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The Library is One for All & Not All for One

Words by: Raniel Santos

Picture yourself going to one of our libraries to study. It’s up to you: CAS Library or the ALB Library? Alright, so you have chosen one, now imagine that you are there right now. This is your situation: You are cramming for an exam, so you rush to the library to review. But then as soon as you get there, you are only met with frustration. Bags here, laptops there…when you are in dire need of a spot. Instead of just leaving and spending for a cup of coffee at Starbuck’s, you decide to wait for a couple of minutes in hopes of securing a place. You take some time walking around, asking people if there is someone seated next to them and if that person seated next to them would come back from wherever it is they were coming from.

And just as you are about to lose it all, you suddenly find one! You make your way to the seat and thank God for this timely miracle. But then as you begin to study for your ‘Family’ exam, you hear people right beside you talking crazily about the latest horror movie involving a killer clown. Isn’t the feeling just aggravating?

 In my four years in UA&P, I can tell you that I totally relate with the experience that I just shared up there. It was during my second semester as a third year MA Humanities student wherein I had to come up with a paper for one of my majors. Hoping that I could finish it right away, I decided to go to the ALB Library (also known as the Ejercito Library). I was not expecting a lot of people to be there because it was a Wednesday around 3pm. Indeed, I was not mistaken but then what ticked me off was how there were bags just thrown into the seats and there were no people even studying in that area. Their laptops were also plugged but then their browser showed their Facebook accounts.

On another occasion, I recall reviewing for a finals in Southeast Asian Studies when all of a sudden my fellow students to my right were chuckling about this viral video they saw on social media. Many times I wonder, with all of these instances, how and why people could be so inconsiderate of others. I mean, isn’t the library a ‘shared space’?  

It just saddens me to see how the library is being misused not only causing trouble to the librarians but also to fellow students as well. In other words, it appears that the library has now become a ‘dumping ground’, a ‘substitute locker’, and sometimes even an ‘extension of the cafeteria’. This phenomenon happens in both the CAS and ALB libraries based on my observation as well as from personal talks with the librarians. But what is even troubling is realizing that situations like these actually take place on an even grander scale. People do not seem to care with regards to how their inconsiderate actions affect or bother others such as their noise or their trash.

What then could be one of the reasons for these kind of actions? Political economist Elinor Ostrom provides an interesting explanation. She believes that a shared system or ‘the commons’ can be misused by people who only care for their own welfare. No wonder our library is also being misused. Ostrom stresses the importance of having clear rules and strict implementation applicable to all with corresponding sanctions. I agree with Ostrom and I think it is also the result of how people think of themselves as privileged or entitled.

I believe that the issue of entitlement or privilege stems from two main reasons: self-centeredness and being used to with one’s environment. First, self-centeredness means to place one’s self above the others or one’s society. This means that the focus is always about one’s enjoyment, one’s benefit, and one’s right without bothering or caring about those around them. I would not want to make any generalizations here but I believe this kind of attitude could possibly start from one’s childhood. If one is used to always receiving something such as an expensive toy or special attention, then the tendency is to think of the self as someone that matters. This in turn, although not necessarily automatic, would lead to how the child hates sharing their toys with others because for them that toy is theirs and theirs alone. Let me be fair however by saying that it is alright to enjoy and have fun but then there are better avenues where one can achieve this. We have places such as the cafeteria, the MPC, the PSB, and even the CAS Ledge where you can chat if you really have stories that cannot wait to be shared. Remember, the library is one place for all students but it is not all just for one person. Let us always put ourselves in the place of others who are unable to use the library and by doing so we practice the virtue of humility.

Another reason why I think students have felt that they are entitled is due to their being used to their environment. As a financial scholar, I have been given the opportunity to work at the library which in turn allowed for me to see problems like these. I have seen how people place their bags at the far end of the library, grabbing their wallets, and then walking out with their friends to eat at the cafeteria. After thirty minutes, they return and are not given a warning or a reprimand. It is most likely that they shall do this again and again. Yes, there are rotating librarians who walk around and examine if the students are committing particular offenses.

Let us not be quick to blame the librarians since they, too, do their job but they also take into consideration that perhaps those who left their bags either went to the bathroom or went to photocopy something within the library. To think that students keep on leaving their bags and talking out loud, only makes me question: why are students not afraid of the rules and if they are not afraid does that mean that the library has become too lenient in its observation of rules? There was a time in the CAS Library wherein bags that had been placed on the chairs or on the tables were taken out and confiscated by the librarian. Today, this method is no longer followed. I interviewed one of the librarians and they said that they used to do this but now they just scold or warn people for violating the rules set by the library. But let me make this clear, my dear fellow students. It is a privilege to use the library but you are not entitled to leave your things just because you do not get caught for going against the rules. I firmly believe that we should abide by the rules and instead adapt to the standards given so that everyone benefits.

Come to think of it, we are really privileged and blessed to be able to have facilities such as the library which we can use in order to foster a better learning experience. This does not mean however that we can misuse the library by leaving our bags and laptops or by speaking loudly. Whether in secret or in public, we are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy to be praised. Let us practice good stewardship and let us always put others before ourselves because through doing so we become better people. In our Philosophical Anthropology and Family classes, we learn the importance of the ‘other’ and that means we too should be conscious of our actions because other people can be affected. We should not limit or hinder people from reaching their end by preventing them from finishing requirements but rather we should help them by giving way especially if they are need of our seat in the library. This is what ‘Unitas’ really is: helping each other for the betterment of the entire university and eventually for the whole country.