Food in the library a growing issue

More students are ignoring the rules of the library at the cost of cleanliness


Photo by Lily Hartenstein

A half-eaten rotten banana is among one of the many old food items librarians have found

By Lily Hartenstein

The HHS library is a place for studying, printing, reading and hanging out out with friends. It is not a place for eating lunch or any other food, as one of the rules of entering the location is that food is not allowed.

However, ignoring this rule is not uncommon among library-going students, librarians Amity Bateman and Shannon Vakili said.. Bateman and Vakili said  they have seen a consistent amount of food trash left in the library over the last few years.

In general, the librarians said they are not upset when they see people with food. Typically, the response is simply to ask students to put their food away, Bateman said. But depending on the food or the student, they might need to go outside.

“Repeat offenders have to go outside. There’s not much discussion because we have discussed with them before,” Vakili said.

The librarians said they understand the motivations students have to eat in the library, but the importance of the no-food policy is that to benefit the whole community and to maintain the safety of the books.

“I understand there’s a limited time in the day they can get their academic work done, but … there are hundreds of students that come here everyday,” Vakili said. “Accidents happen, but if a book gets damaged, it needs to be taken out of the collection, or it needs to be replaced, so even accidentally spilling food on the books … it really does affect the whole library and the whole campus community. We’re all benefiting from using this space.”

Among other garbage, the librarians said they have found partially-moldy sandwiches, an old burrito shoved into a book, a half-eaten rotten banana and lots of very sticky candy wrappers.

“If we haven’t seen it, or we don’t catch it, I always think to myself ‘how many students have tried to get a book from this area?’ … this is what they were greeted with – by garbage or partially eaten food. It’s kind of gross, and I just feel bad, because it makes a bad experience for the next person,” Vakili said.

Including making students uncomfortable, leaving food in the library can have negative effects on everyone. In the past, the library has had issues with mice, cockroaches and ants, as well as food spillage causing damage to books and computers, according to Bateman.

“Vermin and these things, they have an impact on everybody, and the books. Books are bug-food too,” Bateman said.

The HHS library does not have the means to clean all the abandoned scraps left by students to prevent issues such as vermin, Bateman said.

“We don’t have a cleaning staff that comes through and cleans deeply like the cafeteria gets cleaned. When we go around and we find things that we missed, we can find someone’s half-eaten sandwich that’s been there for a week,” Bateman said.

Overall, the librarians said they think it is important for students to understand the effects of eating in the library.

“It’s important because this is a shared space, and it gets a lot of use, and we all need to take responsibility for keeping it clean. If we don’t take care of [the library], or if we’re sloppy with it, then it will get old faster and it won’t be in good condition for all the future students who want to use it,” Vakili said.