Beyond the Reg: the graffiti of Crerar science library

While Regenstein is the biggest library at the University of Chicago, it’s only one of five* libraries on campus. My vague impression has been that most of the “good stuff”, from a graffiti perspective, is at the Reg, but I’ve never actually looked into the graffiti at the other libraries. As a student, I’d set foot into Crerar (science library) and Eckhart (math library) maybe a handful of times, and to this day I’ve never entered D’Angelo Law or the Social Service Administration libraries. I aim to change that with a series of posts I’m calling “Beyond the Reg”.

Crerar is the easiest data to start with– for the next couple months, until we move back to the Reg, my office is based out of Crerar. What’s more, last week I got a tip about some good graffiti in the men’s bathroom in Crerar but the logistical issues involved in the Crerar men’s bathrooms make that the topic of another post.

About the library

Crerar is the “science library”, home to “more than 1.4 million volumes in the biological, medical and physical sciences as well as collections in general science and the philosophy and history of science, medicine, and technology”1.

Who studies there?

As a former student, my impression of Crerar is that it’s where the “serious” science students go to study. (This in contrast to all the folks writing “I hate chemistry!” on the walls of the Reg.) This would include your serious pre-med types, med students, and science grad students. Unlike the Reg which is pretty deserted in the early morning hours, by 8:30 or 9 AM the big open study room on the first floor of Crerar already has more than a few patrons.

What are the study spaces like?

The first-floor study area (made up of rows of tables) seems to be well-attended, but the second and third floors also have plenty of tables and a few study carrels mixed in with the bookstacks.

There are a lot more tables than carrels, and there aren’t nooks with study desks built into the walls like the Reg. On one hand, that’s bad news for graffiti, but the lower amount of foot traffic in certain “public” areas (like the staircase between floors) makes them more feasible targets for vandalism than the equivalent in the Reg.

Where is graffiti written?

The tables appear to be graffiti-free, and I could only find two pieces in the carrels. The major loci of “graffiti” are the blackboards and movable whiteboards in and around the study rooms. The bathrooms are also home to some graffiti.

Graffiti content
Alliterative socialism

There’s a (possibly single-person) alliterative meme following the pattern of “[Socialist-related] [social event]“. “Bolshevik bash” is the “flagship” phrase that appears on a carrel, on the stairs, and in the center of larger piece of graffiti in the women’s bathroom (see right, click for larger version):

  • Bolshevik bash
  • Communist cavort
  • Soviet sleep-over
  • Marxist mingle
  • Proletariat potluck
  • Collectivist cookout


The one and only (non-Bolshevik) piece of graffiti in the study carrels is written in Korean, and reads: “I’m gonna study like a crazy maniac. . . . Until the day that I become a surgeon! – Who?”

More soothing is a piece I found written in lovely cursive on the blackboard of a green study room, reading simply, “do not fret”. (Click for larger size.)


There’s something about doodles and whiteboards. Like the A-level in the Reg, the whiteboards in Crerar appear to be a magnet for strange, non-academic drawings. Did you know that Crerar hosts the meetings of the Secret Chemistry Club? And most girls go through a phase of loving ponies… granted, not usually around the same time they’re possibly studying for the MCATs.

Special thanks to Andrew Lee Chen for the tip about Crerar bathroom graffiti, and to David Yung Ho Kim for translating the Korean.

* I’m not counting Harper, which doesn’t have books anymore, or Mansueto, which is a giant hole in the ground at the moment.

1About the John Crerar Library

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