Beyond the Reg: Eckhart math library

Amidst the classrooms and offices of Eckhart Hall lies the large-ish room with large windows and two quirky balconies that houses 55,000 “research level monographs, scholarly journals, and selected textbooks in computer science, mathematics, and statistics”.

Who studies there?

My husband did a stint as a student assistant in Eckhart Library, and as he recalls it, the patrons were generally of two varieties. There were the students whose expensive math textbooks were on reserve– these would check them out, work for a bit or take the book elsewhere, then return the book and leave. Then there were the serious math students who would sit and work for hours. The faculty also have 24/7 library access, and while my husband never experienced the situation, there’s a whole set of procedures for what to do if it’s time to close the library and a faculty member insists on staying.

What are the study spaces like?

The main floor has some tables and chairs– not very graffiti-friendly. However, two corners of the library have two isolated study cubicles each– for a total of eight, four on each floor.

Where is graffiti written?

Strangely enough, only one of the two study desks in each pair seemed to be heavily graffiti-covered. No particular pattern: sometimes it was the desk in the corner, sometimes it was the one closer to the center of the room. Some graffiti was scratched into the wood desk, but most of it was on the surrounding walls.

Graffiti content
Declarations of love

If you love algebraic topology, Eckhart is the place to write it. Apparently noncommutative algebra is sexy; so is Antoine. I’m not entirely clear if the object of love is human or math, but someone has also written in Chinese* “I love you / I have dreamed / [after the blue mark] Ha ha“. Also with an unclear object is this “official” declaration of love.


I’m not at all a math person; interpretations of the math content by math people are more than welcome. I’m told this one might involve the Riemann zeta function. There’s a pretty generic-looking equation that might mean something profound to the right person. And “the math” involved in explaining what an English major is doing there involves dividing by zero. That might be funny to the right person.


There’s a drawing of some sheep in a house, a drawing of a piano, the number 7, and some circles and squares (though at Eckhart, maybe that should be filed under “math” for its geometric content, rather than “doodles”). Someone also drew some kind of pirate “going phishing” (possibly Paul Sally, our local “math pirate”).

For the full set of photos from Eckhart, check out the photo set on Flickr.

* Thanks to Matthew Felix Sun for the Chinese translation!

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