The Research Reading Room, founded in 2008, proudly rests on the 4th Floor of The University of Nottingham’s Hallward Library. Its initial popularity was due to its rigorously enforced silent study policy. Moving into 2009, more astute students began to recognise untold benefits of expansive desk space and luxurious leather chairs. A new socially motivated crowd slowly overran the room’s original appeal, with productivity no longer measured by how much work was done…
The Research Reading Room, The Glass Box, The Disco Room, The Fish Bowl, The Big RR, The Incubator (for those who don’t frequent it), now signifies a whole new entity. A new aura if you will. Populated by those striving for the utmost social standing.
The room has developed an unspoken etiquette, a set of norms, dos and don’ts. Before entering, you check yourself, you look and feel good, walk in, all heads glance up, fleeting, pretence of not being interested ensues, heads down, make a solitary conversational stop, maximum of three eye contacts on your way to a desk on the opposite corner of the room. Work time. You still feel good.
You want to get on with that essay, but you want people to know you’re working. You want them to think “Hey, I’ve seen this guy/girl on a night out, but they really work hard as well, what a package!” So you adopt the only method you know. Head down for 5, working hard…. Head up for 10, pensively pondering Adam Smith’s newest economic theorem, although mostly hoping to catch someone’s eye. Beware however, too many eye catches and you’ll become a distraction, blowing your reading room cover of being a hard-worker.
Not all frequenters follow such protocols; look no further than the odd marooned international student armed with dodgy ringtones and rucksacks littered with grinning badges. Or the mature student two desks down, tearing out his (already) thinning hair at the room’s new predicament.
Some ‘workers’ in the room seem to have an unspoken consensus that, hourly, they gravitate towards one member of their group’s desks and watch YouTube videos with the volume just loud enough to be heard by everyone else, yet not loud enough to merit self-righteous ‘shh’s. This seems completely out of step with the social aims of others in the room. It’s too close to outright socialising, something which undoubtedly would result in expulsion from the Fish Bowl. This group will soon find out they’ve destroyed their ‘hard worker – viable marriage prospect’ image, and probably have to retreat to Level 1.
Through the far side glass windows we find ‘The Overspill’. A place for people fully aware of the room’s reputation yet undecided on conforming with the norms (at least publicly). They peer through the windows, engaging in abrasive conversations revealing that they too belong to this same mould. They even take brief strolls in and out of the room, secretly considering their own ‘Glass-Box’ future.
The solitary booths down the side are not forgotten. Leeching off the room, knowing full well similar booths exist elsewhere, they indulge in the perks of the room, quietly enjoying front row seats at the unfolding catwalk. We’re onto you, Reading Research boothers.
In conclusion, we are not suggesting a new breed has arisen, more than they have found a new home…
P.S. Apologies to any international students that were upset in the making of this article. We think Kurt Cobain’s cool too.
by Luke Brookner
and Pauly Angell