The other day while I was killing time before a meeting, I sat down and read in one of the comfy chairs in Rector. As I sat, I realized I had not read in Rector since my sophomore year. As an English major, my time is primarily spent in East College. There are few instances in which I find myself in Rector, a science building. Nevertheless, during my sophomore year I found it incredibly comfortable to read in Rector. The seats were comfy, the tables spacious, and there was enough room that I did not find myself distracted by hordes of other students.
Yet time went on and I went abroad, and by the time I returned to campus, I had forgotten about my favorite study spot. Instead, I find myself these days reading in the library, specifically the writing center. This has to do with my comfort level in these buildings. Sometimes it is intimidating to enter what have been designated as science buildings for fear that I will be judged for reading a novel instead of a textbook. The writing center is where I work, so I feel comfortable relaxing and reading there. It is interesting to see how students enforce these somewhat segregated roles onto the buildings on campus, saying that “I’ve never set foot in Denny because I don’t take history classes,” or “I only have classes in Kaufman because I’m a psych major.”
This makes me wonder about the accessibility certain places have. This refers not only to official regulations, such as rules that excluded women in libraries as Virginia Woolf notes, but also unofficial understandings of people, place, and belonging. The instance that I bring up refers to a very specific case on a college campus, but there have no doubt been other instances where people find themselves unwelcome to read in a space, for whatever reason. Perhaps someone feels uncomfortable reading in a park located in a bad neighborhood. Perhaps someone receives angry looks from employees whenever they start to read in a bookstore instead of browse. Perhaps someone’s key card access does not let them into a building which has ample space in which to relax with a book. Whatever the case, it is clear that certain reading spaces feel barred to certain people. Now that I am aware of this startling fact, I will definitely try to read in Rector more often. I just have to gather my courage first…