Sleep Tight, Sweet Scholar

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Or, Why I Enjoy Finding Students Asleep in the Library

Occasionally I find myself lucky enough to come across a student who has fallen asleep in the library and when I do, I always linger for a few seconds to appreciate the scene. I may even go so far as to sigh and murmur a quiet “Awww….”. My fondness for sleepy-types first revealed itself almost a decade ago with the birth of my oldest child. My weakness was originally relegated to the wonder and surprise of her sweet face when (finally!) relaxed in slumber, but soon after I found myself smiling and sighing over everyone who was unconscious. When I would chance upon a homeless person asleep in the reading room of the large metropolitan library where I had my first librarian gig after graduate school, for example, I would grin as if I were staring into a basket of fuzzy kittens. The part of my brain that was once able to intelligibly decipher the image of a sleeping person has since turned into chocolate pudding.

What does my weakness for sleepy beings have to do with you, the students of Berea College? It should reassure you that contrary to what many of our students believe, we library folk don’t mind if you fall asleep in the library. Sure, we are not going to invite you to bring sleeping bags and camp stoves with you anytime soon, but you need not be worried about us getting angry if you nod off in our cozier chairs, either. After all, it is warm in Hutchins and many of you subside on diets of too little sleep and too many carbohydrates; it is bound to happen. When you find your eyes starting to cross a mere 3 lines into that required reading for class and the book suddenly grows too heavy for your hands, we understand. Sure, you could wait and fall asleep in your dorm, but we appreciate that you’ve chosen the library to study at and we understand that into any good study session, some slumber must occasionally fall. If you are able to nod off here while studying, then we are succeeding in creating a comfortable and safe third space for you on campus and so we are glad, not mad.

Your dorm room is your first space, your home away from home, the place where you can relax and be yourself. Your classrooms and work spaces are your second spaces – the places you are required to be so much of each day, but at which you can never – out of necessity – completely relax. Many of you wouldn’t be welcome to wear your headphones in class or your favorite worn-out sweatpants at work, for example; the expectation is that you will be engaged and listen when you are in a classroom space and that you will appear semi-professional when at work. Sure, you could theoretically do both of those things in your dorm, but perhaps you have other distractions there that prevent you from using the space as well as you could, such as a roommate who never turns off their tv or whose boyfriend is always visiting. Sound familiar? Then pack up your laptop, textbooks, coffee mug (with lid!), ugliest sweatpants, and headphones and come on over to Hutchins Library. We are the perfect solution when you can’t relax at work or in class, but you can’t get anything done in your dorm room, either. We are your third space on campus. If you happen to fall asleep while you’re here, have no fear; the worst that could happen is that you’ll wake to find a librarian smiling at you.

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