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“No one in town thinks they can talk to us about our sex lives, and people’s eyes and ears are glued to TV,” the woman says. “Why don’t you stop being dumb and move to some rural town and have a life of your own?”
On a recent morning outside the main public library, a group of college students from the nearby University of Virginia meet up outside the library’s second floor for breakfast. Their lunch comes from a food truck and they are all wearing red shorts and white shirts.
These young people, who have come to the library to take advantage of free Wi-Fi, know that the library is a place where they can gather and talk and connect. There is no more exciting place to do this than inside a library, though the campus’s library can be intimidating.
The reason there is no “no talking in library halls,” however, is that many students at Virginia University believe there must be a more comfortable space within the library to express their opinions. What is being lost in discussions about libraries is a lack of awareness and a lack of understanding that it is not just students on campus who feel insecure about their bodies or those of their friends, family, and acquaintances of varying races and religions who are the target of these conversations because they feel there’s not much space in which to express themselves.
A recent investigation of Virginia Commonwealth University’s libraries found a lack of sexual assault prevention and education programs, a lack of resources for people with disabilities and homeless students, and a number of other things that should stop students from talking to each other. Virginia Commonwealth University does not provide an accessible space for people to meet in person. The students are isolated from one another. And the fact they are often sitting on couches in classrooms can make it difficult for people to hear one another.
Many of the students I spoke with said they felt the conversation at the library was a space filled with “white people talking about how they are racist [while] other white people are talking about how they are racist. Not having spaces where people of diverse races can discuss how racist they are is a problem,” one student said. “No one thinks they can talk to us about our sex lives, and people’s eyes and ears are glued to TV. Why don’t you stop being dumb and move to some rural town and have a life of your own?”
The students themselves don’t believe the library has much interest