It’s 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. You’re sitting alone in McElroy Commons. You’ve been here for a while, your friends from lunch left hours ago, and you’re finally six pages into the 10-page paper that’s due in four hours when that dreaded notification appears in the upper right-hand corner of your laptop. “Low Battery, your Mac will sleep soon unless plugged into a power outlet.”
You’re nowhere near an outlet. Panicking, you decide to make a break for it and head to the nearest place that has to have an open outlet—Bapst Library.
Every second counts, so you sprint down College Road and push through the heavy wooden doors. Out of breath and tired, you settle in the first open seat, zip open your bag, and push the plug into the desk’s outlet. You look at the light in your charger and impatiently wait for it to turn from grey to green to orange, but nothing happens. Maybe the power’s out, so you check to see if the desk’s light will turn on. It does, so that theory’s wrong. Maybe you just didn’t push the plug in all the way.
You take it out and try again. Nothing.
You take it out and try the outlet in the empty seat next to you. Again, nothing.
You get up and try an outlet on the other side of the library—again, nothing.
You could repeat this process and try 56 different outlets before you get to one that works. I know—I tried it.
After several semesters of working in Bapst with my laptop constantly teetering on the brink of zero percent, I have grown weary, tired. I only have two finals seasons left, and I intend on my laptop maintaining at least 20 percent of its battery during both. So, over the course of three days, I carried out my mission. I tested almost every single outlet on the first floor of the library and found only 29 that worked out of the 56.
My admittedly unsophisticated research only included outlets on the first floor. I did not venture into the mezzanine because only graduate students are allowed there, and I did not test the outlets in the basement because I would have been unable to fit those into the map I drew. I was unable to test six outlets on the first floor, because those seats were occupied each time I went to Bapst, and in those instances I felt uncomfortable interrupting and asking to violate strangers’ personal space.
My criterion for whether to put a check in the square representing each seat and its outlet was simple. If my laptop or smartphone could sustain a charge for the first five seconds without me having to repeatedly jiggle, shimmy, and maintain constant pressure on the plug, I considered it to be working and gave that outlet a check. If a charge briefly appeared but then dissipated within the first five seconds, the outlet received an “X” and was deemed broken.
In some cases, in order to confirm that there wasn’t an issue with my laptop charger, I would try to charge my phone. The outlets tended to charge my phone more readily than my laptop, but in the cases where a specific outlet would charge my phone and not my laptop, I would still give the outlet an “X,” since students are likely more interested in charging their laptops in the library than they are in charging their phones.
Every student to whom I talked has experienced Bapst’s outlets not working several times over the years, so I know my laptop is not cursed.
This led me to wonder how this problem has gone on for so long, seemingly unaddressed. Is the University neglecting its students’ needs? Or is this just another case of the student body being all complaints and no action?
From various conversations, I have the sense that students are unsure of who is responsible for reporting an issue so widespread and so obvious. To be honest, so was I at first. But, since the library is primarily a space for students, I realized that we are responsible for bringing it to the administration’s attention. On Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, I submitted my first work order. Under the “additional details section,” I noted my findings, and I was pleased to find Bapst Library in the location dropdown.
With finals a few days away, I hope that my work order will be responded to promptly. If not, feel free to contact me for a copy of the map.
Featured Image by Alex Gaynor / Heights Senior Staff