The Battle for the Wall Outlet

student studying
Studying in the almost empty library at the beginning of the semester.

You check the clock. The time is 3:36 am and you’re barely a third of the way through the material on the 11:00 am cumulative exam. Stirring the film that has formed on top of your now-ice-cold latte, you contemplate leaving the library and heading home to a warm bed. After all, you know that the custodial staff comes around with a vacuum at 4:00 am and, like a cat, you just can’t handle the vacuum at this time of day.

You take another minute and reluctantly come to the conclusion that you should get back to work. As you pull your computer onto your lap once more, you hear the terrifying beep of a low battery signal. The battery is on 5% and you know very well there’s not a free outlet in a 2-mile radius. Without an outlet, your time in the library has come to an end.

This tiny little beep has led to my own personal defeat on multiple occasions, particularly during finals season. I’ve often arrived to the library and found my seat already occupied. Although my seat is “technically” unassigned, we library regulars have a consistent seating arrangement. Because most coursework requires a computer, regulars make sure to always have access to wall outlets. Come finals, it would only make sense that the people who put in the time throughout the semester reap the rewards of their hard work and receive invaluable access to a wall outlet.

power outlet
The power outlet: the most coveted piece of real estate in the library during finals season.

But during finals, the library population swells. People who never enter into its hallowed halls during the rest of the semester suddenly appear, taking the seats of the regulars and–worse yet—hogging the power outlets. The most valuable resource in the building is commandeered by people who simply haven’t earned it. Without access, we are left with dying computers and a ticking countdown of how long we can afford to stay in the library.

Many of these problems could be more easily solved with the addition of a power strip (or ten), but I’m not sure the local fire department would approve of such a solution. Instead, I’ve been working on an incentive program to ensure those of us who are dedicated to spending all semester at the library are not uprooted in the crucial final days.

Here’s my idea: Every time you arrive to the library, you would scan your student ID. A computer system would keep track of the number of times you entered the library, as well as your average length of stay. When finals season rolls around, students with the most accumulated visits and highest average study time would receive priority seating in the library. Implementing this program would not only reward loyal library visitors, but could also lead to more students making the leap to visit the library before finals week.

What do you think? Are you a regular library patron who often finds access to your favorite power outlet thwarted by the arrival of opportunistic library patrons?

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Alyssa Bear
Alyssa, a Wisconsin native, is a senior pursuing her B.S. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While she has a continued interest in marketing and sales, she is currently majoring in neurobiology and zoology. Outside of Promega, Alyssa spends her time attending live music performances and slacklining at James Madison Park.

One thoughtful comment

  1. I believe the library should remain a first come first serve basis. Perhaps you should be able to reserve a spot ahead of time, so people who know they will need to be in there can secure a spot and those who don’t care as much can look for free spaces. However I see no reason to reward frequent users – it’s not like they path for their uses like airline flyers.

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