“Beach towels at dawn” or “musical chairs”?

sunbeds from telegraphAs deadlines and exams fast approach, an age-old problem will soon flare up once again. And as ever, the divisive issue will anger some and annoy others. Before too long the Library will see students packed in tightly, with inevitable debris scattered far and wide, covering tabletops and spilling onto chairs.  And when grey skies and torrential rain made being outside less appealing than sitting through a Justin Bieber concert yesterday, the stirrings of things to come began to emerge.

Yes, as the end of the academic year creeps ever nearer the inevitable need for the library’s services (and study spaces) increases…

Most of the time we have enough space to seat everyone that comes in, but there are peak times when demand can outstrip supply.  We notice that at these times some students start to “reserve” tables by leaving belongings there even when they’re not there themselves. Sometimes it’s just when they’re going to the toilet or the cafe, which is fair enough, as long as they’re back within about 20 minutes. Sometimes though, it’s when they’ve popped off to a lecture. Sometimes it’s even so they can have a seat when they come back that evening. And while their stuff is there, many other students, wary of repercussions or confrontation, will avoid the temptation to use the space or computer, and find themselves without anywhere to work.

As with beach towels on Mediterranean sunbeds,  there seem to be some who see the situation as being a matter of “survival of the fittest”. They “got there first” and staked their claim. They planted their flag in the ground and took possession of the space. They see their need as supreme, failing to appreciate that during the time they’ve been away, someone else could have done what they needed and moved on.

It’s only a minority of students, we know. The majority share our space in a sensible, considerate and fair way, accepting that everyone is here for the same reason, and that collegiate working helps everyone achieve better outcomes.

However, when one of our most frequently asked questions becomes “do you know where I can find a seat / computer?”, we know that stress levels will be rising. We want to help everyone to get the most from their time here, not act as bouncers or the arbiters of space. That’s why after 25 minutes a locked computer can be logged out and any unsaved work on it will be lost. And why if a study space has been left unused for the same length of time, we will advise students looking for somewhere to work to carefully move any discarded belongings aside and use the space themselves.

Musical chairs by David Maddison on flikrMaybe instead of acting as if we’re on a package deal to Ibiza, we could make it a massive game of musical chairs? But one where no-one ends up without a seat. We promise we won’t take any chairs away, as long as students don’t cheat in the game? Just remember to keep moving on.

Leaving belongings to reserve a seat for any length of time, and particularly for half the day, isn’t fair on others.  Not only is another user being denied a space, you are placing your belongings at serious risk of theft. You may not know the students around you – how do you know one of them won’t fancy the bag you’ve left, or what’s inside it? That’s another issue though.

Library Regulation 2. a. All users of the Library are required to conduct themselves in a manner which is considerate towards others, including staff and other users.

What we’re really asking is that you please be courteous to your fellow students and NOT to hog desks or PCs by leaving your belongings on them and going away for long periods of time, or overnight. Not only is this very unfair on other people, you also risk your items being stolen or treated as lost property.

Play nicely!




Sunbeds © The Telegraph online

“Musical Chairs” by David Maddison on Flickr



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