While I was waiting to fill up my water bottle on the first floor of Frost at the Brita station that is always mysteriously and troublingly slow, I began to look at the Frost comment cards posted to the bulletin board. Most of the comments addressed how wonderful the library and its staff are, yet one notecard truly stood out. Written in all caps, it declared:
I REMEMBER WHEN LIBRARIES WERE BASTIONS OF ETIQUETTE VIA SILENCE. “SOCIAL FLOOR”IS A CUTE IDEA, BUT YOU HAVE THE WHOLE CAMPUS TO BE SOCIAL + LOUD. WHY TAKE THE LIBRARY’S ESSENCE OF STUDY AWAY FROM US?!?
I cannot recall the last time (if there ever was one) that I felt so troubled and angry by a comment card. I memorized the lines and stormed off, back into the front room, where my friends were seated, on the social floor. I told them about the comment, quoting key phrases like “bastions of etiquette via silence” and “cute idea.” This article derives from that moment of pure passion.
A Letter to the Writer of the Comment Card
To Whom It May Concern:
After I wake up in the morning, I rush to Val and eat a plate full of scrambled eggs and English muffins in five minutes flat, saying a few words to whoever happens to be seated in the front room that morning. I hurry to class, where I take notes and raise my hand and am reminded of whatever essay is due Friday. I then check items off of my to-do list, stop by office hours, and go to class again—where I receive an additional reminder about my essay due Friday. At the end of this exhausting day, I meet up with my friends and together, we walk to Frost.
At Frost I find a seat somewhere on the first floor, I unload the contents of my backpack onto the table, and I ask the people around me how their day was. Maybe I tell a story loudly, or I laugh at someone’s comment, or I coo as I watch a video of a puppy. Maybe I’m just conversing with one other person, or maybe there’s ten of us all huddled around one table.
Now, I think this is the point at which you would begin to notice that I am being “social + loud”—and I would not disagree with that sentiment at all. Where I fail to fall in line with your strongly worded comment card, however, is at the point at which that you criticize the lively social hub that is Amherst’s library. Frost is a far cry from the “bastions of etiquette via silence” of libraries past—that’s for sure—yet to portray this fact in a negative light denies that sense of community and positive energy that is fostered here.
The open floor plan and flat desks of the first floor are designed to encourage conversation and collaboration. Students can study for their tests or complain about their assignments or discuss their research projects together. Frost—and the first floor in particular— was specifically formed to create a sense of community that cannot be found in many other places on campus. While we may not have the grand architecture or the beautifully designed bookcases that adorn the libraries of other college campuses, we have a library that emits positive energy, community, and cohesion.
Last autumn, Amherst Uprising began in the entryway of Frost. It did not take long for the monumentally powerful protest and sit-in to transform into a spot for students to perform music and poetry, to have conversations—rich in both tears and laughter—with their peers and friends, to eat and sleep alongside one another. I strongly feel that I have never experienced a greater sense of community than I did during the sit-in. And that community was formed in Frost, on our first floor. And yes, we were being both social and loud.
After classes or a particularly stressful day, I truly look forward to going to Frost. I get excited to sit beside others as we intersperse conversation with work. Is the first floor of Frost the most productive work space on campus? Probably not. If that’s what you’re after, I recommend that you either going up or down a few levels.
Amherst College would not be the same if it were not for our library. Frost is not taking the “essence of study” away from you. Instead, it is creating the essence of community for all of us.
Also, Comment Card Writer, never, ever describe an idea as “cute.” A laughing monkey is cute. A small toddler dragging a tray around Val is cute. But an idea, a concept, something that the very wise and experienced library staff created for our benefit, that is not cute. To say so is diminutive of the extensive planning and consideration they put, and continue to put, into creating the wonderful space that is Frost Library.
Irate comment card reader and avid social studier