The fifth and sixth floors of the Taylor Family Digital Library are notorious for their ideal studying environments, breathtaking views of the scenic brick wall of the McKimmie Library tower and comfortable yet stylish lounge chairs. Most notably, though, they are known for their utter and uncomfortable silence. This lack of noise has recently become the subject of a new study out of the department of anthropology, led by Sauroman Jones.
“What we have developing on these floors, particularly the sixth, is an entirely new culture,” claims Jones. “Students who spend prolonged periods of time on the sixth floor are slowly forming a distinct society with its own cultural practices and norms. They are beginning to communicate differently, act differently and partake in strange new customs.”
One such custom cited by Jones is the development of an entirely new system of language based off of gestures and motions in place of verbal communication.
“If a student must leave their seat in order to relieve themselves, for example, a customary head nod to a nearby studier is sufficient to communicate the complex message of ‘please watch my stuff,’ ” Jones explained. “Such a message is communicated without speaking a sound. We can also observe the practices of students who are attempting to find a resting place on the floor. When two students simultaneously walk up adjoining aisles, they use some sort of telepathic communication to let each other know that there are no available seats on either side, thus aiding the other student by not making them walk down the opposite aisle. It’s quite fascinating.”
When asked about the new gestural language developing on the sixth floor, third-year engineering student Marleen Fitzsimmons verified Jones’s observations. “You just kind of know, you know?” she said in hushed tones, fearful of the societal backlash possible for speaking aloud. “I mean, we’re all here for the same reason, so when you have to get up to — well, you know — all you have to do is give the guy across from you that look, and you just get this feeling that you can trust him to make sure no one snatches your Mac while you’re on the can.”
Jones has dubbed the so-called community of students on the sixth floor the Silent Studiers, and is arguing feverishly for them to gain the same level of recognition as other distinct cultural groups on campus.
“I mean, they have their own customs that are different than almost anywhere else on campus, and if you don’t follow the rules you are labeled an outsider of sorts,” Jones continued. “Take, for example, the ritual staking out of a table or lounge chair. By leaving one’s personal effects on a table or lounge chair, a Silent Studier is communicating to the rest of the community that they will be using that item at a later time. It is an unwritten rule to never remove a Silent Studier’s claim to their desk, no matter how long the item has been left there. I myself made that mistake early in my study of this group, and after the social ostracization I experienced, I definitely won’t be making it again.”
Jones’s study is still ongoing, so if you happen to spot him crouched in a corner of the sixth floor, notepad and unnecessary tape recorder in hand, feel free to exchange the Silent Studier common courtesy of a brief head nod with him. However, Jones advises against alerting the Silent Studiers of his presence, as he wishes to observe the species unaltered in their natural habitat.
“If the Silent Studiers know they’re being watched, then this study will be void,” Jones said. “Their numbers have swollen exponentially in light of some sort of apparent stress, related perhaps to midterms, and we must seize this opportunity for scientific discovery while we can.”
Students wishing to make their own observations of the Silent Studier culture are welcome to visit the sixth floor of the TFDL, but Jones warns against total immersion.
“After spending six straight hours on the sixth floor, I found myself forgetting how to speak and developed a repulsion to the smell of hot food, as it is banned in Silent Studier society. I even began to question if my studying would even be worth it when my midterms came around, and I’m not even writing midterms!”
Should you find yourself affected by one or more of these symptoms, Jones urges students to remove themselves from the noiseless environment immediately.
“The best cure if you feel yourself becoming too immersed in Silent Studier society is to take a walk in the real sunshine, not merely by the glass windows of the TFDL. Watch a movie to re-acclimatize yourself to the outside world or spend some time actually speaking with real people. There’s a saying going around that once you enter the sixth floor, you never leave. Don’t let that be you!” he said.
Jones’s warnings are all too true, but still the fascination remains with the society of Silent Studiers. Who are they really? Will they ever be done studying? Will we ever learn all of the mysteries of the sixth floor? The answers remain unclear, though Jones’s study is paving the way towards a new understanding of this strange culture.