The Library Police: All Bark And No Bite?

At the beginning of this term (w/c 22 May), a new system was trialled in the University of York library wherein a note was left on any items unattended with a threat that, from the 29th, these items could be moved to the main library desk in order to free up seats if left for 30 minutes or more. The idea was sound, as many people hog their favourite seats for an entire day so they can come and go as they please, especially in the build up to exam season, but many were outraged that library staff could just walk around move people’s belongings, particularly as there were reports of notes being left when people made quick trips to the toilets or the vending machine.

The library’s Spotted Facebook page and also student media sites were the main place where this outrage was vented, as well as generally being very topical around campus for a week or two. This led to the extension of the 30 minute period to an hour alongside the also previously implemented “snitch line”, by which any library user can text a number if they’re being “disturbed”. Many are now suggesting that people just deal with these problems themselves instead of getting an adult involved- this isn’t school, after all- but at least it shows the library is finally making a commitment to making itself equally accessible to all during exam season, from the loud-mouthed to the shy.

However, this all begs the question as to whether the library staffs are all bark and no bite. Since the 30 minute period trialled was extended and the system is now fully underway, there has been no more mention of it on Spotted where it was repeatedly debated before. No one has actually told of having their things moved, nor of either using or being on the receiving end of the text enforcers. In a world in which complaints and quibbles are constantly brought up on social media and wherever anyone will listen- particularly students, as we were the first real digital generation- it seems very odd that no one has told any anecdotes since.

Of course, there may have been people rightfully falling victim to the schemes, as either serial seat hoggers or loud troublemakers, who became too embarrassed to own up to it, but it looks likely that the now-dubbed library police were using fear tactics and are now either afraid to follow through with moving people’s things or don’t need to as library users now aren’t daring to leave their seats. Either way, despite all the uproar, this seems like a very legitimate and innovative idea on the part of the library staff. Knowing that they had no staying power to do anything to help library users, they came up with something that was talked about university-wide, ensuring that everyone knew the idea behind it, and so even if there are a few unruly students who don’t care about the new rules, there will be a general, even unspoken consensus, as every exam-taking student will know how frustrating a loud environment with no seats or desks can be when everyone is already stressed to breaking point.


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