Study, study, study, study. We’ve all got different ways of studying.
Different people study differently. Also, different areas of study inspire different modes of study. Personally, I do my best thinking when I’m in a lecture for another class. (Something I’m doing right now, in fact.)
So why go to a library when you are free to study anywhere? In short, because the library is a socially agreed upon place of study and it allows you to be in the company of others while still studying with little danger of serious interruption. This is unlike a cafe, for instance, where you might run into friends who are not bound by the implicit agreement to leave you to your studies. Also… we like libraries.
Let’s make the space of the library support many study behaviors.
This is a proposal for slightly distracted study. The lecture table speaks to you at a volume which is only intelligible to those sitting at the table. It has no interface. It is not your personal speaker or your headphones — you choose by being there or not. A room of slight distraction is created by a cluster of these tables each speaking quietly on a different subject.
Observing a group of acquaintances studying together – or more accurately, studying in each others’ presence – reveals something about one reason why students go to libraries. Libraries are places of social reinforcement, in this case for studious behavior. The designated “quiet” zone of the reading room meant that a group of acquaintances is able to work together without being permitted to converse asides from the occasional discrete whisper. They companionably reinforce each others study habits while the larger social pressure of the library prevents them from socializing and distracting each other. Other individuals appear also to be in the library for this same reason – the social reinforcement of studious behavior.
Although the large tables in the Law Library were the area available for a group of six to study within proximity of each other, they did not seem to be all that comfortable and individuals generally seem to prefer to sit in an armchair or else at a desk on another floor. People at the tables alternated postures frequently, shifting from leaning back to leaning forward, from reading over the table to reading in their laps, draping legs over a chair arm, etc.
Perhaps six people can study together more comfortably.
Assignment // Design an environment for 20 books, 20 years in the future.
I would like to start with the assumption that a book is the physical object we know and love today – printed pages bound together by a cover. In this case of twenty books presented twenty years from now, the physical object of the book must have relevance outside of the information contained therein because the information could likely be displayed in any number of more convenient ways. So what is the significance of the book then? Well it depends upon both the book itself and who the reader is.
For me the book will always be an object to which I have formed an emotional connection. I am one of those people who reads certain books over and over again. There just are some books which are my happy place, my escape. If I had to pick twenty books to have in twenty years, it would be these – in their highly specific form that I know so well. Because it is not just about the familiarity with the story or the images, it is also the familiarity of the book object containing them. This familiarity brings with it a sense of self. I recall who I was and how I felt when I read this book before, the many times, and it resonates. The book offers this permanence.
At the same time, I think it is interesting to consider the role of the book in relation to others. Books certainly communicate an impression to others and carrying a book in public can be a statement. I knew kids in high school who carried around War and Peace because they wanted people to think they were reading it even though they weren’t. The bookshelf is still a status symbol in many peoples homes – you can actually hire a consultant to stage your personal library to present yourself a certain way to others. The book acts as an identity signifier. This presentation of identity is transient in nature. The book offers both permanence of self and transience of presentation.
In light of this discussion, I have designed an environment for my twenty books in twenty years. It is an escape, a place where I can read my books without giving thought of their presentation to others. The books are not on display and it is a space for one.