On Oct. 21, 2019, I hosted a writing marathon for creative writing students from Cameron High School. Their teacher, the awesome Missy Harper-Stemberger, and the Cameron HS librarian, Tonya O’Boyle, are both PLWP Teacher Consultants. These wonderful young writers were the first to pilot some recommendations for writing spots that I’d solicited from my ENG 104 students (mostly college freshmen). We had a great day of writing and sharing, along with some lively discussion at the end about what it mean to be a writer and how the marathon works different for different writers. Here is some of my writing from our three campus stops:
10:16 Third Floor Remington tables in the Atrium
It’s fun to be in another building. Students here are talking about chemistry professors. “Is he the old white dude with white hair?” Dr. Stan? There’s this one dude, he’s a biology professor, and he looks like a Mexican wrestler. He went to Johns Hopkins, though. That’s like one of the top hospitals in the country.
They talk about other professors as well, from psychology. Goodness, what must they be saying about the English department? We are by far the strangest, most eccentric, most fashion challenged there is. A lively bunch. Interesting.
Sitting in this building makes me feel bad about Eder Hall. This is the newest building on campus, so of course it is nicest. Gleaming. Artful. Modern. All glass and steel and blond wood. Track lighting makes this atrium especially lovely. Wonderful smell of coffee wafting up from below. A thriving Norfolk Pine and schlefera (?) over on the other side, the southern exposure.
Eder Hall is more suited to the English department, though. Darker. Earthier. Brick walls and leather furniture. Mismatched chairs. Mismatched people. We are comfortable over there, with our murals painted by art students in a collaboration with our department. Comfortable with our quirkiness.
10:52 Murphy Hall second floor lounge.
One of my ENG 104 groups wrote about this lounge in particular. I had no idea it was such a popular hangout, but I do see the appeal. The mircrowaves on either end tell you that this is a place where people come to eat lunch. We have no such microwaves in Eder, but we also don’t have a lounge with this much space. One of the students wrote about the plants in this space, but I only see one fake palm tree. Hmm. What happened to the others?
What’s most interesting about this place is its rhythm. Between classes, it buzzes with activity– a crossroads of comings and goings, of before and after class conversation, made rushes to get food or run to the restroom. Then, for most of the next hour, it goes into what feels like a coffee shop kind of mode. If one were to sit here for hours, maybe it would feel like the space breathes in and out, a rising and falling. My students wrote about how much they appreciate the space, how important it is for them to have a place to land between classes, to eat lunch, to study. It’s much cozier than Remington with all of its glass and track lighting.
11:30 Second Floor library
The second floor of the library is a space for quiet studying or for the seeking of highly valued study rooms. There are few with large conference tables and AV hookups, and those go quickly. Small rooms with just 2-4 seats and no technology are easier to get. My writing group meets here on Wednesday mornings, and getting a good study room is always tricky. We prefer 302, but we end up in 311 sometimes. Once in a while, we just sit out here because all the study rooms are full.
One thing I have never noticed before is the little book elevator buttons in the space where it says “Fraternity and sorority notebooks.” It is clearly no longer operational, but I see now that it once was able to send books to another floor. There is a shelf and a little knob and a tiny window. Was it here before there were other elevators? When did it become non operational? Did anyone ever send weird stuff in it? Imagine being a librarian and having someone send up random stuff. A houseplant. A half-eaten breakfast burrito. A bowl of goldfish. What a perfect set up for pranks! Also, it reminds me of a play called The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter.
The mystery of the “Sorority and Fraternity Notebooks” sign was solved today. Being a writer emboldened by my writing marathon group, I went up to look at them today. There are five binders, and they are not in the greatest shape. Each one has a cover sheet with a frat or sorority seal on them. Just as I was exploring, a guy came up and paused next to me. “I just need to log my hours,” he said. I asked him, “What are these?” He explained that everyone in a fraternity or sorority was required to log a certain number of library hours, and they do that in these notebooks.
I loved the discovery of the defunct book elevator and the mystery of the notebooks. But I have to wonder if this honor system works. How hard would it be to have someone else log the hours for you? Or to come in, log the hours, and then just leave? Not being a Greek myself, there is much I do not understand about Greek life, but the library notebooks are a fascinating little artifact.