The first thing I notice as I step onto the technicolor rug in the entry of the newly-remodeled Learning Commons, is the smell that hits my nose. It smells of clean, fresh paper. In fact, it’s coming from aisles upon aisles of books in various areas of the library. Some shelves are organized in a color-coded rainbow. Others sport popular reads recommended by high school readers. There’s even a shelf for the indecisive readers. In an effort to stop the judgement of book covers, random books were papered over with pink tissue, with just keywords about their genre written on their fronts.
I find a seat at a table of four nearest to the door as the warning bell whistles its familiar, disapproving call to chatty students lingering outside, and they start to file into the Buffalo High school Library. People wander around in a couple of tight-knit circles, and most of them are quick to choose tables. For the few last stragglers, the seats furthest away from the door are the only option. They make their way back slowly and reluctantly.
As the final bell rings, everyone is seated in their groups; an endless stream of banter and nattering flows in each little section. Media Specialist Amy Sparks turns on a cartoon that seems to involve sheep…and maybe a plot? I wouldn’t know because it was hard to hear what the sheep were saying over the drone of voices in the library.
Not only is the talking ceaseless, it also seems that everyone is able to multitask and be on their phones at the same time. There’s a whole library of books at their disposal, should they care to check them out, but I don’t notice a single soul reading a book, unless it happens to be on their phone.
The lights are dimmed near the back corner of the library by the rows of bookshelves to provide shade to see the neglected cartoon. It’s enough to make me squint at my notebook. There are three couples in that corner, two of which are practically sitting in each others laps, kissing.
Suddenly the lights burst into fluorescent white near them, and I spot two library aids striding quickly towards them. The younger of the two, in jean blue and polka dots, tells them, “You gotta cut it out with the cuddling guys.” The lights are left on. The third couple hiding behind a corner defy the librarian’s request.
As the end of the day draws to a close, the gathering together of friend groups is broken up by the packing up of bags. The librarians are in their back room, not anticipating a book check out from anyone.
Kids lumber about and squeeze out the clangy metal doors across the area where faulty security sensors used to stand. The cartoon mutters on as another school session is ended in the High School Library with last minute side conversations and snickers.