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Library graffiti at the University of Chicago

Song lyrics, lovelorn notes and math problems  appear on the walls of the University of Chicago's Regenstein Library, all graffiti left there by students. In some, like the photo above, a chain of comments was left that may not have been seen by the original defacer — but probably served to amuse those who came after. Sometimes the graffiti is literary.

Perhaps the students who read this thought of Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five." Or maybe they just thought it was kind of profound. Or recognized Shakespeare in this, below.


There is graffiti in Arabic, Greek, Russian, Latin, Hindi. There are warnings — "Never take a class by Edward Wallace" — and declarations, like the one below, that get high marks from a reader ... who has spelling anxieties.


Nerd storage ... after the jump.



There are plenty of critiques, praises, paens. Sometimes rendered graphically.


There are pleas and reassurances.


There are political statements, of course.


Poetry seems to lend itself to the project of graffiti.


But sometimes, it's not enough to read the classics. You have to take a poll.


All photos by Quinn Dombrowski, a new technologies staffer and researcher at the University of Chicago. Thanks to her for using Creative Commons, so we could repost the photos here. To get a full sense of the scope of the graffiti she found in the University of Chicago's Regenstein Library, check out her Flickr set of more than 700 photos.

— Carolyn Kellogg

Photo credits: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

Comments () | Archives (9)

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This is wonderful Carolyn. Thanks so much for posting! Chicago's a great place for graffiti. I used to love reading the bathroom walls at The Green Mill.

Some of that graffiti was there when I went to the UofC. Or rather, someone else had written "So it goes" on a wall at the Reg.

I also remember a similar lament about grades. Every first year wonders that at some point.

What a kick to stumble across this! Thanks, Carolyn, for spreading the joy of UofC graffiti.

Patrick, Kurt Vonnegut graffiti had an uptick shortly after his death in 2007-- there's been a "so it goes" in chalk on the side of Stewart Hall for probably over two years now.

Best bookish grafitti ever:

I'll be back in 15 minutes.

Written on the bathroom wall in the Deadwood, in downtown Iowa City, IA.

At first I thought this was an example of a Library providing a grafitti space for their users, which would have been neat. Oh well - it's still fun. Maybe I'll ask my boss of we can make such a space officially.

Kurt Vonnegut was a UofC alumnus: A.M., Anthropology, 1971.

After-hours exploration of the Joseph Regenstein Library in December 2003, by then-first-year undergraduates Ben Tuber and Angeline Gragasin. Holding over 4.4 million volumes (and growing), it is one of the largest repositories of books in the world:


Best bathroom wall graffiti I've ever come across, which happened to be in a stall on the first floor of Harper circa 1993:

ORIGINAL POST: "I reject the system. The system rejects me. It's what you call parity."

REVISED POST: A later visitor to the stall revised the original post, crossing out the word "parity" with a black pen and replacing it with the word "poverty."


My favorite library graffiti was the "Grout Series" written on the grout in the Reg Stacks stalls. Some excerpts:

Grout Expectations
The Grout Escape
Grout Book Series
The Groutest Generation


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