshelves, fellow students, and - worst of all – ourselves.

It is in the bowels and entrails of these sacred institutions that we examine the very worst of the sickly - library-creatures. To sit in a library – whether it be the college, faculty, or (send help!) the UL, is to be hopelessly thrust into the sweaty grasp of the Cambridge student body.

Never, ever, intrude upon the domain of the Law Fac library, for here be dragons

People become ill, and yet have the audacity to remain in public life. Phlegm and splutter spurt from hayfeverish nostrils and clogged-up throats: make sure to enter the plague doctor on speed dial when entering the Sidgwick Site! 

People make noise. It is, I assume, fascinating for medical students to observe the astonishing scope of sound the body can make, when the student in question has taken as their mission the alienation and anger of every single library dweller, without speaking a single word. A tight-lipped girl shuffles and reshuffles her papers with all the fretful force of a hippo taking its first steps. A boy stretches every tendon and toenail across the furthest reaches of the communal desk, papers and books lifted to reveal cocksure, privately-educated limbs. Irritable lips, smacking open to let sharp exhalations of breath, ricochet across the library walls, ensuring it’s not just one’s therapist who is subjected to one’s imprudently vented anger.

Worst still are those who are actually doing the work. Self-care tip no.1: never, ever, intrude upon the domain of the Law Fac library, for here be dragons – the fetal barristers, solicitors and judges of tomorrow. Legend has it that if you listen closely, you can hear the clink of pound coins as they type. I’ve had to distance myself from one close college friend due to her fear-inducing ability to focus on Classical Civilisation: the page scalded by the ferocity of her pen, the body clenched at the edge of the seat, the eyes gleaming with brilliance. Every glance at her stimulates a reassessment of the gulfs and valleys of my own gaping stupidity.

I’ve stared into the abyss of my soul and found that the most irritating person in the library is myself

Similarly, I have renounced the sweet embrace of my former home, the MML library. Too many other people doing my degree better than me I think, as I squint (with little or no attempt at hiding my snooping) at their work. How do you know the French for antediluvian? When were we supposed to learn that tense? What wonderful sentences are you making from the Spanish language? Leave it alone, and butcher it in shame, as I do! Friendships developed in lectures, classes, and Thursday 3pm squash and biscuits, are sacrificed to library warfare, sweet white lambs offered to assuage the demands of Cambridge libraries in exam term. 


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As a student of French, existentialist philosophy teaches us that we are ultimately alone. For all the sniffing and sighing and sprawling of the souls around us, our lives are defined by the solitude and finitude of our godless beings. When I drink my 7th cup of tea in the morning; when I scuttle along to the library; when I sit there, I am alone in my solitude.

The great thing about being eternally alone in your solitude is that it allows you to indulge in a lot of quality me-time. And so, over the course of my reflections, I’ve stared into the abyss of my soul and found that the most irritating person in the library is myself. My restlessness. My growing addiction to caffeine. My inability to conjugate the imperfect subjunctive, imperfect as I am. I may scorn others, but truly the cauldron of my simmering resentment is stirred only by my own hand. The petty irritations of the library and library-dwellers fade away, their coughing and twitching but a distant sound in the ether. Faced by the frustration of my procrastination, I stare into the abyss of my own soul and it is there that exists the most profound exasperation of those hot and sticky library afternoons.

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