One thing I’d change about Oxford… The Gladstone Link

Nicola Dwornik depicts daunting reality in the Gladstone Link

Haphazardly staggering along the flagstones, I clutch my illegal energy drink close to my chest and scurry towards the building. After passing through double-doors and threatening security barriers, I’m in. It’s dark, it’s wooden, it’s glorious—no place for a mere mortal. Godly figures of intellectualism sit in lines, radiating auras tinged with green as the lamps light up their books. I do not belong. I quickly veer right, descending the staircase and passing through another electric door. Fluorescent lighting immediately burns into the back of my eyes. A musty smell and superfluous piping. White walls surround me. Is this hell? Is this Tartarus? No—it’s the Gladstone Link.

The first floor is a scrapyard of abandoned metal—bashed into industrial shelving, with holes. The books, confused by these metallic ‘bookshelves’ and the edgy diagonal layout, frown as I fail to find them. I too scowl as I search for a place to sit, and I soon realise that at 9:20am I am twenty minutes too late. Fellow students, having already securing a famed expansive desk, smile smugly at each other, flaunting their battle spoils. Here they proceed to sit, like vegetables tanning under UV, until day’s end. The sofas dotted around aim to provide an atmosphere of comfort. The scratchy cheese grater floor provides the opposite.

Failing to find the books I need, I proceed down into a deeper circle of the inferno. The grumbling echoes from the floor above provide background music as I browse the books that cannot ever be exposed to the air of the outside. I quickly realise that I am in the land of the Lotus Eaters. Apparently, people sometimes have sex here. I guess the scraping sound of people walking above is slightly erotic, as is the fear of being sandwiched between two bookcases. Silver linings I guess.

The Gladstone Link is a cave: a fluorescent and stuffy one. In the land of dreaming spires, I really don’t understand why someone would willingly submit themselves to such sterile torture.