Exam season: How to make your library stay as pleasant as possible

It's a dirty job, but we've all got to do it

During exam season, some people find home an easy place to work. You’ve got easy access to food and cups of tea, you don’t actually have to get out of your pyjamas and you don’t have to walk half an hour to get there.

However, for others, this is the opposite. To be at home can mean it’s extremely easy just to roll back into bed, while you’re running to the kitchen every half an hour for a cup of tea you don’t need as procrastination, and the internet and TV are extremely distracting prospects.

If you’re the second sort of person, the library is definitely the place to be. To begin with, getting out of your pyjamas and forcing yourself out of the house already increases your chances of doing some work because it’s not so easy to just go back to bed. There is still reasonably easy access to tea and food, but you have to go all the way to the café for it which can seem like a trek, so you’re more likely to only go once in a while rather than every half an hour.

With the rise of the "spotted in the library" pages and the chances of having people looking over your shoulder, you are far less likely to be distracted by the internet and TV. Lastly, your flatmates can’t distract you, and if anyone is being loud, the library staff can sort them out, even though you can generally expect people to respect the sanctum of the library.

So, if you’re convinced that the library is the place, here’s how to survive the day:

Get there by 9am, 10.30 if it’s a weekend

This way you’ll get a seat, but you will also have to stay there all day to make sure you keep that seat, meaning you spend the entire day working and have an evening to relax in.

Bring food

Most universities ban food except in the café, but some are stricter about policing it than others. If you can, buy yourself something like a malt loaf or a pack of biscuits. There will last you as a snack, aren’t too loud and are easy to hide inside a bag. If you get hungry, subtly reach in your bag, eat, and continue on. Also make sure to bring a packed lunch so you don’t have to pay high prices for a really rubbish sandwich. You need to be eating properly to do your best work.

Take a tea break

For tea and coffee, different universities again have different ideas. At Newcastle, we have a café that sells tea and coffee, but we also have a boiling water tap. Bring your own tea bags and coffee granules and you’re good to go, although you might want to find a way to bring milk in too (I’ve managed with a small flask that only seems to like cold liquids). Give yourself a tea break every couple of hours. If you try to keep going for too long it nothing will go in.

Bring your laptop

There are plenty of computers, but they go quickly and there are quite often rules in place to make sure you aren’t abusing your computer privilege. Ours log out after 15 minutes of inactivity at which point your belongings are taken to the front desk and the computer is freed up for other people. Although you shouldn’t really hog a desk with your laptop, the rules aren’t as strict and you can get away with taking a longer break if you need to. There is also generally more space to spread out with your books and you don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t use the computer for ten minutes.

Don’t stay for too long

You want to get in a decent amount of hours, but you’re better off working from nine til four with decent breaks than attempting to stay for the entire day. Go home, take the evening off and get a good night’s sleep. Your brain will thank you for it in the morning and your grades probably will too.

The library might not be as close as the desk in your bedroom, but sometimes that’s a good thing. Work productively at the library or at home and you’ll do much better in the long run, even if your body does resent you for getting up before 9am.

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