Brandon Minster

The ancient rocker Bob Dylan, who was surmised by most of Generation Y as being an artifact from Generation B, once said, “The times they are a-changin’.”

Well, he really said, “Harara rararah shuhushushna lamanana,” but the album notes indicate the previous meaning. And that meaning very accurately describes the world.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the modern library. The historical image of a library involves dusty shelves overseen by dusty librarians who speak a language that has 37 different words for “shh.”

Those librarians have been replaced by a new breed of administrators who want the library to be cool again (or, more accurately, for the first time).

It must have been this type of administrator who oversaw the design of the Johnson Center, a combined student union and library.

I imagine the planning involved a discussion like this: One campus bigwig said, “the library is too small.” Another said, “we need a student-union-to-student ratio closer to 1-to-1.”

Finally, a third campus bigwig cut the Gordian knot by suggesting, “why don’t we put them together, combining the loudest building on campus with the quietest?”

The JC study carrels are probably considered a substitute for those in Fenwick Library. The cramped quarters of Fenwick often pushes students to find a study spot in the JC library stacks. When this has happened to me, I’ve had a number of the “new library” experiences that Bob Dylan was singing about.

Once while studying in the library, I found myself in the middle of a soccer game. Had I been studying soccer, the additional material would have been invaluable. Sadly, however, I was not studying soccer, and the impromptu game was somewhat distracting.

Another time I found myself next to two former high school cheerleaders who cleared a large space to see if they remembered their old cheering routines. An hour and a half later, the question was evidently still unanswered.

Even Fenwick is subject to “new library” activities. Large common tables are often the setting for fraternity meetings or sports team camaraderie-building.

Group study rooms become temporary lounges for groups of friends who have inadequately sized apartments for entertaining. And “quiet study area” signs are disregarded as the fascist social control mechanism they so obviously are.

The unreliability of adequate studying areas in campus libraries has led me to try to create “old library” conditions in my home. My wife laughed at my design, wondering how I planned to get quietness in a house with three kids.

It turns out those old librarians were onto something: Telling people “shh” gets them to be quiet. In just a few weeks of conditioning, my house of small children is now a more productive study space than a university library.

I’m yet to be overwhelmed by cheerleading routines or soccer games, and I’ve never been muscled out of my desk by two people who just wanted to eat lunch together while calling themselves a “study group.”

Anyone looking for a study area and dissatisfied with the “new library” routine can apply for a library card at my house, where he or she will find comfortable seating, well-behaved patrons and the soothing mumblings of Bob Dylan.