An ode to 24-hour libraries

Alice French 25 November 2016

When you’ve misread ‘philosophy’ as ‘pornography’ at 11pm on a Friday night, you know that it’s time to give up and go home. But wait, why were you reading anything, about either philosophy or pornography, at 11pm on a Friday night? Welcome to the wonderful world of 24-hour libraries – the only place on the planet where you can find peace on the night of a big formal, when the rest of the college feels, looks, and sounds like there’s been a leak of laughing gas.

What’s not to like? 24-hour libraries offer you the sweet flexibility of working according to your unique schedule. The most egalitarian libraries in the world. No more getting thrown out by the porters at a random time of 2 or 3am, or, better still, being the last person in a former medieval chapel haunted by generations of ex-college Masters. Some of those magical places even have comfy armchairs and/or blankets. Having a designated space for work outside of your room, and thus separating your private life from labours of Hercules, creates a much healthier atmosphere both for your work and fun times.

But, dearies, all magic comes with a price. 24-hour libraries can easily turn into an episode of The Weakest Link, or, better still, 8 weeks’ worth of episodes of The Weakest Link. Intentional or not, the peer pressure to stay in the library when it’s still full at midnight is detrimental to your health and, in the long run, to the quality of your work as well. Cambridge is full enough of competitiveness as it is, and there seems to be little need for a ‘feel guilty for leaving only at 1am’ factor, as well.

On balance, I am still personally pro 24-hour libraries – we are all adults here, and we can regulate our own timetables. However, it does take effort, especially in a place full of perfectionists. 24 hours or not, take care of your health, and if you keep seeing 'pornography' instead of 'philosophy', maybe it’s the time to cut on philosophy a bit. Take a warm shower, have a nice cuppa, and chill. You deserve it.