April 2, 2009
When I was a 1L, I studied in the Fishbowl. Trust me – it’s not as strange as it sounds. The main entrance to the library opens to a grand, light-drenched hall. I call it the Fishbowl because everything is so open—there are long wide study tables, windows looking in from the stacks on the floor above—from there, you can observe a whole law school ecosystem.
First year students peck like guppies at hardbound case reporters that line the walls—don’t these bright eyed newcomers know we use computers now? Big leather chairs are sea anemones luring the sleep-deprived into their comfy embrace.
People know they are being observed in the fishbowl. This floor of the library is where people go catch their friends, catch up on last weekend or catch a plan for this weekend. Some people come here to work because they think they are less likely to procrastinate if they know everyone else will see them watching Gossip Girl on itunes. And others just procrastinate in public, but try to fake it. The Fishbowl is where I learned that when somebody is typing away like Jerry Lewis, they less likely to be writing a paper than on gchatting.
At some point, I’d had enough seeing and being seen. I needed to cut out distractions and get some work done. I left the fishbowl for the library stacks. In the further recesses of library floor 5, one meets only LLMs, foreign students receiving a masters in legal studies. I thought that here, at least, I could study for a few hours in anonymity.
However, there were problems with my assessment. Here, at Yale Law School, the LLMs are so nice and intriguing that it’s hard not to befriend them. And they are the only people in the world who know enough to ask you good questions about American law, but not so much that you can’t answer with your notes from first semester: “I’ll be happy to explain the basics of American civil procedure for you!” And the LLMs are such a close bunch that once you’ve made friends with one, you’re on your way to being friends with all of them.
So I went down the stairs, below the Fishbowl, to the fish tank. Three floors below the main entrance to the library, there swim beautiful fishes. The librarians maintain a salt-water tank near a large cherry conference table. It is in an isolated part of the library, on the way to nowhere. If it weren’t for the zebra and clown fish, it would be lonely. But to actually get some work done, I recommend keeping with the fishes.