NEWS

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January 17, 2006

Sweet dreaming at the Reg

Though students will say they know “a friend” who has spent the night in the Reg, almost no one will personally confess to more than a nap in the library. As it stands, the sleeping culture at the library is shrouded in mystery.

“I have not slept here, but I have definitely spent the night here,” said Yotam Schachter, a third-year in the College.

Talking to students on the 24-hour A-level, on any given night, it is easy to reconstruct the folklore about sleeping that surrounds the Reg. “I heard there used to be showers here,” said Kateri Somrak, a fourth-year in the College.

There is also talk of the “jar man,” who lays the contents of his refrigerator out on a table on the fourth floor.

“My first year I saw a woman on the A-level with stuffed animals and a pillow in a cubicle she had decorated with Christmas lights,” said Sam Philipson, a third-year in the College. “It looked really plush.”

James Vaughan, assistant director of the library, brushed such stories off as Reg legend. “I think stories like these have a tendency to be exaggerated,” he said.

Ex Libris employees also say they have never found anyone sleeping when they closed the coffee shop. “But people have asked if we sell toothpaste and toothbrushes,” said Ex Libris employee Terin Izil, a fourth-year in the College.

Benjamin Murphy, the library supervisor who oversees locker upkeep, said he has found lockers filled with nothing but blankets and pillows. He has also found students sleeping on the upper levels, but says it is unlikely that they spend the night there since police officers make a sweep through the building after closing every night.

However, third-year in the College Max Mecklenburg claims he has spent the night in the Reg three times during his college career. “Once I just woke up on the third floor, it was three in the morning, and I figured I wouldn’t be able to get out and had to be here the next morning, so I went back to sleep…You want the gritty details?” he asked, whispering. “I used my shoes as pillows.”

There are even reports of library employees snoozing on the job. “There was at least one occasion where a student complained about the loud snoring of a gentleman in one of the comfy chairs on the third floor, who turned out to be a library employee AWOL from his job,” said Ray Gadke, a library employee. “When John Crerar library was planned, its designers were told specifically that there were to be no comfortable chairs like the ones in the Regenstein. The people planning Crerar did not want to turn the place into an overnight hostel.”

Of the students who would not testify to their nights spent in the Reg, many were willing to draw on their sociological backgrounds to analyze the situation. “I think there are two types of people who sleep in the library: the people who are not doing their work, and the people who are upset about something like roommates,” said first-year in the College Shana Carp, who also admitted to getting locked in the Reg on a Saturday night.

Still others see a habitual nap in the library as an inevitable occurrence. “I just plan an hour of sleeping time into my schedule when I go to the library to study,” said third-year in the College Zack Lerner.

Sleepers are by no means unique to the Reg. In fact, many students skirted the question to talk about the environment in Harper. “The white noise!” said third-year in the College Andy Kiersz. “It is so conducive to sleeping.”

This sleeper phenomenon is also not unique to the U of C. What is now regarded as the most famous case of library sleepers started last year with a popular blog at New York University (NYU). “The Bobst Boy” was exposed at NYU after having spent eight months living on the A-level of the NYU Bobst Library after his financial aid would no longer cover housing.

Although the U of C has never seen anything like the Bobst Boy, sleeping in the Reg has been given academic attention. Last spring, sociology professor Andrew Abbott performed a survey on library behavior that received more than 2,500 responses reporting the Reg as their favorite library to study in.

“The striking fact is that undergrads nap more than grads, but grads still do a fair amount of napping, and most undergrads nap at least occasionally,” Abbott said. “Remember too, that undergrads are much more likely to be in the building at night when napping might be more expected.

“For the record,” Abbott added. “I occasionally napped in the Regenstein when I was a graduate student.”