You’re a new undergraduate student at UCLA. You’ve heard some great things about the numerous libraries at UCLA, so you decide to go on a bit of an adventure to visit all the libraries. There’s so many options that it’s a bit difficult to choose which one to go to first. Maybe you can start with the bigger libraries? So you decide on…
UCLA’s moste iconique library! Everyone should come here at least once to take aesthetic photos and listen to the echo of the loud, heavy chairs on the second floor. But with a midterm on the morrow, you look toward the cozier basement level and steal a spot on the nice booth with an outlet nearby. Yet after popping open your computer, you start to feel a little drowsy…
What time is it?
There doesn’t appear to be anyone down here with you anymore. How strange; you heard Powell Library was supposedly open 24/7, but everyone is gone! Don’t library staff usher people out near closing time? The room is dim, making it hard for you to see. Maybe moving elsewhere would be a better idea.
Something dings from behind the bookshelf.
The sound makes you freeze up. Is it security? Struck by an irrational, adrenaline-fueled thought, you wonder if you’d be penalized somehow for accidental trespassing, but no one appears. So you shut your computer and stuff it into your backpack, ready to go back to the Hill and get a late dinner.
There’s another ding that makes you pause again. Where is it coming from? Rising from your seat, you round the corner of the bookshelf and see an elevator illuminated by green fluorescence, with the door rolling shut. Just before it closes, the ding sounds again, and the door rolls back open.
Huh. Malfunctioning elevator was not what you expected, but it’s better than not having an explanation. But just as it dings for the fourth time and rolls open, you notice a piece of paper taped to the wall of the elevator. Has that always been there? You squint at the typed font.
The basement closes at 5:00 PM. Leave.
Right. You turn 180 degrees abruptly and speed walk to your backpack, which is still sitting at the booth. The zipper is slightly open, but you throw one strap on your shoulder without pause, striding toward the steps. The security guard on duty looks at you in mild surprise when you appear back in the main entrance hall, and you mutter a hasty sorry while leaving.
When you return back to your dorm room, appetite mildly diminished, you disgruntledly upend the contents of your backpack onto your bed. Unhappy at the prospect of having to pull another late night due to sleeping midday, you prop open your laptop. A piece of paper slips out.
Try the reading room next time! :))
Charles E. Young Research Library
North Campus has always been pretty, and the prospect of a library near a sculpture garden? Undeniably a vibe. Apparently the modern look is from relatively recent renovations, too. A friend from your club likes the “study pods” they have there? It reminds you of legumes, but you suppose we’re all legumes in this giant institution.
You enter through the glass sliding door, and… wow. Not what you expected for a library; it’s actually pretty lively here. There appears to be a cafe (451? What does that remind you of… oh.), and it’s pretty packed! There are huddles of students chatting with laptops out, and scattered, unfortunate souls writing furiously on their tablets. You wonder if you’ll be able to find a seat here.
The first floor (the only one that was actually renovated) is so crammed with students that they were poking out from between shelf aisles of dusty, rarely borrowed books. You can only go up, and up, and up…
In the end, you wind up on the fifth floor. Pulling out your notebook, you start drafting notes for your essay, but something about the trees swaying outside the weirdly narrow rectangular windows lulls your brain into a placid haze…
Really? Asleep again?
You lift your head up from the old desk, one hand numb and brushing along the graffiti and pencil grooves on the wood. The sky outside has gone dark, the Broad Art Center nothing more than an imposing industrial polyhedron.
Not just the sky outside, either; they shut off the lights inside, too. Grumbling, you wonder if they forgot to check between the book stacks of the upper floors for more people. Really, just irresponsible staffing. The shelves seem to loom, shadows upon shadows as you wait for your pupils to dilate.
You wish they hadn’t adjusted at all.
As you pick up your bag and walk to the elevators, you notice in your periphery that all the doors around that area are open. Even the door that covers the electricity box. Maybe it’s for the janitors. Actually, when do the janitors even clean up? The elevator doors are all open, too. The lights are off, and you notice an absence of the electrical hum. Guess it’s the stairs, as unsavory as that sounds.
You pull out your phone to shine a light on the floor map marked with emergency exits. The staircase is in the corner of the floor; you glance back at the bookshelves with a sour expression. Keeping your phone light on, you walk through the shelves again. The air is stale.
The door to the stairs is open, too. As you pass through, you tug on the handle to see if it’ll shut. It drifts toward the doorframe slowly, so you step into the stairwell and start making your way down.
Your eyes dart upward, and you see that the door is wide open again. The light sputters out for a brief moment. Yeah, no. Pivoting back around, you march determinedly down the steps, sticking close to the center railing. You find yourself swallowing and averting your eyes from the door at every floor — all open, every single one on the way down, like a gaping maw with little light beyond. All you can see from the corner of your eyes are the never-ending shelves of books.
After making it down to the first floor at a jog down the steps, you are slightly out of breath. It’s a blessing you didn’t trip. You spill out into the dimly lit main lobby, large backpack and all. As you look through the double doors, locked for the night, you notice a campus security officer walking off, and you rush to knock on the glass rapidly.
The officer turns around in surprise and walks over with their keys in hand to let you out. You apologize, but the officer waves you off and offers to walk you part of the way back.
“It’s creepy to spend the night there, just glad to help.”
But you’re still a little curious. Did they leave all the doors in the upper floors open for the janitor or something? The officer looks at you strangely when you ask that.
“No, usually I actually close them. Did I miss some doors?”
You shake your head and give the officer a wan smile. You missed them all.
What an unsettling experience! There seems to be a narratively convenient supply of irresponsible library staff at the university that made for a rather thrilling and mildly traumatizing experience. As exciting as a story that might make for your enormous group of floormate friends, going to another library for the next few weeks would be a better choice. Maybe next time you’ll decide to go to…