Deadlines, Distress and Defecation: Our experience at UCL Libraries after midnight

We’ve all been there


We visited the three busiest libraries at UCL after midnight to get a glimpse of the Red Bull swigging all night revisers. Here’s how it went down:

Our energy prinks were done by 11:30pm, and our confidence levels were exponentially increasing.

We decided to start our research by courageously entering the territory monopolised by UCL’s finest – the medics.

She didn't even make it to a library

She didn’t even make it to a library

Cruciform hub

Soon after entering this classic revision venue, we quickly discovered the setting is no normal study space. By night, it becomes a complex, three-tier system, with it’s very own social hierarchy.

Room 1: the “Social Playground”, is occupied by out-going, semi-unstable individuals who take up every bit of orange sofa available and seem to tread the thin line between human interaction and intense mental labour.

Working hard x

Working hard x

Next, room two: Where the mainstream studyholics at the library section where an interviewee claimed “if you drop a pen, everyone looks”.

A minority of the still currently sane are here, they’re just hard to fine.

pretty drawing there

pretty drawing there

But the hardcore medics were confined to a space known as “The Silent Area”. If you breathe, everyone looks. Heads turned in perfect sync as we approached, the deathly silence enveloping us.

They could instantly sense our paltry UCAS score. One look from these rampant revisers was enough to make you regret any lecture you’ve ever skipped in your life. Although nervous, we approached one, who was shocked by the human contact. Still shaken, they told us the exam stress (and likely the nearby Costa machine) had wreaked havoc on the bowels of students, with defecations across the bathrooms.

Escape while you still can

Escape while you still can

Towards the end of our exploration of the hub, a heavily caffeinated medic at the edge of breaking down, let it all out to us.

The anonymous Medic cried: “The hub is nothing but  a shark pit of gossip and betrayal where you say one thing and everyone knows where it came from at precisely what time.”

Once the confessions started to roll in several others followed, proclaiming: “Friendships are made and broken. Relationships are made and broken.

“You can’t talk about your life in the hub, it’s broadcasted…if they heard me, that’s it, I’m done.”

Clearly, the hub, when not a place of power revision, is a rigid and unforgiving social circle.

Overwhelmed, we decided to check out venue two.

He didn’t make it out

Main library

Walking through the law section, we experienced a phenomenon called “negative sound” where any noise was eternally sucked out of us.

your adventure starts here!

Your adventure starts here!

In the History section we had the opportunity to meet some lovely people experiencing the post-breakdown phase.

We tried to interview one Candy Crush addict who, perplexed, just kept asking: “Don’t you have exams?”.

We did, we really did.

Petrified she might turn us into stone with her eyes, we rushed out and tried our luck in palaeography.

living the life x

Living the life x

Here we spotted two girls who had “my dissertation is due in four days” written all over their faces, so we decided to interview them.

With a variety of night-time snacks, ranging from cans of blue bolt to Haribos, we knew they were ready for a wholesome night of study.

As regular all-nighters, they have noticed a routine at the main library.

“People start coming in at 6am, all ready to work, organised and tidy…and then there’s us”. They compared this with the halcyon days of revision in the SOAS library.

“In SOAS everyone is happy in the libraries, here everyone is crying”, one of the girls told us the SOAS library closed at 11pm, forcing you to leave and repent, whereas at UCL it is possible to stay forever.

We concluded the main library after midnight was in fact nothing but a ghost pit of silence and Blue bolt, the only people who enjoyed time there were past SOAS’s curfew.

Science library

The Science library appeared to be the least stressful, with students nesting in there own little enclaves. We met one budding Anthropologist who imparted some pearls of wisdom to us.

“To survive in the library, be assertive. Are you hot? Open the window.”

He also enjoyed the community atmosphere during the day, and tells us people would say “bless you” if someone sneezed.

he was very happy to see us

He was very happy to see us

As a frequent late-nighter, he had witnessed humankind at its most desperate. He told us of a trail of blood along the library at 2am. No one was there, just the blood, which stopped inexplicably.

He’d seen lovers making out in the hallways – he wondered if they knew each other, or if it was a last-ditch attempt at procrastination. He too, had had his fair share of toilet trauma, witnessing all 10 of the South Junction men’s toilets blocked. All 10.

Thus, the night-shift at UCL’s libraries proved to be a time of desperation. Desperation to finish a dissertation, find a loved one to cling onto, and perhaps most importantly: a desperation for the loo.