Comment & Analysis
Nov 8, 2017

Inside Trinity’s Library, the Library Snake Awaits

Despite appearances of charm and grandeur, the library presents challenges no student could anticipate.

Nessa BolandContributing Writer
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Illustration by Laoise Slattery for The University Times

As the days slide from October into November, most of us have grimly accepted our fate and banished thoughts of carefree summer days. Filled with gloom in the face of darkening nights, we have migrated back once more to the feeding ground of Trinity College Library.

The naive outsider might assume that Trinity’s library is exactly what the title suggests: a beautifully lit oasis, doors thrown open wide to receive students eager to pore over texts and revel in the tranquil atmosphere. Its striking facade broods over the city, harking back to an earlier time. As first-year students receiving our very first tour of its hallowed halls, we gaped with wonder at the stacks reaching to the skies, listened with awe to the soft whirring of trolley wheels and marvelled at such clear, precise organisation. This was what we had dreamed of.

It did not take long for the dream to dissipate. We soon learned that getting a copy of a book depends not so much on the elegant system as on sprinting ability, that there is a mysterious enigma called Santry Stacks from which books must be summoned like a portal and the ability to study on the top floors of the Ussher requires not an interest in philosophy, but strong physical stamina to climb the many stairs. Thus, as any seasoned veteran can explain, the reality of the library is much noisier, much bloodier and much more chaotic.

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He selected one at leisure before departing the scene, murderous deed complete. Outwitted yet again, my legs buckled. Yet I hardened my resolve: I would emerge victorious

Never has the phrase “Nature, red in tooth and claw” been more aptly evoked. Medical students slink through the passageways, eyes aglow, daring others to encroach on their territory. MSISS students glide undisturbed amongst the treetops towards stellar careers, peering disinterestedly at the seething mass below. Marauding law students circle Counter Reserve, shoals of business students dart between shelves, librarians circle overhead, anticipating a feast on the fallen – a truly horrible spectacle. Yet there is a far more deadly beast lurking in the library, one feared beyond measure… the dreaded Library Snake.

The Library Snake, crafty by nature, assumes many forms. I have met this cunning serpent three times. The first encounter was jolting: I approached a desk at the same time as the snake, a desk that had only one plug socket. After much hushed whispering, it was decided that I should use it first, as my laptop screen was flickering. Half an hour later, as I maniacally typed an unsaved essay draft, my laptop ran out of charge. Bewildered, I looked up to see my charger swinging forlornly, having been unplugged the whole time by the Snake whose feigned nonchalance was at odds with his glowing laptop screen. I had underestimated my opponent, but I had gained valuable experience of his wily ways.

My second encounter was even more terrifying. After scouring the library for a particular book, I noticed the snake slithering towards a bookshelf. Upon removing several volumes, he revealed a trove of secreted books, including the one I so badly needed. He selected one at leisure before departing the scene, murderous deed complete. Outwitted yet again, my legs buckled. Yet I hardened my resolve: I would emerge victorious.

And so each time I emerge from the library, I leave having sustained heavy losses, necessary reading material tucked into the crook of one bloody arm

My final encounter was with the worst of the kind, a snake designed to engender mercy before striking. It appeared in the form of a teary eyed student cutting the queue for the photocopier, bleating about a single page they needed to print before an imminent seminar. As my own seminar was not for 10 minutes, I smiled and gestured for her to proceed. And watched in horror as she photocopied more than 60 pages, oblivious to the growing line of students. As I sprinted to College Green, drenched in perspiration, I finally admitted to myself that I was not the hero that would banish the Library Snakes for good. I live in hope for the student that one day will.

And so each time I emerge from the library, I leave having sustained heavy losses, necessary reading material tucked into the crook of one bloody arm. As I limp into the sunset, I am often approached by another student – maybe steeling themselves, perhaps beyond hope – and asked if I have any advice on how to survive the carnage of the library. I cast an eye behind me and listen impassively to the hissing and the death cries that fill the air. I gaze out to the horizon, reflecting on the tenacity of the human spirit. Laughing wearily, I sling my bag onto my shoulder and withdraw, imparting the one piece of advice learned from all of my experience on this battleground: when it comes to Trinity College Library, it is undoubtedly survival of the fittest.

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