Among bright green and blue couches and flat screen televisions in the newly renovated lobby of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library, about 20 students gathered for a night of poetry and short story readings.
The 14th-annual Café Shapiro event — part of the MLibrary Spotlight Series — featured 12 LSA students who were nominated by their professors from the English department and Residential College to share their literary work.
Though Café Shapiro has been in existence for 14 years, this was the inaugural event for the new lobby — called Bert’s Study Lounge — which has been renovated with sleek flat-screen monitors, colorful couches, modern lighting and wood paneling. After five months of remodeling, the lounge officially opened on Monday.
The readings at the event varied in topic and format, from a poem about spending time in Nichols Arboretum to a short story told from the perspective of an animalistic and wolf-like character.
LSA freshman Weslie Lechner, nominated by her creative writing teacher, read an excerpt from her short story “Seen in a Café,” which explained the relationship between a woman and “that friend you were never able to say ‘let’s stop being friends’ to.”
The event was also the first opportunity for many of the students to read their work to an audience. For LSA sophomore Caitlin Kiesel, this was her first time reading for an audience outside of the classroom.
“I was nervous before, but then realized that I wanted to do this for fun,” Kiesel said. “I love writing, and this is what I want to do. I think the audience was really accepting and helpful.”
The Spotlight Series is a relatively new initiative that has been offered for the past two years, according to Amanda Peters, associate librarian at the UGLi. In the past, the library has hosted diverse events such as a graphic novel panel of University professors and a talk about healthy eating in residence halls.
LSA sophomore Christina Hornback said she was surprised that her professor nominated her to read at Café Shapiro because she didn’t know about the event, but added that she was glad she read her story in front of an audience.
“This was definitely a confidence booster. I think it’s really nice to hear other students’ work too. It’s like a community amongst other writers,” Hornback said.
Peters said students chosen for the event should be proud of their selection.
“It’s considered a little bit of an honor for students to be nominated by their instructors,” Peters said.
For LSA senior Mark Knapp, last night was not the first time he had shared his work with an audience. He said his short story developed from an assignment he was given last semester for one of his classes.
“I couldn’t stop writing once I started. I liked where it was going so I kind of let it grow out of the assignment,” Knapp said.
Knapp, who was the last presenter of the night, said his short story was about “a neurotic lady’s trouble with letting her younger brother grow up and dealing with her own problems because her parents were killed by a moose.”
Some of the student readers at the event expressed mixed feelings about the library’s renovations and the possibility of holding future readings at the location.
“A lot of the time I thought the sound was drowned out. It was really hard to hear people,” Knapp said. “A lot of the space is kind of superfluous anyway — it’s too much.”
Kiesel also described the new space as “a little noisy” but said she felt that it was an enjoyable atmosphere for the readings.
Peters said she is excited about the new space and called last night’s event a “guinea pig” for future events and programs that she hopes the new lobby can accommodate.