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Opinion: Robarts should be a social space, not a lonely study zone

Let the U of T turkey run wild
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DINA DONG/THE VARSITY
DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

The ebb and flow of U of T student life revolve around the John P. Robarts Research Library. As the unofficial hub of UTSG, Robarts Library — or, more colloquially, ‘the turkey’ — has recently been teeming with students. In its lively corners, many are socializing, studying with friends, and enjoying the bliss of student life. 

Some have been able to act like normal students for the first time since COVID-19 began — to finally take pleasure in their university experience. Others, however, are displeased. A plethora of Reddit posts is evidence of this displeasure. 

One popular Reddit post summarizes the reason for the discontent: “It doesn’t seem like a library anymore but a picnic centre or community hall. People talking at max volumes, vaping, eating and what not. All this shouldn’t be at the cost of disturbing others or invading their privacy… it has become almost impossible to concentrate unless you have a private room.” Jaded students are posting about how Robarts is too loud — how it has become more like a social centre than a study area. 

This is a legitimate concern. People shouldn’t be screaming in a library or taking puffs from their vapes in enclosed university areas. Generally, a library is supposed to be a quiet space to read and study. These U of T subreddit posters are reasonable in asking for peace and quiet. 

Robarts, however, is a different beast. The turkey lives to help students socialize, for it is one of the only spaces on campus where students can comfortably and conveniently do so. 

Located at the heart of campus, Robarts has a great deal of free-to-use space and is easily accessible to all students. Moreover, its facilities and amenities — cafeteria, study rooms, computer workstations, and more — are the best on campus. Because of these factors, U of T students rightly flock to Robarts. 

Personally, I love chatting with people around me while I study until the late hours of the night. I love eating brown food truck poutine in a busy workspace. I love playing Call of Duty battle royale on my phone with my friends during study breaks.

In simpler terms, I like my turkey seasoned with social spice. I like my Robarts energized. And crowds of other U of T students would happily agree with me: Robarts should not be treated as an ordinary study area. It should be a loud, vibrant social space, rather than an ice cold, quiet husk of a library. 

Of course, as previously mentioned, students who are abusing the space are intolerable. Robarts is sure to have its bad eggs — those students who are overly loud or vape in the library. That said, it does not make sense to change the whole library into an eerily quiet study space in response. 

Instead of going to Robarts, students tired of the noise have several other options. If they desire to be away from others when they’re studying — to be free from distractions — they should stay at home. 

Of course, if roommates are a problem or there are other extenuating circumstances, they certainly have the right to study at a library instead. But this library does not have to be Robarts. 

U of T has 42 different libraries scattered across its campuses. At UTSG, for example, Bahen, Gerstein, and E.J. Pratt are all viable options where there are quiet and private spaces to study. Moreover, even though Robarts is a social space, it still has its quiet areas. As you go higher in the stacks — generally between floors 10 and 13 — the library gets quieter and quieter. In these levels, people have their headphones in and are deeply focused on their work, refraining from any loud activities. Even a cough loudly resounds through the upper stacks.

Rather than forcing themselves to go to Robarts, these displeased students should consider their other options. If they continue to sulk about how loud and noisy Robarts is, it becomes a problem of entitlement rather than anything reasonable. The turkey should be a hustling and bustling social space for students, not a lethargic and lifeless study zone. 

James Jiang is a second-year political science and writing & rhetoric student at Trinity College.