A red wallet, a mobile phone, lipgloss, a small bottle of water and some books. The owner is nowhere in sight. It’s Monday afternoon and the University Library (UL) in the inner city is crowded. After a few seconds, fourth-year law student Ellen Aarts walks towards her possessions. “I was gone for a moment, but my friend here will keep an eye on my stuff. There are so many students, it’s so full; if I want to be sure I’ll still have a chair after coming back from the toilet or a chat downstairs, it’s better to leave something behind. There are many other students who think the same. “We’re amazed at all the abandoned stuff lying around”, says Anja Smit, head of the UL. She will leave Maastricht on 1 March to be the new head librarian in Utrecht. No-one has mentioned theft so far.
Since the beginning of this academic year, the UL has changed the rules. Visitors may take anything into the library. Smit: “Some of us were afraid it would become a mess, but it’s turned out to be better than expected – there are very few problems.” But according to Ellen Aarts, the rules didn’t really need changing. “If I want to eat or drink something I go outside. It’s pleasant, and otherwise you sit all day behind your desk without moving at all.”