Credit: Wikimedia commons

The elephant in the library

Credit: Wikimedia commons

Jacob J. Nicol

Jacob Nicol investigates the infamously poor library etiquette of Glasgow University students

My time served in this institution will soon be coming to an end. However before I leave, I feel compelled to address a disturbing development that has only gotten worse during my time here as a student. This unspoken practice has damaged the career prospects of thousands of fine young students. In any other context, it would be seen as a deeply entrenched form of abuse that has become normalised within our university culture. The perpetrators are very sick individuals that need to be brought to justice. Close friends have told me to keep my head down, but I cannot let these unspoken crimes continue any longer. If we do not address this issue head on, our children will look back at our barbaric ways and shudder violently in disgust. I am of course talking about desk hogging.

The first reported incident of desk hogging occurred back in the early 1860s. A visitor to one of Britain’s first public libraries approached a seat that appeared unoccupied, but as they ventured closer, they found to their astonishment scrolls of parchment and quills lying unused on the desk. When the owner of these items returned and was questioned about why he had left his belongings unattended for such a lengthy period of time, the occupier responded by smashing the victim’s skull into pieces with a hardback encyclopaedia. Many believed this was just a brief period of particularly bad manners and that the madness would soon end. How very wrong they were. This obscene practice would continue and spread to libraries across the country, up to the present day.

I have personally been a victim of desk hogging as a University of Glasgow student. Most of these experiences are too painful for me to go into much detail. All I will say is that once in a vain attempt to find somewhere to study, I was found passed out from exhaustion by a toilet attendant on the 11th floor. This is clearly an intolerable state of affairs. How, in this day and age, can it be acceptable for such a vast number of desks in Glasgow University to have no living occupants studying on them, despite the presence of personal belongings surrounding the desk space? The amount of lost productivity caused by this lack of seat availability is incalculable!

Desk hogging is clearly a serious problem that needs to be addressed. I thus took it upon myself to take a year out from my studies to fully dedicate myself to ending this abhorrent practice. I attempted to create a social movement similar in scope to the Occupy or Civil Rights movements, yet this proved to be a difficult undertaking for just one man. I first seized hogged desks and waited for the occupiers to return from their nefarious activities. On their arrival, I would fiercely lecture the occupier for several minutes on the evils of seat hogging, before giving them a leaflet asking them to support my cause. My actions would expand to performing protest songs in the library cafeteria, publicly outing seat hoggers in front of their peers and taking photos of unoccupied desks to add to my ‘Empty Seats of Shame’ Facebook page.

These acts of civil disobedience reached their pinnacle when myself and two converts took possession of the many unsupervised items being used to occupy desks. We proceeded to throw these items onto a giant bonfire in front of the library in a public display of defiance. Unfortunately this did not spark a revolution as I had hoped, but instead led to an unfair vilification of my social movement in the press and a couple of baseless lawsuits. A lesser man may have given up at this point. Indeed, I felt very demoralised until I was struck by a profound realisation. University students are no longer the acid-tripping, ‘free love’ hippies of the 1960s! They are now hardened critical thinkers, and thus require convincing evidence that desk hogging is the most pressing issue of our times.

I now took a more scientific approach, carrying out my own investigation to compile data on this little researched issue. This proved difficult from the outset, as the university authorities had banned me from entering the library due to the bonfire incident, and they soon saw through my disguises. So for the past three months I have taken it upon myself to stand outside the library entrance, monitoring the inflow and outflow of students into the library. I could only withstand such harsh conditions for so long due to the constant presence of bake sales outside the adjacent Fraser Building, providing me with enough sustenance to continue my research. Using the data collected from my observations, I was able to develop a mathematical formula. This formula is so intricate and complex that I cannot go into much detail here about what it was, how it worked or what the results were. However, after the removal of statistical anomalies that contradicted the truth, it was clear that everything I had previously believed about desk hogging was now scientifically proven to be factually correct.

Now that I have been vindicated by science, I am planning a nationwide tour to educate the ignorant masses on the scourge of desk hogging. My critics can say that this is not a real issue. They can say that there are much bigger problems to deal with right now. They can say this is all really just about me. But they will never break my will. I know that there is a silent majority out there who hold the same fury towards desk hoggers as I do, and one day we will rise up against the oppressors who occupy our desk space. As I sit here in the university cafeteria during the busy lunch hours, I dream of a world where people can quickly find a place to carry out their most urgent daily activities. A world where the notion of desk hogging will be nothing but a distant memory.


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