Your Student Library: Where Etiquette Goes Out The Window

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No matter how many heavy nights, pub crawls or drugged-up after parties you indulge in, there comes a time in every student life when you make it to the campus library. And actually go in. 

Of course, your library endeavours may last anything ranging from a solid month to a few of the heaviest nights you will ever experience (the ‘survivors’ lingering at the library at 2am are significantly more nightmarish in appearance than the occupants of any crack den). Despite this, it is a popular work environment for desperate students, and a centre of exam period camaraderie. Also, it is often conducive to some exceptionally productive studying, if only because, in the library, people will judge you for spending 99% of your time on Twitter.

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However, what the library has in common with alcohol consumption, extreme sports, and- let’s face it- a number of significantly more enjoyable pursuits, is that it should come with a series of warnings. The government are hesitant to provide such guidelines, because they are too busy defacing the front of cigarette packets. Therefore, as a conscientious member of the student population, I have taken it upon myself to provide the necessary cautions…

1) Watch Out For The Gremlins 

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When I was a kid, I used to have this recurring nightmare that I was on a moving conveyor belt, which led into a black tunnel (something like an airport baggage scanner, but overweight child size). When I came out the other end, I had turned green and monstrous. 

I can only praise my young subconscious for such remarkable prophetic ability, because this is exactly the drastic transformation that students experience as they endure hour after hour of macroeconomic models, Shakespearean sonnets or a particularly strenuous colouring-in session.

It’s something about that unique blend of sleep deprivation and caffeine jitters, all complemented by the aroma of impending doom. Even the most composed, manifestly ‘normal’ of individuals have been known to completely lose their head. This is a lesson you might learn the hard way, the day that you throw a hole punch at your best friend, start speaking Spanglish and be found panic-eating Cheetos in the disabled toilet. 

The most amusing aspect of exam time, in my view, is the development of the Library Tyrant*. The Library Tyrant, to clarify, is THAT person. The person who glares at you after you sneeze once. The person who covets a personal pile of ‘Reference Only’ books in a subject area that they don’t even study. The person who shoves your books to one side, because you are encroaching upon their three-quarters of the shared two person desks. Of course, to cite William Godwin, no man is immune to the ‘strange pleasure’ of ‘tyranny’, and there is nowhere where this theory is demonstrated more aptly than in a student library. The more time you spend there, the more of a sense of entitlement you gain and the more you are likely to confuse your role and the librarian’s. My advice? Choose a particularly deserted section of the library (although not the one that people are shagging in) and try to avoid human contact for a while. Or, at least, contact with anyone aware that you are anyone other than ‘THAT Person’.

*The Library Tyrant might also be known by a number of- perhaps more suitable- swear words, for instance ‘£$%@-wad’, ‘@£%-brain’ and ‘F%£k-wit’, but in the interest of decorum I have refrained from using them.

2) Reservations Only

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Living in London, I appreciate the appeal of exclusivity. For instance, when informed by Cheapside’s hot new restaurant Burger and Lobster that I would not be able to get a table for the coming Friday, or a week that Friday, or the week after that, it just served to make me more keen to go there.

One thing that none of us expect to reserve, however, are seats in the library. In the words of Ebenezer Scrooge:

 ‘are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’

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No Scrooge, there aren’t; they’re all full up, and now I’m forced to work at home to the soundtrack of my housemate’s Nicki Minaj playlist. 

It’s a melancholy time of year, when a chilled out midday arrival at the library renders you a lone, seatless wanderer. More depressing still is when you actually arrive on time for the Grand Opening, and see the queue of people that has formed there, enthusiastic as pre-teen girls at a Justin Bieber gig. 

There is no way around this, I’m afraid, unless you find a particularly doting, early-rising love interest. However, what I can help you with is reserving your seat whilst you go out for a well-deserved three hour lunch break: it is not uncommon for THAT person- d@$khead- to politely shove all your stuff on the floor so that they can work there instead. This is not acceptable: after all, who was there, doing their time, in the early hours?! You! So here’s my fail safe method…

Step 1: Purchase one of the following food: an apple core, a tuna sandwich, or, if you’re feeling particularly sophisticated, a hunk of extra mature Vieux-Boulogne cheese.

Step 2: Consume up to half of your chosen food, as a tasty library snack.

Step 3: When you leave for your real lunch, leave decaying, half-eaten snack right there in the middle of the desk: X marks the spot.

Step 4: Return to an empty desk, or, in the case of the Vieux-Boulogne, perhaps an empty surrounding area. Objective achieved.

3) Anti-Social Networking

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In the pre-exam build up, everyone’s social networking pages turn a fairly acceptable level of lame. At this time, it’s all photographs of highlighter rainbows, and blue skies viewed through library windows. And occasionally someone posts something really lame, like a stuffed cat. 

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As a rule, fellow studiers don’t mind scrolling through these photos whilst sitting, demented, in the library. If anything, they relate to it.

It is, however, dangerous for a library-dweller’s mental health when they view, for the fifth time today, the laminated cover of their (now-ex) friend’s completed dissertation, posted smugly on their Facebook wall for all to see, whilst they are still working on theirs. Or the ‘Post-exams’ album uploaded of all your buddies partying the days away on some disreputable Greek island…viewed from the computer cluster, when you still have two weeks and an Microbiology exam to go, and the only glow you’re getting is from the overheating monitor in front of you. 

The only way to prevent killing yourself, unfortunately, is to deactivate your Facebook account, battle on and anticipate, along with your also-suffering course friends, a night of celebrations and alcohol poisoning, once it’s all over.

4) Your Body Is A Temple Rubbish Tip

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Everyone lets their self go, sometimes. Often it’s just an off-day, or the result of a couple of nights out in a row. But when you start wearing the same baked beans stained Gap hoodie, pairing this gem with tracksuit bottoms and rocking this look, all sweaty and slept-in, the following day…well, you know that you have succumbed to the library dress code: the code that says anything, and I mean anything, goes.

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We all neglect to look after ourselves whilst we’re shut away in the library, and, like the library ‘dress code’, we all silently consent to a ‘zero-judgment’ culture. It’s not just about the terrible attire, the greasy hair or the free and easy attitude towards personal hygiene. It’s what you’re doing to your body that’s the real issue. All Daily Mail conspiracy theories about that disconcertingly-named, glowstick-coloured energy drink are supplanted by the increasingly likely prospect of a Third Class degree. You no longer care if you bump into your ex-boyfriend, resembling a parody Twilight character; in fact, you probably match. Look around any student library, and you can guarantee your companions will be drinking too much caffeine, smoking like a chimney, consuming a family-sized bag of Kettle Chips, or all of the above. Just don’t over-do it.

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If you’re reading this on a study break, then I wish you the best of luck. Exams are an unpleasant part of the university life, but they only occur annually (or, for us unlucky buggers at the University of Leeds, bi-annually), so click off the social-networking sites, work hard, and look forward to that blissful freedom when you can do your bodies some real abuse. 

Follow me on Twitter: @ChezSpecter

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