Dear Bass Library,
I’ve studied in you long enough to memorize your closing-time mantra: “Bass Library will be closing in 10 minutes. The Fire Marshal requires that everyone exit the building at this time.” “Living on a Prayer,” this isn’t. The line always stays the same. And it always blames the Fire Marshal.
I’ve met the Yale Fire Marshal. He’s a genial guy; when I was planning the Freshman BBQ, he showed me where the fire extinguishers were and told me how to return them. He smiled a lot. If I asked, he probably would have taught me general fire safety tips. I don’t think the Fire Marshal actually cares that everyone exits the building at 1:45 a.m. In fact, if he knew that I was really grooving on this English essay for Professor Cunningham that was due in eight hours and that I could bang out one more quality paragraph given just three more minutes, he would probably wink at me and say, “Don’t worry, just close the door on the way out.” The Fire Marshal knows I have a comfy mattress to sleep on back in my room. He knows I’m not going to rearrange all the French literature books, or stuff a monitor in my backpack, or spit into the water fountain, or start eating a bag of Kettle chips, or drag all the chairs into a pile and interlock them into a wall to block off the entrance to Sterling — or even, for that matter, start a fire.
In fact, the Fire Marshal probably doesn’t even know he’s getting dragged into this in the first place. In my seven semesters here, the Bass security guards have never told me why the Fire Marshal is getting all up in my face about 1:45, which makes me think they’re just using him — poor guy, really, his name so besmirched — as a scapegoat, when they’re the ones who really want everyone out.
My argument may seem petty. You’re probably cool, which means you never actually study in Bass: you sit in Thain Café with a friend, saying hi to all the other cool people walking in. If you do walk in, you probably stay at lobby level — after all, that’s where the naked run is. And if you actually end up on the bottom level, you’re not there at 1:45, because you have better things to do. In reality, at 1:45, there are about five people left. But that’s causation, not correlation.
There are two reasons why Bass’s bottom level is so underutilized. First, it closes too soon. We bottom-levelers work at optimal efficiency between 1 and 4 a.m. If I have to pack up and walk through the chafing cold to my college library, there goes my flow. And 1:45 is just awkward, what with the cognitive dissonance the 45 minute mark induces.
The second reason is the entire kicking-out experience. There are days when the loudspeakers come on 30 minutes before closing — then at 15, 10 and 5 — all while the lights flicker and dim, flicker and dim. When it’s 1:40 a.m, the guards yell “CLOSING UP,” which majorly throws my concentration on a problem set or gets me all nervous about printing something from ch_laser1 because the BK printer is broken. Not cool.
Of these two problems, the first can’t be fixed (though I promise to, later in life, donate as much as needed to the Bass-until-3 a.m. Fund). The second problem can change today.
First, guards, you need to trust us. Make one round, at 1:42. And if we’re not out by 1:45, yell — it’s your turf then. But before that, please, keep it to a whisper. You worry that we’ll become library-sucking leeches, but let’s be real.
Secondly, change your closing-time announcement. Say, “I have two kids to kiss goodnight to, so let’s get rolling, guys.” Or, “The library is closing at 1:45 a.m. If the doors happen to lock before you leave, we’ll see you in the morning.” Or, God forbid — “The library is closing. Please get ready to leave.” Don’t get the Fire Marshal involved, even if a handbook reason exists.
I love my late-night Bass. Being underground makes midnight feel like noon. There are electrical outlets everywhere. The water fountain is really cold. And its size lends itself to a diversity of study habitats. I’m able to move from plushy couch to study carrel to classroom to computer room to multimedia editing room to sitting on the carpet, leaning against the “Best American Short Stories” anthology. It’s our oasis of solidarity and solitude. Let’s keep it that way — all the way until 1:45.
Peter Lu is a senior in Berkeley College.