NU Declassified: Meet Me At Main Library

Michelle Hwang, Reporter



Whether it be for coffee, to hang out with friends or actually study, Main Library is a destination for many Northwestern students. Listening to the library’s aural characteristics can tell us why.

[natural sound of students voices in Main Library]

MICHELLE HWANG: Main Library – as the name suggests – is one of the primary gathering spaces for Northwestern students on campus. But what about this building attracts students? Is it the prison-like gray brutalist exterior? Or the private bathrooms in the basement?

[toilet flushing]

MICHELLE HWANG: In this piece, we’re listening in to the sounds that characterize Main.


MICHELLE HWANG: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Michelle Hwang. This is NU Declassified, a podcast about how Wildcats survive and thrive at Northwestern.

[natural sound of going through the revolving doors and entering Main Library]

[natural sound of students’ voices in Information Commons getting closer/louder]

MICHELLE HWANG: Once you spin past the revolving doors and scan your way into the library, you’re immediately greeted by the voices of the John P. McGowan Information Commons. As desktop computers are aligned in rows for use, Info. Comms is arguably one of the most social and least productive study spaces in Main.

TIMOTHY HONG: I’m sending a Word Hunt to a friend while I’m at the library because we’re going to play a game.

MICHELLE HWANG: That was McCormick senior, Tim Hong. Info. Comms are his word hunting grounds. Word Hunt is a mobile game where the player must create as many words as possible out of a grid of 16 letters. Hong says he plays a round every time he takes a study break – so every five minutes.

TIMOTHY HONG: I’m decent, but I’m very average.

MICHELLE HWANG: In Info. Comms, it’s normal for students to play GamePigeon games with friends. Hong says the social aspect of Main is what attracts him there. His alternative is Mudd Library.

TIMOTHY HONG: I think it’s the most social library on campus, more than Deering (Library) and Mudd. I feel like for Mudd, especially as an engineer, it’s kind of depressing because that’s where I really go to cry and really grind for classes.

MICHELLE HWANG: A trek across the carpeted hall —

[sound of footsteps]

MICHELLE HWANG: takes us to 1 South. This room’s large tables and talkative atmosphere lends itself perfectly to group work.

[1 South natural sound]


ELIZABETH YANG: I’m Elizabeth Yang.

JOJO KIM: I’m JoJo Kim.

MICHELLE HWANG: Kim is a Weinberg freshman and Yang is a Weinberg and Bienen freshman.

MICHELLE HWANG: What are you two working on here right now?

JOJO KIM: Bio 201.

ELIZABETH YANG: Yeah, we’re both studying for the midterm that’s tomorrow night. Because a lot of people come here, we study here before major tests – so we can study with other people.

[fade in sound of Brew Coffee Lab]

[nat sound of McCormick senior Liz Reese updating her coffee order]

MICHELLE HWANG: Up just one flight of stairs, the plaza level of Main houses a popular amenity – Brew Coffee Lab.

MICHELLE HWANG: For McCormick senior Liz Reese, the cafe is an extra incentive for her to come to Main.

LIZ REESE: It’s nice to have something to eat while I’m here. It’s kind of like a little treat, a reward for working.

MICHELLE HWANG: One thing about Main is that the library has variety. There’s chatty spaces like 1 South and Info. Comms on the first floor—

[natural sound of Core]

MICHELLE HWANG: Core, a multileveled study area on the second floor —

[nat sound of entering the elevator, pressing the button, and heading up]

MICHELLE HWANG: — go anywhere above that and you’ll hear:

[natural sound of the Stacks]

MICHELLE HWANG: complete silence.

MICHELLE HWANG: For McCormick senior Samuel Jung, the library’s variety of study spaces work to fulfill each of his studying needs.

SAMUEL JUNG: I’m just trying to finish up on some work for an aerodynamics class I’m taking right now.

MICHELLE HWANG: In Main where do you go?

SAMUEL JUNG: Generally 1 South. 1 South, if it’s menial work that I can’t get done in my apartment, because I’m too lazy to get it done in my apartment. If I actually need to get work done, I’ll go to Periodicals.

MICHELLE HWANG: Periodicals and Newspapers Reading Room, or just Periodicals, is a plant-filled beige room on the east side of the library. Its main characteristics are its cubicles, and like the Stacks, complete silence.

MICHELLE HWANG: There you have it. That was our little sneak peak, our little ear into Main Library.


MICHELLE HWANG: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Michelle Hwang. This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Mika Ellison, the digital managing editors are Ava Mandoli and Erica Schmitt, and the editor-in-chief is Alex Perry. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud.


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Twitter: @himichelle3004

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