By Joe Banfield
The other morning, on Level One, every student was working quietly. Every student but one. It was some guy I didn’t know – he wasn’t even trying to whisper. Heads kept turning so eventually I got up and told him he was being loud and he went away.
That simple interaction sped up my heart rate and got the old adrenaline pumping. For the next two minutes I couldn’t focus on my work because I was so chuffed, feeling like a B-rate hero or something. So I kind of know what it feels like – being king of the library, making people stop when they make life hard for others.
I mean, people are doing this stuff all the time. Not just the chatting in silent areas where people are trying to work. There’s also the letting out whiffs of last night’s dinner stuffed into a plastic carton they’ve reused from a Lebaneat takeaway – or talking at full volume when the lift doors open (we can hear you!)
For about a week, it tapped into a big market of petty frustrations like mine
So yes, people in the library are annoying and we test each other’s patience all the time. And that’s where the ‘DU Library Police’ Instagram account came along. For about a week, it tapped into a big market of petty frustrations like mine.
Its first post was accompanied with the caption: “With exam season starting tomorrow the DU Library Police would like to wish the best of luck to all law-abiding, couth, and conscientious students helping to make the library a better place. To those who can’t follow the simple rules and conventions – you will get what you deserve. Karma is a bitch x”.
It made out like it was a bit of light-hearted fun. Encouraging people to send in pictures and videos of others ‘breaking library rules’, it posted this content to its story, accompanied with captions along the lines of ‘outrageous behaviour spotted. If you can’t stick by the rules, why come in at all’.
‘If you can’t stick by the rules, why come in at all’
The posts mainly revolved around seat-saving, not wearing shoes, sleeping at desks, piles of books on desks, bringing in kettles, eating food, going to the toilet, breathing… that kind of thing. The take on all of it was: ‘this is bad. You should feel ashamed. Do not do this’.
It got worse when it had to do with shaming people for sleeping – captions like ‘rise and shine’ and ‘this person’s been asleep for two hours now. So inconsiderate, smh’.
The account was never really operating in good faith
PSA: people who sleep in the library are probably sleeping for a good reason, such as: because they’ve been working hard. People do not generally go to the library to sleep. If you see someone sleeping in the library, don’t film them. Definitely definitely don’t film them to shame them for sleeping. A sleeping person is a vulnerable person. A sleeping person does not give consent to be filmed.
As those actions show, the account was never really operating in good faith. It was always about power – about making people feel small, enforcing a ridiculous idea of law and order in a library with full-time paid staff, part of whose job it is to go about enforcing rules. Suggestion: if you don’t think they’re doing a good enough job, let them know!
The point is, without personal contact – without being able to go up to people and get all in a fluster when you ask them to be quiet or turn down their volume or make room for others to sit – legitimate frustrations supercharged via social media spill out into nasty, unaccountable ‘policing’ of behaviour.
It’s kind of poetic that it met its end at the hands of a bigger, more established anonymous mob-mentality platform
The account came to an end after a flood of complaints on Durfess, relating to one particularly nasty episode of shaming someone asleep – for a more than justifiable reason, it turned out. It’s kind of poetic that it met its end at the hands of a bigger, more established anonymous mob-mentality platform.
The criticisms against the account were raised from the start, and the people behind it were aware of them, taking the time to respond to several critiques on their story. The responses went along the lines of exercising freedom of speech and a promise to take posts down if people complained. There was no apologising. No taking responsibility. They even played the old Trump line of praising ‘fans’ who support the ‘good work’ they do.
So in conclusion, yes – seat-saving, loud talking, and other related library behaviours are irritating. But the ‘DU Library Police’ Instagram was ill-conceived, invasive, and nasty from the start. It created a platform with no accountability or transparency that legitimised invasions of privacy, mob mentality, and a culture of shame. The end of the account should call us to be careful how we conduct ourselves behind anonymous identities online, not just in the library. Stuff on social media is just as real for those you film.
The ‘DU Library Police’ Instagram was ill-conceived, invasive, and nasty from the start
Now that it’s gone, hopefully we can treat the library with respect without fear of some insidious Big Brother bringing about public humiliation as we literally eat, sleep, and move about in the library we should be proud to share. Instead, maybe we can start again to work alongside each other in support and encouragement at a time that’s stressful enough as it is.
But what do I have to say to ‘DU Library Police’? Well, I suppose it’s only fair: “To those who can’t follow the simple rules and conventions – you will get what you deserve.”
Image by nolifebeforecoffee via Flickr.