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ISSUE 119 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/10/2006

Turf wars in Rolvaag: Studiers compete for library nooks

By John Douglass
Variety Editor

Friday, March 10, 2006

People have been fighting over territory throughout all of recorded history. As sure as Neanderthal gentlemen with unintelligible names fought over the jurisdiction of the largest and driest cave and the American colonies rose up to claim their right to North America, these fights and squabbles are still going on today. One unlikely place where the war of territory is waged daily with ferocity befitting Alexander the Great, is right here on campus: Rolvaag Memorial Library.

We all know them. They are those infamous groups who have staked out the very same corner of the library, making it completely their own, for three years running. Every day you walk up those stairs hoping that table will be open this time, knowing it will be full of those people you do not know, but recognize, and secretly vex whenever passing in the Caf.

We have all seen them. They are the study couple. That intriguing force of romantic nature bottled up in the microcosm of our little college on the hill. The couples that seem to spend every waking moment together … in the library, letting discretely held hands be the only thing distracting them from their relentless pursuit of knowledge.

Some of us are them. We stake out that one table in the Reference Room to which we are particularly endeared, and spread out all of our availa-ble books. It is the library equivalent to the way wild animals mark their territory. Albeit a bit more sanitary, it serves the same purpose: to protect our area from unwanted visitors while we step out for a bit to rouse up some grub.

“I always used to sit in the same spot in the library,” Jorie Steffen '07 said. “I always sat on the eastern side of the fourth floor in the upholstered chairs, next to the window overlooking the football field.”

Steffen's insistence on relegating her studying to such a specific spot is the way many students operate. Of course, on occasion some clueless library greenhorn tosses a wrench into the proverbial works when he or she unwittingly sits down in someone's well-worn territory.

“Oh man. Woe to that person I found in my chair,” said Steffen, demonstrating that fiercely territorial library instinct. If you find yourself studying in the library and on the wrong side of some stranger's inexplicable wrath, it is perhaps because you unknowingly put yourself in this very position.

Different people have different ways of dealing with reclaiming their library spots. It is a much easier problem to solve if you actually know the person. In that case you are able to jokingly tell the friend that they are in your spot. You can both have a little laugh about it, while they try to go back to studying and you stand there awkwardly until they finally realize that you were actually serious.

Much more discrete and drastic measures need be taken if the person you find in your spot is a complete stranger. Steffen stated her preferred method to be sitting as close to the person as possible, which is particularly effective if there are other spaces obviously open further away. Her stubborn nature would then prevail, as the other person would ultimately get up and move, simply due to the awkward and creepy nature of the situation.

Glares, huffing sighs and not-so-hidden rolling of the eyes are other oft chosen methods of intimidation in the attempt to reclaim that spot that is not even close to rightfully yours. One friend even admitted resorting to obnoxiously loud, fake calls on his cell phone before the perpetrator submitted and surrendered the spot.

The particular library spot that one is devoted to is interesting and telling about one's character. Library front desk worker Davis Wille '08 claimed to have the inside scoop.

“It is interesting to note the kids that like to study in the Reference Room versus those who just want to hunker down in their little bunker somewhere,” Wille said, with the air of a seasoned veteran of library affairs. “The Reference Room ones almost seem to want to be seen studying. It is a much more social thing for them, even though there isn't really any talking going on. That's where you are going to have a lot of your couples winding up.”

Wille's comments recall that equally hot-button issue of the library couple, and he had more insight to offer on the matter.

“I see a lot of pairs coming in here, always at the same time,” Wille said. “I work at the same time every week, but there are those few couples that must just be here every night.”

What posseses students to bring their significant other to the library with them to study? It seems as though it is only the most naturally distracting position in which you could possibly put yourself. The “social studying” Wille alluded earlier is perhaps an important aspect. Wanting to be seen studying, wanting to be seen together, is quite possibly one of the driving motivations of such couples.

Equal parts sweet and disgusting, with a healthy pinch of simple ridiculousness thrown in, these couples are no doubt here to stay. However, status as a “library couple” with a defined “library spot” is a perilous ocean to swim in, fraught with many dangerous reefs, the most significance of which is the end of the relationship.

Whether you have spent months or years studying in the same place in the library with your significant other, what happens when you go your separate ways? When the relationship meets its demise, the possession of the spot previously shared becomes a matter of convoluted ownership and custody.

Who gets to keep the spot? Do you each individually vie for the position and hope that you have beat the other one to the punch that particular evening? And what happens if you show up and your previous partner to studying there, cozying up with her chemistry book and someone new? These are questions that no student should have to answer.

So think hard, my fellow students. Think hard the next time you settle down to study. Think about where you are sitting and with whom you are sitting. Think about the possible consequences. We do not need a turf war worthy of the Sharks and Jets.

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