“Back to the Stacks,” featuring DJ Shub, formerly of A Tribe Called Red, closed the Winter Carnival in exciting and surprising fashion last weekend. Hosted by the Mount Allison Students’ Union (MASU), the event took place in an unusual venue – the Ralph Pickard Bell Library.
DJ Shub, a Juno award-winning musician who creates euphoric, bass-heavy dance and electronic music, draws inspiration from his Indigenous background. Despite his undeniable popularity, it was a shock to hear DJ Shub would perform in a venue intended for quiet study.
Georgina MacFarlene, the library’s access technician, looked forward to the event, since it provided a change to her workday and welcomed new students to the library.
“[The library staff was] a little bit intimidated to adapt the space, but excited because it’s a break in the routine,” MacFarlene said.
In order to protect the space, librarians and MASU councillors moved computers into storage, rearranged the furniture and cleared desks. Books that could be transported were locked away, and the ones left on the floor were covered in two layers of cardboard and plastic.
MacFarlene understood that some students felt apprehensive about a library party, but thought the event might help students demystify the library and make them more likely to use it in the future.
Marc Truitt, the university librarian, was excited for the show.
“Students spend a lot of time here and perhaps they want to experience it in a different way,” Truitt said. “If we took the attitude that something [bad] might happen and we don’t [host the event], then we will all be the poorer for that.”
Malcolm Elliott, entertainment director for MASU, explained that it was time to change the typical MASU-hosted party location.
“Unique venues and novelties attract crowds. Once you do things once or twice, people don’t usually end up coming back,” Elliott said. The venue idea was well received by his peers and consultants when it was proposed in December.
Some students were not as optimistic. Third-year science student Farhad Hossain expressed concern about the effect the party’s location would have on the school’s reputation.
“Honestly, I think it’s a terrible idea… a bunch of drunk adults partying in a library, it’s very high-risk, regardless of the amount of protection,” Hossain said.
Third-year English student Amy Allison expressed her fear for students who use the library as a secure and comfortable space during parties. “Those students no longer have their safe space.”
Truitt explained that the library space is special to him as well.
“I’m not sure if we are endorsing any sort of drinking or party culture, but we want to be available for those that want to try something different,” Truitt said. “The library will still be the same safe and sacred space – for both those who are not inclined to go and those who are not.”
Elliot does not see “Back to the Stacks” as a party, but prefers the term “concert.”
“There are door times and show times like a concert.” Elliot said.
Elliott thought about the potential backlash to hosting a party in the library. “[The] only opposition I had in the committee meeting was, ‘What are you going to do about librarians losing however many hours of their work day?’…but that hasn’t really turned [out] to be an issue.”
After the event, second-year computer science student Adam Teskey had mixed feelings. “I don’t know if it was an advertising thing, but it wasn’t well attended.” Teskey had higher expectations but still had a good time. “It was fun. One of the reasons I wanted to go was I thought it would only be a one-time thing, so I had to see it.”
Teskey explained that the organizers’ work in protecting the space was evident and it went smoothly in that respect. Despite this, he was hesitant whether another show should be held in the library. “There has to be a way to [improve] attendance.”
Students happily danced to the heavy beats in a place they might find themselves more than they would like—hidden in the stacks and leaning over textbooks.