Exam season library etiquette

Future scene of the apocalypse?

Future setting of the apocalypse?

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]Jun Lao, new Doctors’ Mess editor, tackling the issues that matter to you…library seat availability[/box]

Imagine the scene. As the sun peeks over the horizon a crowd of glassy eyed and bedraggled shadows are stumbling and converging on a domed building with a lone flag fluttering in the wind. The climactic scene in a zombie apocalypse movie where our brave heroes defend their stronghold from the disease ridden zombie masses perhaps? Sadly no. Exam season is upon us. Hordes of caffeine addled students have been stumbling into libraries across the country in a desperate attempt to salvage their degrees and maybe, just maybe scrape a 2:1.

UCL Main Library - Law section

UCL Main Library – Law section

Odd that these libraries, undoubtedly esteemed halls of learning established by great minds to collate and provide access to an unimaginable collection of knowledge from aeons of human civilisation, have been reduced to buildings where students come in to sit and tap away on a laptop. The shelves stacked high with books looming over them largely go unnoticed and untouched, gathering dust as their pages slowly wither. I may be being a little melodramatic here but it is a strange phenomenon, though not as strange as seeing a student actually strolling over to one of the shelves and perusing one of the books. But to return to my original point, these students have come to these hallowed halls in search not of books, but of that most beautiful and rare of entities; a library seat.

What makes such a simple object so desirable? To put it simply: scarcity. Take the property boom for instance. Obscene lack of housing = obscene profit. As in the housing market there are various underhand methods being employed to gain an advantage. The depths to which some students have been sinking to claim a library seat is surprising and frankly a little worrying. The sight of students sleeping in the library is not an uncommon sight and nor is the sight of suitcases stuffed full of clothes and other daily essentials. Putting aside for a second the fact that they could be sleeping and wearing these clothes whilst studying at home, this is indicative of the unbelievable difficulty of finding a library seat during exam season. Whilst those poor souls who expend such effort to retain their seats are to be pitied and I suppose commended for their commitment, they at the very least occupy their seats and are most likely trying to use their occupancy productively.

There is another type of student frequenting the library however, who do not deserve such leniency. I am of course referring to the students who wake up at ungodly hours to traipse to the library then, in an act of territorial marking akin to monkeys, scatter their personal effects across tables and seats in order to ward off potential rivals. Despite having expended all this effort, these students then for inexplicable reasons decide that having sufficiently ‘marked’ their spot, their precious revision time should now be spent anywhere but their seat. These inconsiderate scoundrels are the bane of every library-going student’s life and have undoubtedly been the source of many angry whispered conversations in library corridors. What can actually be done to stop them is unclear. Moving their personal effects could lead to a confrontation which most already stressed students would probably prefer to avoid. Library staff seem incapable of monitoring or enforcing their own rules about seat hogging. So what can be done aside from angry muttering whilst circling the library for a seat or passive aggressive glares at students coming back from a 3 hour lunch break?

The depressing truth is very little, at least on an individual basis. For every uncaring student needlessly hogging a seat there may be a genuine student grabbing a quick bite to eat or answering the call of nature. To simply turf out anyone not constantly occupying their seat would be unfair and impractical. The responsibility lies with the library staff and universities themselves. Library staff must be stricter and more vigilant whereas universities perhaps ought to be focusing less on space wasting vanity projects or coffee franchise shops, and more on expanding study spaces to accommodate their growing student populations. Systems to identify and highlight free seats could be implemented, with a similar system already in place in many institutions for computer spaces. There are undoubtedly many other ingenious solutions out there in the ether which could alleviate the chronic lack of study space. But these solutions would require money and whether the pleas of honest students struggling to justify their £9000 yearly outlay will be enough for universities to part with their cash remains to be seen. In the meantime, the next time you come across a seat hogger do the right thing. Make a passive aggressive comment about their prolonged absence. That’ll teach ’em.

Quote of the week

 “If we can hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate.” – Zapp Brannigan

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