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A minor peculiarity of German libraries

Encountering cultural differences

I just screwed up the time of a course and arrived to compus several hours early. No matter, I think; I can just as well sit and work.

Shoot - I brought my laptop charger but no converter, so the charger is useless, and the laptop is almost out of juice. No matter; there are computer pools in the library.

German libraries have one minor peculiarty (at least one - I have not ventured far enough to discover more, for reasons soon to be revealed), and that is that you cannot bring your bag or jacket in with you. You are expected to store it in a Garderobe, which is a room full of cubbies. In the main campus library you can use your 'Mensa card' to lock a cubby for free. It all seems a little silly to me, but, well, alright.

I arrive to a room full of occupied cubbies. I wait for about five minutes, during which time one person who I THINK arrived after me takes the next available cubby. I wait some more. Several people come, open their cubbies to retrieve something, then re-lock them and leave. Another 5-7 people are now also waiting for cubbies. The room is large enough that there is no real line or priority system; if someone happens to vacate a cubby where you are hanging out, you could be polite and offer it to the person who has been waiting longest... but you could also just take it yourself.

I get fed up and leave. No matter, there is another library in the German Studies building where the Garderobe will surely not be such a hot scene. Sure enough, there are empty lockers. But wait - these require a payment of 1 Euro.* I am supposed to pay 1 Euro every time I use the library? Just to store my bag and coat?? Because I might steal a book or drink on the sly???

This is all a little tough to swallow. Europe may have a more liberal society in many ways, but I think there are just a lot less rules in America. I do not, generally speaking, like rules. I most especially like places like Tonga where you can sit on the roof of the ferry and no one cares, or Laos where you can rent a motorbike with no license, or the Pyrenees where you can camp anywhere you please. I suppose one could consider this a period of cultural adjustment to complement the linguistic learning curve.

So here I am writing form a little pool of computers just inside the German Studies Library door where you are still allowed to carry dangerous contraband goods like bags and jackets. I am also, as much out of spite as out of thirst, drinking tea by the computer.


In my ire, I jumped to a hasty conclusion. To be fair, upon further investigation, you only have to deposit 1 Euro to use the lockers in the German library. You get it back when you return the key. Again, I suppose, so people do not steal keys or permanently occupy lockers. And as if the 1 Euro will actually prevent that. (Again with the rules...)

Posted by sbw2109 02:19 Archived in Germany

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