Dave's Mental Meanderings
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2004-12-11 17:28:09 (UTC)

The Virginia Tech Library

Unless you are a student or faculty member at Virginia Tech,
this piece will make very little sense to you. But read on,
intrepid wanderer of the far reaches of cyberspace. You've
come this far...

I wrote this piece some time in the spring of 2004 as part
of a "point-counterpoint" piece that a friend and I
submitted for publication for the Opinions page of the
Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech's student-run newspaper. My
esteemed colleague Keith Parsons argued in his half of the
column that the Newman Library at Virginia Tech is a sub-par
facility on many levels. I argue in my half of the column
that his claims are groundless and that the Newman Library
is a pinnacle of excellence among collegiate libraries. His
half got published. Mine did not.

Though a laughable second place to the Friday edition of the
Collegiate Times - copies of which lay strewn about campus
like confetti on the street in the wake of a parade, picked
up for at least a glance for any interesting and/or
offensive opinion columns and discarded for the next
journalism scavenger, until the following Tuesday's edition
finally hits the free-of-charge newspaper dispensers in nice
tidy stacks that will stay nice and tidy until the influx of
students for 8:00 classes hits campus - this seldom (if
ever) read online venue will just have to suffice.

Here it is in all its glory:


As college students, we’ve all got a lot of work to do.
Since time is at a premium, we need a place where we can do
our schoolwork in peace and quiet. And guess what? We
already have that place. It’s right on campus, in fact.
It’s called the Newman Library. Sure, nobody loves going to
the library. When someone says the word “fun,” if you
automatically think “library,” then you’re not a human being
as I understand the definition. But just because nobody
likes going there doesn’t mean it’s a sub-par facility. The
library shares the same unfortunate negative connotation as
the proctologist’s office in that, although going there is
in one’s best interest, it gets a bad rap because the
activities performed there are seldom enjoyable by their
very nature.

So why am I so quick to defend the library? First of all,
it’s quiet. In fact, you can always find a place in the
library where the only sounds are the delicate rustle of
papers, the rhythmic strokes of a ball-point pen, and the
occasional under-the-breath cursing of a professor. As an
engineering major, I’ve studied in countless locations
within and beyond the campus, and at none of them can I do
work as efficiently as I can at the library. It’s a place
where I can go and not have to listen to fellow engineering
nerds in the Hancock atrium whining about the 26 hours of
work they have to do that day, or Christian student groups
at Deet’s conducting Bible study at 140 decibels, or
quasi-human architecture majors at GBJ student center
discussing how their next project will illustrate
perspective in five spatial dimensions, or left-wing
pseudo-intellectuals at the coffee shops downtown examining
the philosophical implications of gouda cheese.

One complaint I hear a lot about the library is regarding
its stark and altogether visually unappealing environment.
I couldn’t agree more. The library is the aesthetic
equivalent of a rice cake. So why do I consider this an
advantage and not a point of contention? In my years of
being an over-worked student, I have come to the conclusion
that, in order for a venue to be conducive to studying, it
must be as bland as possible. One time I tried to do my
Thermodynamics homework at an AC/DC concert in the Louvre,
and it just didn’t work out for me. There were simply too
many distractions. From then on, I was sold on the library.

So why does the place have to have so many floors? Why
couldn’t they just make a two- or three-story building with
more space on each floor? Although I don’t know the answer
to that question, I find this structural characteristic to
be quite advantageous. I have disciplined myself to do my
work on a higher floor of the library depending on the
urgency of the assignment I’m working on in order to
discourage myself from taking frequent cigarette breaks. If
it’s just some reading that I don’t really have to do, I’ll
just cruise on up to the second floor. If it’s 8 hours
worth of Heat Transfer homework that’s due the next morning,
I’ll stake out a spot on the sixth floor. I don’t know
about you, but if I’m anywhere near an exit, I’ll only get
about 15 minutes of work done at a time between smoke breaks.

Some would argue that the library is inconveniently located.
Sure, it’s on the edge of campus, but there’s a reason for
that: drunk driving prevention. Don’t believe me? Well, I
assure you that it’s no coincidence that the library is
located practically in downtown Blacksburg. I don’t know
about you, but when I’ve had a few to drink, I’m overcome
with an insatiable desire for knowledge. It’s always the
same story – I stroll into a bar after a hard day of
schoolwork, and a pitcher or two later I want to rush off to
the nearest library. I think we’ve all been there, right
folks? For example, a couple friends and I were unwinding
over a few frothy beverages at Sharkey’s the other day when
we got to wondering about a question that has plagued
mathematicians and philosophers alike since before the time
of Aristotle. Wait, did I say mathematicians and
philosophers? I meant drunks. Anyway, that question is the
following: is it possible to achieve a state of
uninterrupted urination by consuming beer at the same rate
as expelling it? Luckily, we didn’t have to drive anywhere
to find out. We just walked two blocks down College Avenue
to Newman Library. After half an hour of heated debate
regarding the intricacies of the Dewy Decimal System, we
finally located the nephrology section. Much to our
chagrin, we learned that this feat is not possible due to
the fact that the kidneys process fluid in cycles. We left
the library with our heads hung low… but still attached to
our bodies because, thanks to the convenient placement of
the library, we didn’t have to subject ourselves to the
perils of drunk driving.

So don’t let me catch you making any disparaging remarks
about our beloved campus library. Sure, I may have to walk
across the epicenter of the universe (AKA the Drillfield),
where the wind blows right in your face no matter which
direction you’re walking, in order to get there. Sure, my
cowboy boots click-clacking on the library floor sound like
stiletto heels, drawing the attention all the male students
in the general vicinity, who are then sorely disappointed to
see a 6’3”, 210-pound man where they expected to see a
sultry blonde wearing a short skirt and high heels. But all
things considered, it’s in a class all its own when it comes
to great places to study.