The Small Army of English Students Who Live in the Library

Anna Alden
October 27, 2015

It may come as no surprise to hear that English Literature and Language is one of the top five subjects at Oxford, and, truly, it shouldn’t— if there’s one thing Oxford could master, its native language might as well be it. And when you’ve got a whole bunch of geniuses who can read and write, you’d better believe they’re making strides. The real surprise here is that, in the midst of students all reading different subjects, there has never been a more packed library than Oxford’s English Faculty Library. 

My fellow English reader put it quite nicely at hour fourteen of our day spent essay-writing when she said, “Seriously, I think they’re all looking at my screen and reading as I type and judging everything that comes out of my sleep-deprived brain.” Or something like that. And while I’d have to agree; there really are so many eyes… everywhere… I think we mostly find it comforting. If I were to look up right now (there’s a 90% chance I’ll actually be sitting there at any given time that someone may be reading this), I’d see a few copies of Dickens, a little Bronte, some poetry, and probably one kid perusing the introduction of a book on puns (yesterday for example). But chances are that almost every person is also sleep-deprived, going on double digits for the hourly count of time spent on their essays, and somehow also working on finishing the book they should have already finished writing on in the first place. 

These are my people.

Yesterday, for example, in the midst of deciding that the last 150 pages of Bleak House would have to wait while I attended to the paper I had due the very next morning, I happened to walk into the English building before the library was even open. But when I walked downstairs to wait by the lecture rooms, I was by no means alone— two others reading English were also waiting, laptops prepped and ready, for the librarian to basically finish turning on all the lights. So there we sat, breakfast in hand, trying to figure out the most effective way to finish reading 900 pages while simultaneously writing 4,000 words that week. Like I said, my people.

Of course, this is no ordinary library; besides the most amazing chairs I’ve ever sat in (this is true, I will miss the lumbar support), it also has this atmosphere of a silent community, all gathered to achieve the same goal (i.e. survival). On each hour in the morning I’ll see a select group of people get up and go downstairs to listen to a lecture, all quietly rushing to get an actual seat. And when my time comes around, I get to feel like I’m being accompanied to class by a small army of English students equipped with heavy books and viscous speed-walking skills. Truly, a community of committed scholars.

In all seriousness, though, my time spent in the English Faculty Library, while extensive, will always be a memorable part of my time at Oxford. I have yet to experience a space in which everyone is studying relatively the same thing, working just as hard, and so extremely motivated to achieve such similar academic goals. And, of course, there’s nothing quite like looking up to see someone across the table reading a classic that is much longer than the one you’ve been carrying around that week.

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Anna Alden

<p>I am a Literature major at the University of Rochester and am attending Oxford through IES Direct Enrollment in the fall semester of 2015. As an aspiring academic, I am far too invested in the contents of my bookshelf and can often be caught printing an extra copy of completed papers for my own safekeeping. I am fully prepared to take on a completely new and exciting abroad experience both in and out of the classroom, and my love for writing makes each experience even more exciting to share.</p>

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