OP-ED: When Did the Library Become a Police State?

Ulysses Conrad, Staff Reporter, Senior

A dark room with oppressive shades barely blocking the cold shafts of light that filter through. Oppressive silence is enforced by adults who lurk behind glass that is almost guaranteed to be bulletproof. I am of course describing our school’s “library” or Information Center as it is known now. It’s one of the quietest rooms in the school, rivaling the silence after Mr. Lieber asks a question. Mostly this is caused by the authoritative stares of the monitors and harsh discipline that is enforced. So, I return to my previous question: Why is the library an authoritarian bubble?

Libraries have historically been places of quiet, where a student can elect to go for the purpose of studying or toiling away at the daily dose of homework. To be studying under those conditions is understandable and one of the hardest things to do is maintain the level of productivity while people in the library chatter, laugh, gossip, and make merry. If the library is such a sanctum of academics and responsibilities, why are students disrupting those trying to work?

Senior Luke Mackool explains why, stating, “There’s literally nowhere else to sit in this school.” He’s not wrong. Ever since the closing of the PMHS commons (lower and upper) to scheduled construction (to be finished in October 2021), and the restrictive seating in the school cafeterias, students have few places to congregate with friends. Many of them migrate eventually to the library. While the disruption levels are obvious, for much of the time, there isn’t overt shouting or even animated movements. Yet the bother felt in the library persists.

Perhaps the annoyance with the library stems from their isolation-inducing practices. When entering the library, one easily notices four chairs at a table. However, many friend groups are more than four, and if the unlucky 5th, 6th, or even 7th person dares to bring an unoccupied chair over to a table, they are swiftly reprimanded with the infamous line “only four to a table”. While the pandemic has been troublesome these past few years, it seems to be dying down. Therefore, limiting 4 to a table doesn’t seem to be based on a desire to keep the studious residents plague-free.

Another policy that seems to be strange to students is the collecting of school IDs near the end of the period. Originally, the policy was for contact tracing, but with students moving between tables and not staying in the library the whole period, the method appears to be most ineffective.

So what should be done? Besides designating a place to congregate in school during a free period, perhaps the rule that 4 to a table not be enforced but a limit to 6 to a table be enforced, with 4 chairs left out to start out with. And perhaps a weaning of the Student ID data collection every period could assist in shifting the popular opinion of our beautiful library towards the positive. Finally, maybe the shades could be opened just a bit further? I’m sure a little light never hurt anyone.