There they sit on top of a library desk, lonesome and bored, three history books piled on top of each other, angled to place the corners in staircase like steps rising from the bottom to the top; next to them, a dispersed file paper with handwritten notes, colour coded to perfection with a 4Bic pen strewn on top, this a scene of loss – a work of modern art titled ‘Not Working’ by Student (likely female due to coloured note taking). Yet, you look closer and what do you see? On top of this towering, space absorbing accumulation that signifies a deadline, a paper slip, signed, dated and time recorded by whom? Those eagled eyed librarians; new title – ‘Not Working – Feel Free to Move’.
Can you tell I study art history yet? Jokes aside, this new implementation by the library staff is something that has been met with some hostility, however I don’t understand why should it be. The new system gives you a one hour grace period to grab your lunch, attend your lecture or do whatever else you deem relevant enough to interrupt your flow of thoughts on that essay you have overdue by two days, or that assignment in for 5 pm; what is so important that it keeps you out of the library for more than an hour, that means you must hog the work space and cannot take your work with you? The issue that the library has faced for many years is that students have a tendency to come into the library, place their books down, reserving their favourite seat, the one by the window where they know they work best with the three power sockets for their two devices; or the space next to their friend who is on their next 16 hour library lock-in. Whatever motivates you to work is great, but you shouldn’t hinder someone else’s motivation by keeping them from being able to find a seat because you have had a two hour break and have taken up a valuable desk space in your absence.
The library is too commonly used as a place where people tend to dump their work for the day, and then bugger off to go any do anything other than work, knowing that they have to go back to the library to work – because they left their books there, thus meaning that they have to go and retrieve them at some point, so they think why not make a thing of collecting them and stay to do some work? Agreed that on a day to day basis, there are working spaces that are free to use, but when it comes to the exam diet, or more commonly the schools deadlines, which fall coincidentally on the same few weeks over the semester it can be tough to find a space where you can knuckle down and work. We all know the library cannot hold the entire student population, in fact it can only hold a tenth; and according to the libraries annual report done for 2013-2014, the daily footfall of the library was 6,500 people a day in semester times. See what fun facts you find out when you do a little research about these things?
The real fact is that you have no more right than any other of your peers to use the library’s resources, and that includes the right to ‘hold’ the working space longer than an hour. Your work is no more important than anyone else’s work, and as such this new system is one that is either going to encourage people to actually do their work given they can only have one hour breaks, or it is going to clear up some desk space a little more.
If you feel this one hour policy is going to be an issue for you, I suggest setting an alarm on your phone when you leave to remind you to get back to doing some work, getting a diary to help sort out you time, or borrowing a locker from the library in which to place your books if you know you are going to be out of the library for more than an hour. Overall, the library is fixing an issue that has become much too common. Additionally, the library is an optional place to study, if this new system isn’t going to work for you, there are plenty of other study spaces to use. Realistically the library has to cater for over 10,000 people. So cut the University and the library staff some slack, because guaranteed that at some point or another, you will be grateful for their efforts!
We all know that feeling of jubilation when we find the perfect seat in the library. And we all know that feeling of horror and grief when we find someone’s Louis Vuitton bag, MacBook Air and Taste coffee cup reserving the seat for someone else. Sometimes it is obvious that they just needed to run to the bathroom, usually indicated by a pen left uncapped. But, other times, it is clear that the person has gone for a run and shower before they intend on returning to their study space, usually indicated by a packed bag sitting in what could be your chair. Either way, it is frustrating, especially during revision and exams, but these ‘parking tickets,’ are not the way to solve the problem.
First of all, we all have to admit something: the majority of us are seat-hoggers. I do it, my friends do it and I witness it every single day. However, I know the feeling of hating someone you don’t even know for hogging a seat, even though I am, admittedly, a seat-hogger. So we all know that as much as we want other people to stop doing it, we ourselves don’t want to stop. I know that the library is a place where I have to work hard to get a seat. But, in the end, the problem is that there are not enough seats for the amount of students here. Surely, this is not a new issue, the library even admits that they’ve been trying to solve the problem for years, but still haven’t. Shouldn’t it be that even with seat hogging there are still enough seats to accommodate for every student who wants to use the library? What we have here is a poor solution to a much bigger problem. The library does admit on its blog that this system aims to alleviate ‘some’ of the pressure and that it is not meant to solve the entire problem, but the fact that they blame students for their inability to provide us with enough study spaces is unfair.
The other problem with the tickets is that they don’t understand why people seat hog. The library assumes that it is because students want to save study spaces, but for many of us, it is not. If you live in the badlands or DRA you know how horrible it is to travel to the library with 10 books in your bag, a computer, etc. Once you get to the library, why would you ever want to pick up all your stuff and carry it around to lunch or class? You’ve carried enough and it’s nice to feel like you can leave your stack of books at your seat at the library instead of lugging them around unnecessarily. So, for many of us, ‘seat hogging’ is actually just a way of saving your back some pain. And yes of course this is an issue we could solve by having a locker in the library. But, those lockers cost £30 for a year and there are only a limited number available, certainly not enough for every student who needs to store stuff during the day. Ewan McCubbin, the Assistant Director of the Library, says that he wants to ‘say to students that leaving your belongings for any length of time … isn’t fair on others.’ What does any length of time mean? Does that mean that if you go downstairs to get a coffee you are supposed to give up your study space and bring everything with you just to return ten minutes later? That is ridiculous. Please, have a little sympathy. But most importantly, why an hour? What if you have a two-hour class and don’t want to bring all your books with you but you are going to spend the rest of the day in the library besides when you are in that class? Do you really deserve a ticket for that?
Also, the way they determine how long the person has been gone for is sketchy. We’ve all seen library staff looking at us to make sure that our coffee cups have tops on, but now they are going to look at our belongings skeptically even when we’re not there? Talk about pressure. And how will they know? They are not going to be able to memorize every seat in order to be sure. And what if they mess up and you come back and someone has taken your seat? How can you even prove that you have been wrongly convicted?
Finally, how many of us are actually going to feel comfortable moving someone else’s stuff and then sitting in their seat? I know I would be terrified to do that because when the person got back they would be completely pissed off. The price of a seat in the library now? One new library enemy per seat.