The refurbishment of the Reid library marks the removal of the second floor desks, quite literally the only thing about this place I believed to be worthwhile. The second floor provided the perfect atmosphere for me, and others, as students. It was completely silent, dimly lit, and each desk was situated in perfect isolation between two rows of books, creating individual and hermetically sealed chambers of study. They have been unjustly removed, in keeping with the desperate ‘new direction’ of the library, and it marks the beginning of the end for your University.
Here’s the truth: the reason you and UWA are slipping so uncontrollably down worldwide University rankings is because you have ceased to value scholarship in any form. In turning the library into a space of synthetic-sociality you have angled to the will of every garish STAR candidate who demanded a more open floor plan in which they could loudly caucus votes and groom their snapchat. You have thus made the typical error of succumbing to the demands of a vocal minority who are far outnumbered by a more aloof majority whom mistakenly took this University to be a place of learning.
The new spaces of the library demand collaboration but forget any mention of academia. The library has become a social institution, which is exactly what a library should not be. It is in fact what a University should not be. Self-expression should be reserved for wedding speeches or the bedroom – it shouldn’t be forced down the throat of the standoffish scholar who only asks for a quiet place to read and take notes. The University should be centred around knowledge and the pursuit thereof – all else should be disregarded.
Fine, leave some room for academic collaboration, if that’s what these people want – but don’t remove the only places of genuine scholarly performance in doing so. You’ve bastardised the library, a historical sanctuary of cognitive exploration and scholarship, and you’ve removed the only aspect of this place which made it worth bearing all else. Sylvia Plath and St. Augustine each wrote of long nights wedged between walls of dark and dusky manuscripts, and they surely weren’t distracted by social exploits. Why muddy the waters of wisdom with pop sociality? The Reid library was once a Cathedral of learning, with niches of study. It has been turned into a site for the next EMAS symposium.
But it is done. My only thoughts now are that you might as well go further than you already have. Keeping the second floor a ‘silent zone’ is an empty gesture, being that there are no desks there anymore, and thus no learning to interrupt. You might as well set up the speakers to play Flume on repeat. It is all the same now. You can remove the desks on the 3rd floor, as well – they were never as isolated and comfortable as those on the 2nd, and they remain awkwardly half open, no good for any real work.
Once they are gone, you should remove all the books, so that any last charade of academic pursuit is entirely destroyed. Remove each and every volume, and make all the floors an open collaboration zone like the bottom. Burn them to ash, the books, just like the Germans did. Or take them wherever you took those precious 2nd floor desks.
Words by Harry Peter Sanderson
Pelican would like to note that it is as yet unknown whether the current absence of desks is a permanent fixture of Reid’s second floor plan, or a temporary one. Should new, beautiful, well-burnished desks appear in the short-term future precisely where the old ones were, upon which each is placed a letter of apology to the desk-sitter, explaining in clear and humble tones that the delay regarding installation was due, perhaps, to a furniture van colliding with an enormous vat of molasses, then the writer has indicated they are willing to issue an apology for the above fulminations directed at UWA Vice-Chancellor Paul Johnson.