Written By: Salmana Shah
Photos By: Sania Elahi
As finals week approaches, students everywhere are scrambling to find an empty study space. Scores of students at UC Berkeley will find themselves at Moffitt Undergraduate Library, scouting out a vacant seat or even a desolate corner to set up camp. This piece was inspired by the indefinite amount of hours I will spend cooped up in Moffitt in the coming weeks.
My computer’s bright light seethes through my tired eyes and I divert my attention away from the screen. I revel in my surroundings; everyone around me is either in a deep trance or rushedly whispering to a friend. I’m on the fifth floor of Moffitt Library. It’s almost 11 PM, and it feels as though I’ve been here forever.
In the next hour, I’ll find myself at the Free Speech Movement cafe with a white chocolate mocha, chatting with an acquaintance I always run into when I’m here during the odd hours of the night. Later, I’ll explore the other floors of Moffitt to see if anyone else I know is trapped here too.
Moffitt is my go-to study space. It’s not as depressing as the engineering library and its open hours correlate with my preferred study hours, making it the obvious choice, but I also gravitate towards Moffitt due to its versatility. It supersedes its role as a study area; it functions as a social space.
Located in the heart of campus, Moffitt is the busiest library on campus and sees hundreds of students walk through its doors each day. It features a variety of distinct spaces and, while it often lacks enough tables and chairs to accommodate the campus’s increasing population, Moffitt still remains popular amongst students because of its central location, its 24/7 hours, and its innovative and pleasant aesthetics.
My favorite aspect is its social stratosphere or “Moffitt culture”. This includes running into friends in the library and getting nothing done that night, meeting new people at three in the morning and forging a strong bond built upon mutual distress and propensity for memes, or even stumbling upon someone from a dark part of your past and relentlessly avoiding them by hiding behind a whiteboard until they leave the building. Other elements of this distinct culture include studying until deliberation, endless hunting for an empty seat, and being shushed countless times on the quiet floor during finals week.
In so many ways, Moffitt is emblematic of Berkeley culture.
In one corner, you have a study group scrabbling away on a large whiteboard and in the other, you have friends sharing gossip. And, in between are the frantic and overworked students characterizing Berkeley’s highly competitive, high-functioning atmosphere. All around, people are engaging in the constant exchange of knowledge and ideas. Nothing is more fundamentally indicative of Berkeley’s truest nature than a space that produces ideas and theories which will, one day, inevitably change the world.
Perhaps, it’s a stretch to say that Moffitt is a great emblem of Berkeley society and an engineer of progress, but, ultimately, it is a fairly cool place. Between groans of “I’m tired of Moffitt” and “not Moffitt again,” I somehow always end up at Moffitt with a coffee in hand, vehemently seeking out an empty seat while the bright lights of the ceiling above me delude my brain into thinking it’s far earlier in the day than it actually is.
Each school has a study space with idiosyncrasies of its own. For many UC Berkeley students, this space belongs to Moffitt, which exists as the paragon of travail. Its multiformity is what manages to establish it as a campus hot spot time and time again. Amidst my complex and manifold emotions towards Moffitt, the truth is that it is and always will be my go-to study space - as long as I can find a seat and someone to share my sorrows with.