BREAKING: Violet discovers historic war journal from Easter 2018

The library is a game of survival, and winning is the only option

Mateo Austin

InsurmountableMATEO AUSTIN

On 29th April, one brave college JCR convened to make a decision that would fundamentally tip the balance between good and evil.

Plagued with concerns about rent campaigns, drinking societies and a truculent accommodation manager, they let slip past a motion against the reservation of library desks. This lead to an unprecedented arms race in passive aggression, dirty looks, and at its worse, four to five tense sentences before a terrified fresher is exiled to the discomforts of the main desks. As often happens in times of war, documentary evidence has been hard to come by. Recently, however, a confused student looking around in the Compsci bookshelves, uncovered a single book (a momentous discovery in itself). It was not just any book, but a journal, documenting daily struggle. Penned by a bored classicist calling themselves Saila Diputs, the diary follows their journey to acquire territory in the wilds of the college library, and the lengths they went to avoiding both their work and the cold grips of exile.

26th May, 11:00
The sky is white, lit by the blinking of fluorescent tubing above my head, the floor lies littered with a snow covering of scrunched up lecture notes. Red desks line the walls, exuding the comforting glow of a private space to watch TV pretending to work. My group had just turned the familiar corner to approach position, bags hanging loose, a smuggled cappuccino in one hand, a Pret egg and cress in the other. Approaching my desk, something was amiss – a stray tote bag.

The bag carried a latent menace, the promise of harm untold, exuding malice from the depths of its hempen core. I turn to my desk. My notes are missing, piled on a nearby windowsill; an effigy of man’s worst depravities. My calendar, ripped away, its only remains four stains of blu-tac. I look to my seat and recoil in horror, for an enemy has taken it. I immediately take up defensive positions, by looming awkwardly and staring. My stare is met by two blue dots of malice, belonging to a second year lawyer. They open fire, with a frosty “Oh sorry was this your desk?”

Oh the humanity! I retort with a volley of apologies and stumble back a few steps, returning to the main section, a monolithic public table, a tapestry of stress and anguish. No privacy, poor lighting, a full two minute walk from the classics stack. Exile is cold, the world is a cruel place.

Tomorrow I shall mount my offensive.


27th May, 10:00
The sky is blue today, a blue of promise: today will be a good day. I arrive at my desk, only to see my nemesis, looking smugly at me over a land law ring binder. I retreat back to my position to scheme. After three hours the position is left abandoned, however heavy defences have been erected: a set of heavy textbooks, reems of notes and a full compliment of highlighters, more than I can move in a single lunchtime. I resolve instead to make my presence known, emptying out their water bottle, and crossing off a few items on their to do list. I also move the seat to a different desk, and take away the lectern. Hopefully this will have sent a clear enough message. Reconnaissance completed I slink back to my desk – tomorrow will be the day.

28th May, 8:45
Today I am victorious, the enemy clearly foiled by a 9am exam, preventing them from arriving in the library at opening time, and allowing me the opportunity to reclaim the desk. The sky was red when I rose, these early downtime hours unfamiliar to my constitution. This time I have come prepared, bringing 13 superfluous books to spread around, as well as two water bottles. I begin my defences by setting up a rack of sticky notes, pinning them to the back wall of the desk’s divider to prevent any quick attempts at moving my things while I go to Sidgwick for a brief revision supervision patrol. I hope that this will be enough to keep the enemy at bay until I return this evening.

29th May, 12:30
The sky is a deep grey. Yesterday’s defences worked admirably, my opponent was reduced to sitting on one of the small desks next to the catalogue computers for the rest of the evening, a fitting punishment.

Today however they have employed a most dastardly defence, a note reading “back in 5, please leave stuff.” But it is merely a ruse, for it has been over an hour, and I in good conscience cannot capture a marked desk. Times may be desperate, but decorum is key. I will not however let this go unavenged, and settle my rage and turn up the heat, as it were – on the three surrounding radiators to max. While I may be denied the peace of a proper workspace, they will spend at least some of their time in a hotter-than-comfortable environment. The big desk is dire today, two students have coughs, and worse still someone has brought a bag of carrots, crunching merrily through, with no apparent concern for those around them. I can only hope the situation will improve.

1st June, 17:00
It has been three days since my last entry, in the meantime I have been thoroughly bested by my opponent and I now have no hope of desk reclamation. In an unprecedented move, she has slowly moved her friends into the surrounding desks, so that at any given time, the watchful eyes of two Englings and one particularly vicious historian make any further incursions impossible.


Mountain View

Violet investigates: The truth behind student welfare

There is still possibility however, perhaps that some other denizen of this nasty, brutish and stressful realm has been less watchful. I begin to pace the desks looking for someone less vigilant. Some desks have impressive fortification; a second year English student has reinforced their bunker with several textbooks, while a well-muscled fifth year medic stares down any who approach the two corner desks he has appropriated for himself. I approach briefly to ask whether he needs both desks, my only response a sullen glare, a brief flex, and then a cold denial. I return to my exiled desk and proceed to count the coughs; 12 in eight minutes, a new record, this cannot go on. Tomorrow I will work in my room, and doom myself to six hours in a duvet and the inescapable mires of YouTube vine compilations.

The diary ends here – a stain initially thought to be blood, but later discovered to be Strongbow dark fruits wiping out the remaining text but leaving us with some abortive attempts at poetry, a shopping list, and a half written bit of coursework scoring a low 2:2. Hopefully the above text may give some pause, and invite us all to reflect on our library behaviour.