A very common question I get from people is, “What is it that you study again?”, and understandably so. My Master’s program has a long, vague, and frankly stutter-inducing name, and falls under the even vaguer umbrella of ‘Media Studies’. More than five months in, I still have some difficulty explaining it! ‘Publishing’ covers most of it and satisfies those of a practical nature, but it really only skims the surface.
If anything can properly illustrate this, it has to be the press room. The press room lies somewhere within the confusing layout of my faculty building, nestled at the very end of a hallway that always seems to relocate. (Surely it isn’t just my inherently bad sense of direction …)
Back in the day, the university had its own not-for-profit press, but for economic reasons the operation was shut down, and the room left essentially as it was. Since then, Media Studies students have had access to its content and its general use.
The room is absolutely PACKED with stuff – it isn’t unheard of for books and e-readers and all sorts of other items to go missing from its tables and shelves, never to surface again. But if you can handle the chaos, it’s the perfect place to take a coffee/snack, get comfortable, and work. In my books, it wins by a landslide against the university library (or UB if you’re down with the lingo – it stands for ‘Universiteits Bibliotheek’). The reasons are threefold:
a) If you go to the press room, you can usually be guaranteed solitude* for as long as you sit there. It feels like your own cool secret hideout – outside of the program, nobody seems to know it exists. Not even the kind men at the reception in charge of the keys.
*More on this below.
b) You can eat and drink to your heart’s content!
c) You can wear whatever you want without choosing to commit to an antisocial fashion statement. (In case I haven’t already talked your ear off about this, I’ll explain. In Holland it is typical to go to the library in your absolute finest garb. As a girl, wearing jeans is already pushing it. Wearing a sweatshirt is just plain offensive. I’m only very slightly exaggerating.)
Aside from serving as a storage and study space, the press room is also used for meetings, for sneaky free printing and photocopying, and for printing press workshops. Most recently, workshops have been held to teach the editors of this year’s class magazine to hand-print leaflets, which will be inserted into the otherwise professionally published volume.
Another huge plus? The two senior professors of my program are very dedicated to their little group, and they keep the room stocked with every possible book you will ever need to study publishing. As a Master’s student, you are welcome to take the books out and photocopy them or – as I prefer to do – read them at your leisure while lounging like a king.
A note on my previous statement on ‘guaranteed solitude’:
I wrote most of this post before taking the pictures I wanted to add to it. Naturally, I was interrupted today precisely as I was attempting to take a picture of myself … posing like this.
… In front of this little set-up.
All embarrassment aside, I really do think the press room encompasses the essence of my studies. It’s about the merging of the old with the new, and about clashing opinions, and, most importantly, it’s a whole big messy field right now where nothing is certain. And I absolutely love it! How is that for an explanation?