Public, private spaces.

| December 16, 2013

Earlier today, I witnessed a woman make a private phonecall from a public restroom on campus. While I washed my hands, she paced the small area of the bathroom floor, earphones in, speaking down into her phone as if she were in conference. It struck me as banal, this scene. People so often use public space as private here in NYC. It got me thinking about our private study rooms in the library and how busy they’ve been for the past few years, and the relative value of studious real estate here at TC. What does it say about us as a culture that we covet private space, and yet seem to create our own spaces wherever we can find them?

According to in-house statistics, our room reservations were at an all time high during the spring semester of 2013, and one can assume they remain just as high this semester, fall 2013.

This past spring 6,817 meetings, classes and events were scheduled in the library, making up 17,834 hours of room usage. That is a slight increase from the 6,374 room bookings and 14,596 hours of room usage last year during the 2012 spring semester.

These statistics seem to indicate that the one of the most important uses of the library, as a public space, is the private space it can offer students to work in groups away from other students. That these rooms are coveted is not surprising; here at Gottesman, the rooms come equipped with items student teachers are likely to find useful: white boards, and computers and screens for projection. But because two out of our three usable floors are meant to be “loud” spaces, it’s curious to me that students so greatly prefer private study rooms over the communal work space of, say, the second floor, where there are white boards on stands, movable easy chairs that can be positioned into small clusters, and plenty of computers. My non-scientific theory is that in NYC, where we have all grown accustomed to seeking anonymity and privacy in the open public, a truly “private” private space is a treasured rarity here.

What do you think?

Postscript:

An article on crying in public in the New York Times.

And, yesterday the Humans of New York blog posted a photo of a woman alongside her comment,

We broke up in a Starbucks. A week later, I walked by and the place had been completely bulldozed to the ground. I always thought that was the Universe doing me a favor.