By The Book: A Guide To University Library Etiquette!

No matter what course you’re taking, chances are you’ll eventually have to spend some time in the library. Whether you’re there to print, make a PowerPoint with a friend, type up your latest essay or (if you’re really old-fashioned) borrow a book, here are some things to bear in mind.


Avoid eating smelly or noisy food

…or food at all if you’re not allowed to. Rules vary from library to library but, if yours does allows snacks, don’t bring in a family-sized mega fast food sharing bucket. Not only could it attract human seagulls and embarrassing attention, but the smell can be truly unpleasant for those around you.

Similarly, if your snack crunches or needs slurping, then maybe reconsider working in the quiet zone. There’s a difference between a can of Pringles and a bunch of grapes.


Don’t reserve six seats

It’s really nice to work with and alongside your friends but – and especially when it’s peak time – it’s unfair to save multiple seats and tell people ‘they’re just coming’ for half an hour. Think of other places to work together and check to see if you can reserve spare classrooms and work in there instead.


Save sleeping for home

Pulling an all-nighter in the 24hr library has become a claim something close to a badge of honour. But studies (and final grades) show that it’s probably not the best way to go; getting a good night’s sleep is important.

If you are planning on working in the library overnight then make sure you’re doing exactly that: working. Curling up across three chairs and snoring for a few hours can lead to potentially embarrassing situations and is going to make the librarians pretty uncomfortable.


Keep your shoes on

… for your benefit and everyone else’s.


Don’t talk on the phone or Skype

Speak later or step outside and talk. Unless you’re Skyping someone using sign language, these rules apply to any language; shhhh is pretty universal.


Respect the zones

If there’s a group project zone then work with your friends there, not in the silent zone. And if you need silence to concentrate then don’t sit scowling in the group study zone.

When you’re in the computer area, use the PCs available; if you’ve got your own laptop or you’re just doing book research then don’t hog a computer spot.


Make sure other people can’t hear your music

Some people work well with music. Others don’t. If you’re using headphones, do the headphone test. Try out other background sounds too, like rain and coffeeshop noise. Whatever you do, don’t play music out loud.


Keep your laptop on mute

The people around you don’t need to hear the ‘ding!’ every time someone messages you. This also saves potential embarrassment in case you land on a webpage with a surprise ad.


If your phone’s on vibrate, keep it off the desk

In quiet areas, the sound of a phone on a wooden desk is SUPER LOUD. Avoid glares and keep it in your pocket.


Clean up after yourself

If you spill a drink, clean it up. Ask the librarians if there’s cleaning spray you can use if you need to. The same goes for crumbs and food wrappers. It keeps the library in good order for everyone and saves the cleaning team time at the end of the day.


Clear your desk

Leaving the stack of books you’ve been using behind on the desk doesn’t count as paying it forward; it just creates extra work for the librarians and clutter for other library users.


Return lost things

This is paying it forward. Who knows? That USB could have someone’s entire dissertation plus notes on it.


Don’t hook up in the dissertation archives

… or anywhere in the library.


Take sensible breaks

Having breaks from working is important and part of a healthy lifestyle. Popping out for half an hour or forty-five minutes is fine, but ‘saving’ your seat or computer for four and an half hours isn’t fair on others.


Try not to print huge documents at peak time

Mid-morning, before first class and lunchtime periods tend to be library peak times. Don’t stress yourself and other library users out by printing a 60 page document when there are queues. Make sure you really need what you’re printing before wasting paper.


Return the public stapler, scissors, ruler etc

If a library has left these materials out to be used by everyone then let everyone use them. ‘Permanently’ borrowing them isn’t fair and getting caught could get you barred.


Put books in the right places (only if you’re sure!)

Don’t leave books on desks or random shelves; you’re either making the librarian’s job harder or meaning someone later down the line won’t be able to find something they really need.

Put the book back on the shelf you found it on. If you’re not sure where something goes then don’t guess; libraries have very specific filing and organised systems so don’t make it your mission to reorganise it how you see fit.


Avoid running, jumping, cartwheeling, playing hide and seek, and other parkour

Although tempting in an empty library, health and safety does still apply!


Try to have no more than five books out at once

Stacking a pile of eighteen books beside you on the desk may give the illusion of hard work, but you could be inconveniencing someone who needs those books too.


Ask librarians sensible questions

Librarians are smart people but don’t ask them to help you answer your next essay title for you. Ask about recommended books and the times of study sessions, not whether Cicero’s oratorical decimation of Mark Anthony hastened the end of the Roman Republic.


Use library computers for working

Especially if it’s peak time, don’t sit scrolling through Facebook or catching up on the latest episode of your favourite show.


Finally, don’t take pictures of people in the library

Please. Don’t be that guy.

This isn’t to say you must always be serious in the library; we all need a healthy dose of shenanigans from time to time. Just be fair on others around you, and you’ll be fine.


Jodie Reed writes for Inspiring Interns is a recruitment agency specialising in all the internships and graduate jobs London has to offer.