Skip to main content

University Libraries

Poems for the Potty: A Fitting End to Poetry Month

In the fall 2018 semester, Roesch Library received an unusually high number of complaints about clogged toilets.

In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, “It happens.”

But building operations staff members Rise Kreitzer and Paul Remsen were perplexed. What had motivated people to start trying to flush things like paper towels, unfinished snacks, notebook paper and food wrappers down the commodes? This simply could not continue; more than 2,000 people use Roesch Library each day during regular weeks of the academic term. Encountering such unpleasantness could soil Roesch’s reputation as the go-to place for writing, research and studying. Something had to be done.

“How about haiku?” asked Dean Kathy Webb.

Improbable ... but effective

Improbable as the solution sounds, Webb had data to back it up. Two months before, patrons had repeatedly damaged the door sensors in the elevators by using their arms, legs, backpacks and other items to hold or reopen the doors. This simply could not continue. Something had to be done, and repairing the elevator was not enough; if we wanted to keep students safe and curtail our elevator emergencies, we needed to repair elevator behavior. But how? “Enforcers” seemed a touch excessive, and with the recent reopening of the second floor, patrons were developing sign fatigue. Associate professor Katy Kelly, the Libraries’ communications and marketing librarian, worked with Marian Library graphic designer Ann Zlotnik to craft a 1.75-inch-high decal to post above every elevator call button box, situating a haiku next to an open-door icon (see photo below story):

A haiku for you:
In elevator
Press to hold doors for others
Keep limbs safe, inside

It worked. People started using the button; no one was hurt; and the sensors kept working.

The toilet problem was a little less tidy. While the topic was more in keeping with haiku’s traditional subject matter — nature — delivering the necessary message in the form’s rigid structure would take a highly skilled writer … and Kelly was on sabbatical.

Discovery services librarian Tina Beis delivered immediately with two haikus. Institutional repository manager Maureen Schlangen, thinking haiku to be somehow beneath her, replied, “Sorry, I only write limericks.”

In Kelly’s absence, Webb had to settle for what she got. Zlotnik created a decal with a poem and a clarifying footnote for every stall and mirror in the building.

Fifteen weeks and one National Poetry Month later, the results are in: “We have had far less complaints and issues for clogged toilets,” Remsen said. “The latest issue is wet floors, but not from toilet overflows.”

The moral of the story: Poetry works.

Roesch Library’s Bathroom Verse

Flush toilet paper
And things that nature provides
No towels, fish, or dreams*

Gripes about the pipes
Are easily avoided
Only flush TP*

Most things about Roesch are terrific,
But our plumbing is less than prolific.
So when you flush the bowl,
Only the paper on the roll
Should go with it; should we be more specific?*

If the toilets aren’t working in Roesch,
The air will not likely be fresh.
That’s why only TP
Can go with the PP
Everything else goes in the “tresh.”*

A toilet’s a brilliant design
Paper towels can easily malign.
So too, wipes and tissues —
And pads will cause issues ...
But toilet paper’s perfectly fine.*

When you visit what ships call “the head,”
Clogged toilets can be such a dread.
If it’s not from your body
Or the roll by the potty,
Don’t flush it; use the trash can instead.*

Among our occasional gripes
Are when we get clogs in the pipes.
To prevent scenes unpleasant,
Please use good discretion.
Don’t flush pads, paper towels or wipes.*

When the privy is no longer humming,
The result can be so unbecoming.
If it’s used as intended,
Such things are prevented.
Keep the paper towels out of the plumbing.*

The problem was easily discerned
Whenever clogged toilets returned.
The mystery caper:
Too much toilet paper.
Flush early and again, we have learned.

*Toilet paper is the only manufactured material that should be flushed. Other items such as paper towels, facial tissues, sanitary products, disposable wipes, candy wrappers, iPhones, bad limericks, etc., should go in the trash. And by all means, if you see a problem, please let a staff member know.


Previous Post

April 27: National Babe Ruth Day

Student staff member shares a short history on the baseball legend.
Read More
Next Post

Reunion Weekend: Tour the Library

Check out what's changed and what hasn't.
Read More