About 20 Northwestern students will actually stay until the sun rises, give or take a few that will sleepily drag their backpacks home to collapse there instead. According to Campus and Community Engagement Librarian Chris Davidson, the library transitions from bustling to slumberous over the course of the wee hours of finals week mornings, with many contributing would-be-travel time home toward a several-hour nap in the carrels.
Davidson spends Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights of most finals weeks climbing to the fifth floor with a cart full of study snacks and coffee, steadily rotating his way around the towers of Main Library, floor by floor. At midnight, when he begins circling the fifth floor, Davidson said about 10 to 15 people occupy each room’s carrels, 40 to 50 in total on any given floor. But several hours after operating his carrel-by-carrel room service to hundreds of students, he reaches the first floor around 2 or 3 a.m. to find its occupancy, along with that of the towers, decreased by about 60 percent.
And yet a diligent 40 percent of students remain hard at work, or asleep … sometimes both. There are two types of library sleepers, said Davidson: the power-nappers catching shut-eye for better studying efficiency twenty minutes later, or the ones who fully decide to throw in the towel (and the book) and curl up on a pale faux-leather armchair in a tower’s entryway. There are only two or three of the latter a night, Davidson said.
More often he finds the dozers in a daydream-turned-real dream position: their heads resting on folded arms on a carrel’s desk. There are typically about 15 of these sightings a night, and about half of them have a study buddy in the opposite carrel to keep watch while they “work.”
But it’s not as bad as it seems, said Davidson. After all, he has spoken to students who have spent nearly 24 hours straight in the library during finals week. Backpacks full, they check into "Hotel Main" early one morning, claim their carrel, and get straight to work, only breaking for meals in Café Bergson. The concrete walls become their temporary home, their own arms their bony pillows. “If somebody’s sleeping, I just let them be,” Davidson said. “Because they’re tired and they’re sleeping for a reason, and we’re a comfortable space. I mean, if you’re here to study, and you need to catch a few winks, that’s good.”