12 November 2013


My contributions to Trove's special Centenary Edition have been published! Holding my text in hardcopy will never get old. Special Issue: Trove x UWA Centenary is now available at all UWA libraries, faculties, and galleries.

This article is about nightscapes at the 24-hour Reid Library.

Crystal Abidin
Project Officer, Trove

It is the witching hour. All in UWA is pitch black and dead silent, save for the whispers at the Reid library all through the night (the exam period is another story altogether). I am one of the library officers in the Reid who keep your favourite library running round-the-clock during the term. While I shuffle around three different shifts, let me tell you why 0215-0745hrs is my favourite time of the day.

There is a chubby kookaburra that regularly finds its way to the ledge at the main entrance around 11 o’clock every night. It snuggles up in its own feathers and rests. If you listen intently you’ll hear the precious ducklings in the pond crying out for their mom, and on rainy days the frogs practically form a choir.

I look forward to when security drops by to check in on us. Being awake all through the night seems to make everyone more appreciative of every other waking body. I love hearing about their day (and family, and home town, and life in general), and how intently they listen when I talk about mine.

I look forward to when the cleaners come in at 0400hrs. I love how extraordinarily chirpy we become when we greet each other. “Only three hours to go my love,” says my favourite lady with the curls, “my day has only just begun!”

I look forward to when night owls around the library stop by the front desk for a quick chat. I love hearing about their research, about random gripes in life, about how dysfunctional we must be to love the night, and about how sleepy and hungry we get towards the 0500hrs mark. Every now and then, the odd postgrad lets out a celebratory yelp when another chapter has been conquered in the dead of the night (some times it’s because a football team has won the match). As usual, we swap high-fives all around.

I look forward to meeting my shift partners each week, and how each of them has their own quirks. There is the one who surprises me with a new hair colour almost every fortnight, the one who lapses into philosophy and existential crises every other hour, and the one who always verbally plans her breakfast the moment the sun glimmers through the window.

I love my night patrols in the Reid. The 300s on the top floor are my favourite. There is a distinct old musty smell that lingers in the corridors that the nerd in me finds enchanting. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the books on level two.

The daytime staff start streaming in around 0630hrs, and the senior librarians get in at around 0715hrs, some times offering us yummy breakfast. It's funny that they're always amazed that "we young people" made it through the night without any major calamity, and with the Reid still in tact. “Congratulations on surviving another night. Good morning and good bye.”

At 0745hrs, I take a leisurely half-hour stroll back home. This is always one of my highlights of the day. Every ten steps, someone chimes in with a hyper-enthusiastic "good morning!" and my then-degenerating body reciprocates. I love stopping to chat with strangers on the street out on their morning walks, walking their dogs, enjoying the sun... the added bonus is when they lug along super adorable kids (who often whine about being made to go to school).

When the sun is being kind, I love the morning air, and that strange minty morning breeze. I take it all in. I get home. I change out. I hear my housemates jostling with alarm clocks and attempting to peel themselves away from the sheets. I plop onto my own gigantic comfy bed, and call it a day. Best moment of my day. Until I have to get up in four hours to head to campus again.


  1. Wow, what an evocative and beautifully written piece. Loved it. I had never even thought of the Reid Library having a 'night-life' of its own, I won't be able to look at it the same way again!