‘Ding Dong!’ The Library is Dead

By Kathleen Fowkes ’18

Herald Contributor

As full-time college students, I can, with almost absolute certainty, guarantee that each and every single one of us has a moment in our day where we hate everything about existing on this campus. A moment where all we really want is some peace and quiet. To not have to listen to that *one, specific* Hobart student talk about his views or make a point about how harmful sexual assault is—although you can vividly and painfully remember when he groped you at that party three weeks ago. To not have to sit through another lecture, particularly when you and I both know you’re only there because of the class’s attendance policy. Don’t even get me started on Sodexo. Or this new system where student workers put their own hours into PeopleSoft for some weird reason, even though our payment system remains completely the same? Moral of the story—as privileged as we are to be here, there are countless things about this institution, and about college in general, that are difficult to navigate. Undergrad is hard, friends. And the pressures and expectations of being here hang over our heads every second of the day.

I know I think about these things pretty much all the time. As negative as this sounds, I am constantly in a state of “how is this day going to be perpetually ruined for me?” or “who’s going to find a way to irritate me the most today?” or “which identity of mine am I going to feel the most insecure about this week?” and to be honest, one place I have managed to find some form of distance from those negative feelings is in the library. That sounds a bit surprising, I know. The library, of all places. No one goes to the library to have a good time, and no one goes to the library to relax, but there’s something about that ever-present sense of unified suffering—trapped within the walls of the Warren Hunting Smith—that really makes me feel included, appreciated, and part of a community on campus.

Some of my personal favorite perks of the library: you can choose to not talk to people without coming off as a total jerk, because, “Oh god this needs to be submitted on canvas within the hour,” or “I really just have so much reading to do,” or headphones. Headphones, friends. The library is an incredible public space to get some alone time. It has served as a place of peace and solidarity for me and my classmates throughout our four years here. But now, in my senior spring, it has been ruined. Destroyed. And I fear that this change may be completely irreversible.

If you have spent over three hours in the library this semester, you know exactly what change I’m talking about. The ding dong. THE LIBRARY DING DONG. Calling it, “The Library Ding Dong” does not truly encapsulate just what this demon noise truly is, nor does it express the anger I feel every time it rings, but I am at a loss for what else we could possibly call it. I don’t know when this change was implemented, I don’t know whose idea it was, and I don’t know why it’s still happening (even after the constant backlash from literally every student within yelling distance of the circulation desk), but every 3 hours, on the hour, the entire library erupts in the most abrasive sound that can only be described as one of the worst and most pointless things to ever happen to this campus.

Now, as someone with some severe mental health issues, any form of disruption to a high level of focus can throw me off course for upwards of an hour. I cannot tell you how many times the loud and upsetting sound of “The Library Ding Dong” has induced a legitimate panic attack, bringing my work to a complete halt. I can’t explain to you why the noise itself feels so abrasive, or why it manages to set me off so consistently, but I swear to you I can feel it in my bones. It is deafening, unsettling, and always manages to completely derail whatever kind of motivation I’ve managed to accumulate.

And it’s not just me, y’all. I haven’t spoken to a single person on this campus who even takes a neutral stance on “The Library Ding Dong” …everyone I’ve spoken to hates it just as much as I do. So one night, after a particularly bad reaction to “The Library Ding Dong”, the group of friends I was sitting with and I decided to have a conversation with the workers at the circulation desk about the noise. We asked them why this new system has been put in place. What is its purpose? Is there any way for them to make it quieter, or to just shut it off completely? And to each question, we received the same answer. “It is what it is, and it most likely will not change.” This is not a direct quote, and truthfully, I do not remember exactly what was said, but this was their sentiment. I understand that the workers at the circulation desk are not responsible for this change, and that it likely disrupts them and their work as much as it upsets and disrupts the students, but it would have been nice to get a bit more information from that conversation.

I just want to know why it was added, or why anyone thought it was a good idea. It seems to me that this is a completely pointless utilization of technology. The first time I’d heard it, it was at midnight, and, while I quite literally screamed a profanity in reaction to the noise, I figured that it was maybe a new way of letting people know that the library was in its last hour of operation. Now, I still didn’t enjoy it, but at least I understood. At least I thought it served a purpose. However, when I was in the library the very next afternoon, and the clock struck 3:00 pm, it happened again. My question is: why? For the love of God and all that is holy: WHY?

There is no discernable reason for us to need to know that it is 3:00pm. Nor do we need to know that, three hours later, it is 6:00 pm. Or 9:00 PM. Or midnight. “The Library Ding Dong” ringing every three hours removes the only possible explanation I could think of. If it rings throughout the day, it does not ring to let us know the library is closing soon. This means, that the only real reason this is happening is to let us know what time it is. To that I say, with all due respect: we do not need you to tell us what time it is. We have ample access to various time-tellers in the library. Not only do we have all the actual clocks that hang on the walls, we have access to the time on every single desktop computer on the first floor and in the twenty-four-hour room. If you have a personal laptop, you have access to the time on said personal laptop. If you have a watch, or a phone, or…do I really need to keep listing things?

We do not need to be reminded that we’ve lost another three hours of our lives in the library, attempting to fulfill society’s expectations that have managed to convince all of us that we need a piece of paper from this institution, a piece of paper that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, in order to be somewhat successful in life.

To be frank, the whole thing really just seems dumb to me. But I am trying to keep an open mind. So please, if you know why, or if you have any explanation, any idea, please let me know. Please. I am desperate. Save me from myself. Save me from “The Library Ding Dong.”

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