Literary Journalism

The many worlds of Rohrbach Library, a living and breathing building that never sleeps

By Rachel Smith

1:55 p.m.

The library appears to be standing slightly taller today as the flurries fall furiously around its body. It is the Sunday before Thanksgiving break and Mother Nature has apparently decided that today would be an ideal day for the first snowfall of the season. The wind swirls the flurries in every direction, making it impossible not to feel the coolness of winter coming our way. I walk up towards the entrance and join the other six students who are waiting patiently to feel the warmth from within the library. A short brown-haired girl clasps her hands and brings them to her mouth in attempt to warm them; I wonder if it is helping. A sharp click suddenly comes from the front doors.

2:00 p.m.

Heads turn swiftly first, and then the bodies follow toward the sound while gliding to the entrance in one single motion. After a quick hello and a nod towards the reference librarian holding the front door open for me, I step into the library and make my way to the quiet zone on the second floor. Walking up the steps, I make a few glances around the main floor. It is obvious that everyone has decided to stay in and work on their assignments, rather than brave the drafty and snowy weather- a smart choice it seems. All of the tables and chairs in the section are open, making it incredibly easy to choose where to sit. I decide on a rather large, blue chair that looks incredibly enticing which happens to be facing the long, rectangular window with a wonderful view of the flurries coming down outside. Time moves by quickly and I am soon joined by two young men with their game faces on. They decide on a small table not too far from me, shake the snow off their jackets as they sit down and get right to their work. It does not take long before

small intimate whispers are exchanged between the them, making it difficult to understand their conversation even when I am sitting so close.

“Do you know when the big basketball game is?”

“I think it’s on Wednesday,” his friend replies skeptically as he continues to type frantically on his laptop’s keyboard.

The questioner gazes out the large window in front of him, taking in his friend’s response carefully. He sighs deeply before digging back into his work that is before him. I finish up the document that I am working and decide it is time for a cup of joe. After gathering up my things, I walk back downstairs towards the Book & Brew in the center of the main collection.

3:30 p.m.

The Book & Brew coffee shop offers a hot cup of joe, tasty and delicious treats and ready-to-go sandwiches to satisfy many students’ hunger needs. With a fresh cup of coffee in my hand, I walk over to the computer lab on the main floor and decide to spend some time between the groups of students that have walked in since the library has opened. There is a tall, blonde tech guy with his head inside of one of the printers; maybe it is a paper jam. A few students are beginning to gather around him, looking just as puzzled as he is.

“Sorry guys, it’ll just be another minute or so. I almost have it, I think,” the tech guy says with his head still inside the printer door.

I quickly catch one of the student’s eyes roll as the tech guy makes his statement. He catches my stare and turns his head away from the situation happening before him; obviously infuriated with the printer or perhaps the tech guy. After settling into a chair at one of the Lenovo desktops, I am welcomed by a surprisingly loud conversation happening across from me between a guy and a girl.

“Have you finished the assignment for O’Malley’s class yet? It was due on Friday,” the girl explains with a concerned look on her face.

He slowly turns his head towards her with a disapproving stare, “No Katelyn, I haven’t. I had like, four other things due that day and that didn’t make the cut. Plus, it’s only worth like, 10% of our final grade? It can’t be that important.”

Katelyn’s face falls as she turns and faces her computer screen. She does not answer him.

“Did you finish it?” he pushes.

“Yes, I did. I spent a lot of time on it. Unlike you, I need all of the points I can get,” she says with a sharp tone.

I shake my head disapprovingly as the conversation continues between the two. Is everyone starting to break down? There are still a few weeks left in the semester, I think to myself. One glance towards the printer tells me that the issue has not been resolved yet, and now it is starting to produce a strange clunking noise. There is a sudden rush of students coming from the entrance, all making their way towards the computer lab I am in; it is about to get busy in here. Soon they are sitting at their computers, typing on the keyboards like the world is ending tomorrow. I pause from my work for a moment to observe the panicked looks, the frantic sips of coffee in between typed sentences, and the deep sighs from those who have not started their work yet. The differences of the student’s preparedness for the last few weeks of the semester are always interesting to watch, especially with those who are like me and wait till the last minute to finish their work.

4:35 p.m.

After deciding it was time for a change in location, I head towards the staircase to the Curriculum Materials Center (CMC.) The large and spacious seating area on the ground floor is

inviting to large groups for friends to socialize and to catch up on the latest gossip around campus. About halfway down, a group of obnoxious voices suddenly appears, acting as one. They seem unaware of the volume at which they are speaking. I take my time as I pass by the “Greek” tables—what most of the other students know it as—and see that they have joined two tables together to create a massive one, and see what bits of conversation I can pick up from them.

“I had a month to do it, and I didn’t do it,” one girl says.

“Why hasn’t he texted me back yet? It’s been three days,” another cries.

“What’s the assignment supposed to look like? Am I doing it right?” one guy asks.

My head stays low as I make my way towards the CMC, pretending that I had not just been listening to their conversations. The CMC seems brighter than usual this afternoon, but maybe that is just because of my lack of sleep the night before. There are three students sitting at individual tables as I enter the area and take a seat by the Library Science Collection. It does not take long for me to realize how quiet it is today. Swift typing sounds come from one student across the room, while a hand of another student brushes against the paper that they are writing on. An older student quietly sips on his coffee, while staring at his laptop screen. The small bag beside him makes a loud crunch as he reaches his hand inside to grab a chip. I take out my laptop out of my bag in an attempt to finish my assignment before it starts getting dark out. A quick glance to the window shows signs that the day is already descending.

5:15 p.m.

The chip guy starts packing up his things, leaving me the only one left in the CMC. I rub my eyes and lift my arms above my head to stretch out my back. I do not need to know what time it is because my stomach starts to rumble. Just a few more adjustments on my assignment

and it will be complete. The evening supervisor passes by the table, says hello, and asks if I am leaving so soon.

“Yes, I just finished my assignment for tomorrow, and now it’s time to go home and eat,” I reply.

She nods in agreement and wishes me luck on my journey home. I trek up the all-too-familiar steps and exit the front doors. The Rohrbach Library is a beacon and a home for many on campus, and as the snow falls, it shows its strength and warmth to those who find shelter in it. The cloud nine library bubble that I was in suddenly pops, and I am back down on the ground, greeted by a gentle snowfall coming from the sky. I hold out my hand and breathe in the cool winter air that has welcomed its presence in Kutztown.

Categories: Literary Journalism