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Smith Contra Coffee Tables

All PostsOpinionSmith Contra Coffee Tables

story | Michael Smith, Guest Writer

photo | Michael Smith


I hate the coffee tables of Yale-NUS College Library with the fury of a thousand suns. I hate them more than I hate the nonsense logic behind the re-entry doors. I hate them more than I hate emails from GRO marketing, which still haunt my inbox even after I’ve unsubscribed. I hate them so much that I would fill out 100 15-minute surveys to be free of these damnable tables. They are an appalling waste of space that does incalculable damage to Yale-NUS’ community and reputation.    

It is a self-evident truth that the Yale-NUS Library is the premier study space on campus. It is a large, air-conditioned space, where tables are in high demand. In my time at the College, I have seen the library filled to the brim with studying students time and again, with books, laptops, and other study materials cluttering every table. Well, not every table. Even in times of tremendous stress, when finals loom, when struggles for space raise tensions with one of the great universities that founded us, those cursed coffee tables remain empty. An extraordinary amount of the floor space of our only library goes unused. Why?

Coffee tables are a nigh-impossible surface to use for studying. To prove this point, consider this picture of me studying abroad at Amherst College, working at a table roughly the same height as our coffee tables at Yale-NUS College’ library.  

In order to reasonably type or take notes at a coffee table, I must contort my spine to an unreasonable and intolerable degree. Rather than serving as study aids, these tables serve as study impediments.

Regrettably, the evils of these tables are not confined to the library. When the library cannot serve as a study space for those who need it, they search for new places to turn into study spaces, creating a quiet librarification of common areas in the College. I know this all too well, for I have been one of those exiles from the library, settling in the Common Lounges and the Butteries, quietly turning them into study spaces for myself. This choice has further ramifications; how people actually use the Common Lounges and Butteries sets the expectation for how they ought to be used. The more people like me, displaced from the Library, use these places as silent study spaces, the more thoroughly they will become such spaces. This would cost our community valuable hubs of social gathering, in return for which we get nothing but empty coffee tables in the library.

I hate the Yale-NUS Library’s coffee tables, and you should too. We should fight for Common Lounges that bring us together, for Butteries that serve as social spaces at all times of day, open or closed, for a Library that rises to its potential and meets our academic needs. I believe with all my soul that there is a better future ahead for Yale-NUS College and that the Library’s coffee tables have no part in it.

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