It seems to me that McMaster University, here in Hamilton, has too many students. I quite enjoyed studying there this summer, when their library was nearly empty. Now that the semester is in session, it looks like a train station on Thanksgiving weekend. The entire lobby was crammed with students today, talking on cell phones, hanging out, and surfing the net on their laptops. The stairwells were crowded with more kids on cell phones, and every floor was packed, with many kids sitting on the floor, typing away at their laptops. I found a space upstairs, and it was actually possible to read there for a few hours. However, this meant shushing students every twenty minutes or so. But it was tolerable because there were more studiers there than loiterers. I was in the Quiet Reading Asian Student section apparently.
Then, around 5:00 or so the balance shifted. Now, it was just me and two other diligent studiers. And the place was still packed. Two girls were sitting in the stacks talking mindlessly, and three more girls were talking mindlessly in the "study area". They were shushed and brought down their volume to a whisper. But new waves of aimless slackers arrived every fifteen minutes, like they were storming the beaches at Normandy, and had to be introduced in turn to the concept of reading in a library. Many of the stacks weren't even accessible because they had students sleeping in them. No shit.
What's most bizarre to me is when I ask other students to be quiet so that I can read and they quiet down, but nevertheless look at me as if there's something embarrassing about what I'm doing, as if I had said, "excuse me, could you please be quiet so that I can masturbate?" It's strange to be in a library and feel out of place in wanting to read a book. And yet, I have the same problem in the Hamilton Public Libraries, where it's simply understood one takes their children to run around and scream because day care is too expensive.
The thing is that all of McMaster University is this way; too crowded and impersonal. And my University is the same way; in fact, our Dean wants to add another 5,000 students to fit our "new model". There's nothing remotely academic about all of this, of course, but that seems to be beside the point. As it is, Mall University seems to be something like the Disneyland version of academia with bored tourists shuffling from one drinking binge to another. The Shopping Generation slouches bored towards the ATM.
But, is it possible that these people will eventually push the rest of us out of the libraries, just like they've done with the malls and cinemas? Is there nowhere you can go to escape the suburbanization of the soul?