Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 8, 2021

Stop calling dibs in the Reading Room

By SAMHITA ILANGO | April 28, 2016

On my way out of college, I've spent some time thinking about loose ends, trying to tie each as efficiently as possible. Laced with bittersweet feeling, I write this piece, leaving my undergraduate career with a PSA.

My main grievance: Seat saving in the Brody Reading Room. I see why people like the Reading Room. I’m a fan. The room smells like productivity, and the windows make everything glow. I feel collegiate and shiny as I silently make my way through the space in search of a table. But then my flight of determination comes to a halt as I see that an empty chair no longer means “empty chair.” Plugged-in laptops or stacks of books act as placeholders while students take breaks. You look right, you look left. You don’t see the owner in sight. But you are forced to retreat and continue your hunt through the rows of tables. Sometimes it’s a success, other times not.

Sure, if these breaks are 15-30 minutes, I’m on board. But for what seems like the majority of the time, these breaks last more than an hour. Sometimes three. I’m sure the act comes from the fact that seats are hard to come by in the Reading Room. We’re human — survival of the fittest is in our blood. But should ferocious seat-saving be the way we live our days? My reason to not justify seat-saving in the Reading Room boils down to the simple fact that while that seat is vacant for more than an hour, it could instead be used wisely by a student in need.

Now I can’t say I have never fallen victim to seat-saving in the Reading Room. I, on a few occasions, have been the obnoxious student that places down a notebook and then scuttles off to a lecture or two. And man, it feels good to confidently walk back in three hours later, passing by the naive seat-seekers, knowing you have a spot. But I have come to my senses and bid the habit farewell.

So here is what I propose for the student who has an aggressive need to claim territory in the library. I suggest he or she save space in the various other areas of Brody or MSE. If you want a similar Reading Room experience, feel free to save a seat in the equally as silent, yet slightly less glamorous MSE M Level Reading Room. There are plenty of open seats to pounce on. Alternatively, save a cubicle. Cubicles, though fought over during peak study seasons, are far more common on each floor of MSE. Plus, the privacy of cubicle walls allows one to dodge dagger eyes when you return to claim your saved space. Finally, if you are so worried about getting a spot in the library, plan ahead and reserve a room online. But if the reading room is really what you want, leave a note on the desk with your return time and allow another student to rent the space while you’re away. Ultimately, there are alternatives to this game of dibs.

College isn’t what you think it will be, and it’s not as cute as Rory Gilmore made it seem. But it’s definitely something. It’s a time to grow up, absorb your surroundings, stop seat saving and pack up.

Samhita Ilango is a senior cognitive science and anthropology double major from San Diego. She is one of the Editors-in-Chief.

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