It’s finals week. You’re grinding at Green Library, hoping to somehow cram all 10 weeks of Chem 31A into your mind and before you realize it, it’s 12:50 a.m. As the automated closing warnings play, you head to the front desk where someone “checks” your bag to make sure you didn’t steal the Magna Carta — or worse, institutional knowledge. Walking out, you’re both relieved and anxious: relieved you no longer have to torture yourself with work in the hellish pits of the stacks, but concerned about how you’re going to pass your exams since you were just scrolling through Twitter the whole time you were there, anyway.
But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if your time at Green Library didn’t just have to end at 1 a.m. — what if, instead, you could spend the whole night?
Although there’s probably no one else on this campus asking that question — I mean, really, spend more time at the library, of all places? That’s the question we asked ourselves as we desperately tried to find more ways to procrastinate getting our work done. Before going any further, we can not recommend, condone or condemn any of the actions we took. You can, but that’s not important. This article is our story on how we tried to survive a night at Green Library.
We met up in front of Coupa. Richard Coca ’22 arrived right on “Stanford Student Time” — 10 minutes late. While waiting, I took in the looming view of Green Library at night, menacingly lit with orangish lighting and the stress of the whole campus cramming for finals. Definitely not the typical move for a weekend night out. We entered the library and started scouring the floors, trying to find a good place to hunker down and wait the night out. After searching throughout the second and third floors, we followed a trail of empty Yerba Mate cans, coffee cups and even a syringe to the perfect location: a strip of desks at the corner of the building. As the clock struck 1 a.m., we hid under the desks, waiting out the security guards as they made their closing rounds.
Ten minutes after hearing the guard’s last footsteps, we jumped out from the desks. We’d officially stayed past closing. But what now? Unsure of our next steps, we decided to wander around the floor.
One of the first things we noticed while walking around was how eerily quiet the library was. We scoped around different areas to make sure we were alone, and we were — or at least we thought we were. The way sounds carry in Green Library after hours isn’t quite like anywhere else on campus. Every few minutes, we’d stop, certain we’d heard voices or footsteps emerging from the dark.
Stumbling through the hallways, we found a mysterious door suggestively ajar and went inside. We’d found our way into Stanford’s coin history archives, a probable goldmine for the odd academic interested in the history of various currencies. Being broke and having no interest in reading about all the different kinds of money I don’t have, I instead wandered to the back wall, padded with massive books. Opening it up, we realized they contained full maps to the tombs of the Ancient Egyptian Valley of Kings. Could this finally be my Nicholas Cage moment? Was my life about to turn into the long awaited “National Treasure 3?”
Nope. Some sequels are better off not made. After about five minutes of perusing the maps of the tombs and some other mildly interesting books, we came across pencils and several cards on a table for people to write on when locating a book. Rather than find a specific book, Ayush and I picked up some cards and did what any Grind writer would naturally do: start a scavenger hunt. (Fun fact: Those cards still exist and you definitely shouldn’t look through all the books on the second floor of the East Wing.) We planned out a full scavenger hunt, traveled across floors and even ended up throughout the West Stacks at several points. Even though it was 3:30 a.m., we were going strong until, in the midst of setting up one of our clues, we heard a voice yell, “Hey! Get over here.”
My heart dropped as my sluggish sleep deprived brain started to realize what was happening. Defeated, I turned around to face several sets of laced boots storming towards us. These weren’t some yeehaw “Old Town Road” laced boots, but the “crap we are so screwed” kind of boots.
As a set of three officers came up to us, we slowly got up and faced them. “Are you guys aware that the library is closed? What are you doing here?” Fair points, to be sure, but I honestly couldn’t have answered them properly if I’d tried. I barely had any idea why I did anything in my life, let alone in this moment. Who knows what motivates a good journalist, let alone a subpar one?
Answering with a mix of the truth and not lies, we said that we’d fallen asleep (I’d taken a short nap while waiting), lost track of time and been wandering in confusion. We’d been up late studying for finals, and thought that we were locked in until morning. The officers raised a few eyebrows, but after checking our Stanford IDs, they decided to escort us out of the building. As we slowly walked away from the final pieces of the scavenger hunt, the officers explained that in the midst of our wandering we’d triggered the alarm systems for the whole building, sending an alert to their security team. So much for our fieldwork.
The police officers took us out through the back mailroom entrance. When we asked if it was common for students to get stuck in Green Library, they answered it was more common than you’d expect. I guess it’s typical of Stanford students to go above and beyond expectations. They’d pulled up to Green Library with four squad cars, lights on and everything, prepared for a full scale robbery. Instead, they found student journalists bored and looking for a story — possibly even more dangerous. Crisis averted, they left to their squad cars, and Richard and I headed back to our dorms.
Although we hadn’t achieved our original goal of a full night at Green Library, we’d made it out alive with a story to tell. We’d seen a few maps to some ancient tombs, laid out a partially complete scavenger hunt and even learned a few things about Green Library’s security systems. We even had fun, though that may have just been the madness of sleep deprivation setting in. After spending most of the night at Green, I have a new respect for it. Definitely not without its faults, the library is remarkable in terms of how much raw knowledge it contains and the resources it provides students. As finals week draws closer again, I’ll definitely take advantage of it as a study space. But after finals, maybe I’ll check out a book: who knows what other secrets Green Library holds?
Contact Ayush Pandit at apandit ‘at’ stanford.edu and Richard Coca at richcoca ‘at’ stanford.edu.