Firstly I should apologise to ‘organic’ surfers who have hit this page in search of the latest gossip about Bono et al. – because this post has nothing to do with ageing Irish Rock Bands. Well, almost nothing.
Actually, I have to confess, my fondness for U2 (yes, the band) has been on the wane since arriving in Strasbourg. Perhaps if Top Music, RFM, Virgin and just about every other ‘pop’ radio station didn’t play their tracks incessantly – then I might not feel this way.
One supposes that their popularity relates partly to Bono’s crisp elocution. After all, if you can sing along (albeit in a foreign language) then it adds a certain je ne sais quoi. This would also explain the equal saturation of Phil Collins and Supertramp on the airwaves.
U2 also happens to be the name given to the University of Strasbourg’s Humanities Library (“U2-U3” to give it it’s full title). Why it was named suchly I cannot fathom, but it certainly paints the building as an enigma.
The U2 sits unassumingly at the edge of the University campus, ingeniously disguised as an abandoned WWII pill-box. This appearance ensures that the people for whom it was built (students) ignore it entirely. Which means that, on the inside, the librarians don’t have to deal with the tiresome and unwashed all day long.
Those of us who have bothered to read the literature – and are able to correctly identify the U2 as a library – can therefore profite from this serene academic environment par exellence. It is modern, bright and spacious. There are different study zones: a comfy place to read the press, TV sets with headphones, individual reading booths (with fold-down book-rest, individual study desks, individual reading desks (sloping), group-work/meeting rooms and two large reading rooms with spacious desks.
The U2 forms the third piece in Strasbourg’s Triumvirate of Super-Libraries. The second is the André-Malraux public library at Rivetoile, a five storey creation featuring café/TV lounge, public internet terminals, conference facilities and two large study/reading rooms; and the first piece is the BNU on Place de la République, built by the Prussians when Strasbourg was part of Germany at the end of the 19th Century; currently undergoing a major facelift, it is due to reopen in time for the rentree in 2013.
Happily, for those of us who actually want to study outside of normal school hours the U2 is one of the few University libraries that remains open from Monday to Saturday; but not Sunday, Bloody Sunday.