Myth or the terrible truth?
Photo by Luis Felipe Fonseca Silva
The UB has a ghost. At night, when it’s dark and the UB is nearly empty, one of the security cameras picks up a moving silhouette. Or is it a shadow? Maybe it’s a spider web? Interestingly enough, the ghost is never spotted during the day.
‘Security guards have checked the spot that camera covers many times, but they’ve never found anything’, says student employee Puck Wiersma. She thinks it might have something to do with the fact that there used to be a church where the library now stands. And a graveyard. The very first UG rector magnificus was buried there. That can’t be a coincidence, Wiersma thinks. ‘No one knows what it is, so we’ve named him Ubbo the ghost.’
Nonsense? Arjen Staal with the university services department says other people believe in UB ghosts, too. Especially the South American cleaners, says communication specialist Frank den Hollander: ‘Probably because they celebrate Día de los Muertos’, the day of the dead, a Mexican holiday to commemorate the dead.
The cleaners refuse to go down into the basement by themselves unless someone else turns on the light. Staal thinks that has something to do with an old prank from the days when you could switch on the intercom without warning. ‘Some colleagues used it to make spooky noises that could be heard throughout the building.’
Has studying made you tired? The UB is a popular place to take a nap. Wiersma says students of Asian descent sometimes reserve spots for the whole day. Around lunchtime, they can be seen sleeping deeply. Always on the second floor, where the comfortable couches are. ‘Security people will stop by and wake them up, telling them they’re not allowed to sleep there.’
Wiersma suspects it’s perfectly normal to take a nap halfway during a busy working day. ‘It shows that you’ve been working so hard that you deserve a nap.’ Students tend to fall asleep on their books a lot, says Den Hollander.
Staal remembers how a colleague of his ran into a student early in the morning when he was opening the library. The student must have spent the entire night in a studio space, or the alarm would have gone off. It turned out that ‘he was having a conflict with his landlord, and he had a deadline, so he decided to stay’.
Then there was the sleeping student who almost gave Staal a heart attack. He thought the girl had fainted. ‘That happens from time to time, except this girl wouldn’t wake up.’ He was about to call an ambulance when two of her roommates turned up. ‘They told me to just leave her. Turns out she had a condition that meant she would just fall asleep at random times.’
Photo by Pepijn van den Broeke
Are you familiar with the ‘reflection room’, where you can collect yourself if studying is driving you crazy? Or where you go to pray that you’ll ace your upcoming exam. The room is apparently also used for more... unexpected activities.
Because of privacy concerns, there are no cameras in the room. And the door locks. ‘Employees simply call it the fuck room’, says Staal. ‘I can only imagine; there are thousands of people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five in this building.’ Lots of pheromones.
The reflection room isn’t the only place students let loose. Employees once found a pair of saucy, clearly worn panties in one of the study rooms. And at one point, a woman was stationed outside the men’s room. ‘She was asking for money and offering “services” in return’, says Staal, lifting up an eyebrow.
The lockers and drawers in the UB often contain cute surprises. The UB kind of functions like old school Tinder. ‘People don’t just come here to study, they also want to meet people’, says Staal. Cleaners regularly find cute notes stuffed in the drawers of the wooden desks on the second floor.
The student employees also find notes on occasions. One student, who works the front desk, found a note while cleaning up the studios. ‘Here is the key to the studio back, if you want the key of [sic] my heart please call me.’
And did you hear about the girl who likes to cheer up her fellow students? ‘She does these little drawings and puts them in people’s lockers to make sure they have a nice day.’
Photo by Pepijn van den Broeke
Many students see the UB as a second living room. They’d like it to have all the amenities of home. ‘They’re always surprised that we don’t have any microwaves’, says Den Hollander.
One student brought her own air mattress to the studio space she’d rented. ‘She’d put it under the table and lie down it to read.’ Staal once interrupted someone in the middle of having a wash. ‘He was cleaning his feet in the sink.’
Some people even come in looking for a handyman. Two students once showed up to the front desk to get their bikes fixed. ‘They were surprised to find out we don’t provide that service.’
Thuisbezorgd and Uber Eats regularly deliver to the UB. The empty pizza boxes then end up in the toilet. ‘These aren’t myths’, Den Hollander says, ‘but the terrible truth.’ Staal also says the reflection room is used for parties - that is, if it’s not being used for ‘other’ activities. The cleaners and other staff then have to deal with the consequences. ‘We’ve come across a pile of vomit once or twice.’
Also common in the library: people sitting out their hangovers. One time, the UB staff found a student who’d crawled into a corner, holding his head in his hands. The staff was worried. ‘He was clearly on something’, says Staal. However, the kid refused to admit it. ‘When we asked him about it, he claimed he was meditating.
Is the UB available to everyone? Yes. Well, not quite everyone. Den Hollander, who before the renovations worked at the service desk, says each floor has its own culture.
‘The third floor had this thing called the Aquarium. That’s where everyone from student association Albertus hung out.’ Arts students can be found on the second floor, near the arts collection. ‘They’re one of the few students who still use the actual book collection’, Staal explains.
Vindicat members can be found on the fourth floor ‘They all know each other from the club house and want to study together.’ Vindicat also visits the UB in other ways. ‘Each year, drunk members show up to the front desk to register’, says Staal. ‘It’s part of their initiation with the club.’
The UB does get something in return for that nuisance: every year, the first issue of the Vindicat Almanac goes to the UB director. ‘The Almanac committee shows up in a carriage to officially deliver the book. And yes, sometimes they’re already a little drunk at 10 in the morning.’