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Books under quarantine: two hours in the Library

Reading time: 4 minutes

After 84 days of lockdown, our beloved library is accessible again. At 10:00 am today a few brave (or delirious?) students were standing in line in awkward silence. I could not help but miss the buoyant atmosphere that used to accompany such moments: the maddening crowd demanding that turnstiles be opened at 08:30:01, and people pushing each other after having forsaken their friends and broken all bonds of fellowship in a whim. The eyes of those in pole position were not ringed with the exhaustion that inevitably comes with hours of relentless wait, and I sadly realized that I cannot skilfully swipe my badge in less than 0.01 seconds anymore – an art I once excelled at.  In normal times, I would have risked upsetting many colleagues.

Each student can stay for a maximum of two hours and the library can only be accessed by booking a slot online. This inevitably deprives us of the pure joy of fighting for a spot, while sending all of our hate the way of those rushing to scatter their personal belongings all over an entire room just before disappearing for a three-hour breakfast. What is even worse is that, for now, we cannot pull the 15-hour study marathons that only the library could make possible.

I appreciate that such premises might appear off-putting to say the least, but the uttermost dedication to meet and exceed the expectations of our readers pushed me to make an experimental subject of myself. In case you are interested in seeing for yourself, you can find all of the information on the library webpage (https://lib.unibocconi.it/screens/News3.html), here is a summary that includes a few extra tips.

First, you will not be allowed in unless you have booked a slot here: (https://libbook.unibocconi.it/postistudio/). There are only two possible locations: Law room and Periodicals room, on the ground floor. I had absolutely no clue about their exact location myself (as I used to simply take the first empty seat I could lay my eyes on), so here is a map:

The 6-seat and 8-seat study rooms with doors are not accessible yet. When booking, bear in mind that you can only select the following slots: 10:00 am-12:00 pm, 1:00-3:00 pm, 4:00-6:00 pm. Even if this sounds counter-intuitive, select 60 minutes as the desired duration of your reservation: the length will automatically be registered as 120 minutes. If, instead you select 120 minutes the system will return an error.

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You can also book a thesis workstation here: https://libbook.unibocconi.it/theses/.

When you get to the library, you will have to wait outside, a staff member will allow students to get in one by one after having checked their reservation. You need to wear a mask and gloves before entering the building.

Your temperature will be checked with a scanner and you will need to fill and sign on the spot a self-declaration form (no need to bring it from home), which you will then hand to the receptionist. The latter step is only necessary for your first access since the reopening.

All the spots are numbered and located in a checkerboard fashion, so as to respect social distancing rules. It is possible to access only some areas of the library, bordered by signs on the floor and by barriers. Printers haven’t been made available yet.

There is access to books in loco, but new loans cannot be taken out for the moment. If you wish to give back a book, you can just leave it in a box at the entrance (no need to access the desk inside the library). The books are put under quarantine too, in a dedicated room.

When it comes to theses and research projects, it is clear how having access to the library can be a game changer, even if the enhanced online accessibility to many of the resources has helped mitigate the problem.

However, I noticed today that library goers (18 out of the 88 spots available were reserved) weren’t really there for such purposes. What are we looking for? I am confident that many of us remember nostalgically how the library could do its magic in gifting us with perfect concentration, paired – just once in a while, as I would never doubt the dedication of the Bocconi student body – with one too many coffee breaks with friends. How we felt relieved seeing that we were not the only ones to have developed nervous ticks, that our receding hairline and our glasses of ever-increasing thickness were in good company. How we could feel a little less bad about our study performance while silently judging those who had come all the way there just to spend hours on their phones.

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What makes it worth the effort on May 18th 2020? While writing this article I realized that today I met other Bocconi students for the first time since February 22nd, and I had the chance to overhear some of the reasons that brought them there: “I’m working on my thesis”, “I wanted to have a look at a few books”, “I was craving a sense of normalcy”, and my personal favourite: “I just needed the library” (“Avevo bisogno della biblio, tutto qua”).

We had the opportunity to live an escapist fantasy: we could enter once again our temple and lock the world out. We desperately needed to feel like our exams are all we have to worry about. We craved the privilege to clear our minds from all the clutter. All we needed was the self-granted permission to just study and be Bocconi students, even for two hours.


The information reported is based on direct experience of the author and/or on the webpage of the Bocconi Library. The article shall not be intended as a substitute for the official material provided by Bocconi University.

Author profile
Deputy Director | barbara.balcon@studbocconi.it

I’ve been part of Tra i Leoni since my first semester at Bocconi and I’m now a Deputy Director. I’m a third year BIEF-Economics student and I mainly cover finance and campus life. In 2019 I wrote “Word on the Street”, a weekly column about the story behind the names of campus buildings and spots, while last semester I was the head of our Global Edition.

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