Academic Illiteracy: An Undergraduate’s Perspective Into The Library System

December 11th, 2015

Part Five: 100%

This is what it’s like to be Alex McKenzie right now:

I’m going through responses to a survey that I had created about what spaces were most often used in the library and why. After reading so many by people saying they preferred the Fourth Floor because of how quiet it was, I made a mental note: “Make sure to run around on the Fourth Floor wearing a chicken suit while playing loud rap music someday.” I smile fondly at the idea, and check what I need to do next. Then I see my schedule. And I see that I’m almost done working at Steenbock.

There’s a sort of clenching feeling going on in my chest as I realize this. It’s difficult for me to place. The worst part is that it feels that I was truly getting settled into my position when today came around. As like with all things, the finale creeps up sooner than one would have expected. It had only just snowed once, and even that had melted, replaced by a tranquil frigidity that refused to deepen into true winter (thanks, global warming). Nature is waiting, inching ever closer to the precipice. I just guess that I missed the inching part and figured that everything was remaining still. Well, I suppose it pays to think ahead.

After getting over my shock regarding the encroaching departure from Steenbock I will be experiencing, I return to my survey. There had been a surprisingly large number of responses, somewhere over fifty. Those kinds of number were unexpected, considering that the survey was a non-mandatory. Well, I shouldn’t say that, given that none of Steenbock’s surveys are mandatory. Not that I would use that as an advertising point, though.

Filling out an Excel spreadsheet with the data, I find a few things of interest.

One thing is for sure, almost everyone likes to spend time on the first floor: 30 of the 56 responses mention Steenbock’s first floor being the place they prefer to spend their time at. I find that somewhat surprising for a second, after all, there’s no immediate access to the first floor, and everyone needs to go down stairs to get to them. It only takes me a second or so to realize why the first floor is more popular, after all, I work on the first floor. In a small office with an unfinished cat poster, but that’s beside the point. The point is that the first floor is an open, welcoming place, with the gorgeous BioCommons and the amazing study spaces, which I am still just as in love with. I guess other people feel the same way. Good for them.

Floor Usage

Here we see the Pacman-like union of the first, second, and fourth floors eating the third floor. I guess the first floor coerced the others. How rude of it.

Secondly, it strikes me that the second most popular floor is the third floor. Now, it isn’t the second most popular by a large stretch, the first floor took too many responses for there to be any large discrepancies between the other three. Still, I was surprised that the second floor hadn’t taken the second position. It had many of the same aspects as the first floor, and was home to the computer labs. Having struck me as odd, I decided to go to the third floor and take a look at it. See why people liked it so much.

The first thing I experienced when I reached the third floor was soreness in my legs. Not because of the third floor, mind you. Rather, I had already climbed at least fifteen flights of stairs today, and had gone on a run, and my legs were beginning to feel a little unappreciated. Which, to be fair, I would be too if someone decided that we should go up twelve flights of stairs at once when there were perfectly functioning elevators ten feet away.

After suppressing the musculature-led revolution with enough speed and ferocity to terrify a Spetsnaz task force, I made my way through the third floor. It was nice. Quieter than any of the floors I had been on, very clean, and it had a number of nice study spaces. I guess that’s the favorite floor of a number of the more academically minded students. Good for them. At this time, though, I realized that I had never really walked through the third floor before. I had only ever spent a few minutes on the third and fourth floors. It was odd moving through the space, as if there was a room in your house that you never knew about. That alien familiarity stayed with me until I walked through the doors and back to the first floor.

Thirdly, a number of people have answered with multiple floors rather than just a single one, like we had stated in the survey. You know what, I’m not even going to try and be upset. Live your dreams, people. Just like how I dream of a good prequel trilogy (whether Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, the point stands).

Apparently someone was extremely excited about this survey. Amongst answers for the survey, there were cries of “Woot woot for public education!” and “Yay Steen!” (I am not making this up) I hear you, and to whomever filled out that survey, thank you. That was quite possibly the best response we got. So, thank you, and just remember that you are not alone, we all love Steenbae J. (Don’t tell the actual bae though. I already came close to ruining movie night thanks to a shoulder European)

And finally, I have discovered that George Benson’s Breezin’, especially the first twenty seconds, are good. Really good.

So there are a number of interesting things that have been found by the survey. And looking back, I find that there are a lot of things that the survey dragged up inside of myself. Reading about all of the students who like to use the study rooms reminded me of when I first saw them, of when I wrote that first post about them (which, for the record, was decidedly not my favorite post, but I think was still a fair indicator of what was to come). Reading about all of the places where the students liked to be, especially when they answered with descriptions rather than place names, made me aware of how much of the library I actually knew. The second that someone spoke about the “pond windows” I remember immediately saying to myself, “That person means the BioCommons!” It was empowering, to have come so far and to have not realized it. True, I may not be displaced African royalty with large sums of money, but at least I know my way around the library. It has to count for something, right?

And now, that is all about to be over. As I’m writing this, it is Thursday, December 10, 2015 (hello to all of you future people out there!). Tomorrow is my last day at Steenbock. I will be continuing to work with the university through the ISIP organization, but it won’t be with the people that I’ve come to know here. I get to meet some new group of people. Maybe I’ll continue this series somewhere else. I doubt it. Academically Illiterate was meant to be about my introduction to the library system, and I think that introduction has gone on for as long as it needed to. I know about a lot of different things now that I never had before. I even know about information literacy, which as we all know, 100% of people do not know about. It would be a misnomer, now, to be called ‘Academically Illiterate’. Maybe, ‘Academically Kindergarten Reading-Level’, but that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

Who knows? All I know at the moment is that every article I’ve written is one that I can look back upon and say that I’m glad that I’ve written. So until the inevitable reboot starring Andrew Garfield, I guess that Academically Illiterate is completed. Finished. All one-hundred-percent.

About the Author: Alex McKenzie is an undergraduate student in the UW-Madison Libraries’ ISIP program, majoring in Environmental Studies and East Asian Studies, and has been lying to you this whole time about everything.

Text by Alex McKenzie.

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