Library Graffiti

Does this ever happen to you?

It’s always the same story. “I’ll just wait until tomorrow to do that.” Or, “I have time later in the week for that.” Soon, I undoubtedly find myself in the stacks scrambling to finish math homework thats due at 8 am, a blog post thats due by 10 am, and, “O I forgot,” a summer job application that is due by 5pm. Now I have to pick what’s more important. I begin rationalizing my workload; prioritizing by what needs to be finished on time and what doesn’t… Looks like I won’t be working there this summer.

Checking the time, I notice that it’s 1:06 am. And for some reason I feel the urge to write the time on the wall. Anything BUT work. The intercom clicks on, “The Shapiro-Hatcher connector will be closing in 30 minutes and the doors will be closing in 45…” I better pack up my things, but only after I take a peak around the graffiti covered walls. There’s years of procrastination written all over the walls.

Some are creepy:

Others are inspirational:

Some are vulgar: But I’ll save those for later.  I find it interesting to see what graffiti people choose to respond to and what graffiti is best kept untouched.

Edit 4/6/12:

For my other writing 200 mini-course class we had to make a short photo-essay documenting anything that reveals something about the University of Michigan. As you’ll see, it’s related to this post so I thought I’d put it up here.

Michigan Revealed


The Hatcher Graduate Library opened its doors in 1920. Over the years, it has become a hotspot for hard-working students looking for a quiet place to study. Students have spent countless sleepless nights tucked away in the library’s stacks, and as a result there is years worth of procrastination written all over the walls. From love notes to vulgar phrases, the walls of the stacks are covered in graffiti.

What Will You Find?

The graffiti is monitored by students and erased by the library’s faculty. Basically, anything is fair game until the janitors walk around with bleach, ink remover, and fresh paint. Students make, deface, and comment on the graffiti that lines the walls – bringing light to their own baggage and penmanship.
My photo essay strives to document the graffiti in the stacks and show that many different students, in a variety of different mindsets, created an open-book of the studying mind. The graffiti can show so much more than just what’s written. Why did they write that? Why did they respond to this specific one? The ink-covered walls leave behind the diverse memories, emotions, and spirit of the stack-studying mind.

Step-By-Step Thinking

As I said before, there is graffiti in almost every stall, and – at the beginning- I flipped through pictures of stall numbers to foreshadow this idea. Then I used the stall number photos before the graffiti pictures to signify where they were taken. I started off with the picture of the gorilla because when I think of graffiti, I imagine pictures and doodles. Quickly, I show that there is more than just pretty drawings in the stacks; there are love notes, inspirational quotes, hate letters, words of wisdom, and much more. People from all different backgrounds and mindsets study in the stacks everyday, and the graffiti is a reflection of that. The arrangement of my photos –  somewhat jumpy from serious to inspirational and back again – is used to show that anything can be written on the walls. From playful sayings – like, “I’m hungry”  – to encouraging punchlines – like, “Get back to work!” – it’s hard to miss.

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