Stuck in the Library Rises Above COVID Challenges

Stuck In The Library Logo./Courtesy of STL.

By Melissa Morales


   As COVID-19 persists, Brooklyn College’s Stuck in the Library (STL) club is still preserving its message of inclusivity and representation of diverse voices designed for students to have a comfortable space to express themselves.

   “Our club is really there for everyone. We all participate in this literary culture and are part of the creative space. There are a bunch of creative people but different creative people, which provides a great atmosphere on campus,” said Mariyah Rajshahiwala, the organization’s president. 

   STL is an art and literary publication that has featured the creative works of BC and CUNY students since 2013. Members typically publish magazines quarterly each year and encourage students to send in submissions, either based on creative prompts for their literary magazine, or poems for their poetry magazine. 

   “Yaakov Bressler was president a few years back. He thought about making a club for students who wanted to participate in literary events and yet didn’t necessarily have to be English majors to come together to write poetry and stories and publish them in a magazine,” Rajshahiwala said. 

   Before the move to virtual learning, STL members worked and bonded together over their works in person. “We’d have themed nights in the coziest room ever and discuss agendas. Everyone would read each other’s works, and it was so genuine. We’d have the room packed, and people would have performances and live readings,” said Bren Tawil, Stuck in the Library’s current editor-in-chief. 

   When COVID-19 first hit, however, Stuck in the Library faced some challenges. Many of its in-person activities and events were put to a halt, including its 40th issue and seven-year anniversary celebration. Additionally, publications were forced to move online, leading members to publish one magazine per semester instead of two, Rajshahiwala explained.

   “We had to cut back on the amount of projects and events each semester. There were spare meetings, and it was difficult to coordinate schedules,” Tawil said. “We also worked at a slower pace because we had to prioritize quality over quantity, and took a different approach.” 

   Despite the shift from in-person to online, Stuck in the Library has still persevered. Rajshahiwala brought back their Write the Night event for the first time since the pandemic on Sept. 28. They are held on Zoom each Tuesday from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and have prompts for the first four weeks that follow the theme “New Semester, Fresh Start.” “I’d figure that with limited capability, writing workshops can work out online and can be the main focus this semester,” Rajshahiwala said.

   Caitlin Li, a current content editor at Stuck in the Library, was the first member to host Write the Night virtually. While the first turnout was light, the students that attended were eager to share their creative works about stepping out of their comfort zones and gave a clapping hand emoji to each student that shared their piece aloud. It is one of many stepping stones for Stuck in the Library to incorporate more student engagement in this new sense of normalcy.

    Li’s involvement with the club actually began after things had already shifted to online during the pandemic. “I joined Stuck in the Library looking for creative workshops and opportunities to meet on Zoom and work with peers,” Li told the Vanguard. “I have the opportunity to connect with others who are passionate about English and creative writing in general.” 

   Li described how she felt that there is work to be done for future Write the Night weeks that can be learned from their first week. “Maybe there can be a slideshow incorporation, some background music when writing, and more promotion of events,” she said, noting that if it was in person, it could have been more effective.

   Tawil also describes the challenges that come with events being online. “There’s a massive difference. In-person, during after hours, the campus would be completely empty and we would be in James Hall with some music on and an experience that was very atmospheric,” she said. “The mood was set, the tone was set, and that encouraged people to sink into their own words, as opposed to online. It’s convenient, but you’re not comforted by other people’s presence and warmth.” 

   Though COVID-19 has complicated some things for everyone, Stuck in the Library has managed through the obstacles and is planning for the future. Submissions are currently open for their fall literary magazine, and a virtual publication event is in the works. Above all, STL members still encourage Brooklyn College and CUNY students to write and submit their works for their magazines. 

   “We’re just going with the flow when it comes to where we are now. Writing this out and whatever comes with that,” Rajshahiwala said.

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