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Library etiquette 101

Amanda Yap

Tue Oct 11 2011


EXAM timetables are out – which means it’s time to hit the books! What are your study habits like? Are you the type that finds it a lot more motivating and productive to head to the library with your friends? Meld reporter Amanda Yap speaks to students to find out what their pet peeves are when it comes to studying in the library.

Those who have ever plonked themselves down in a library for a significant period of time would probably know, it’s not always possible to “get in the zone” when a bunch of fellow library users seem more preoccupied with having a good time than going through the grind of study.

So before you head to the library armed with the past 12 weeks’ worth of class notes, do remember these golden rules and avoid copping dirty looks from your peers.


It is during these tough times that libraries are the most crowded, and it is quite difficult to score a good seat, especially if you arrive later during the day.

While you can be commended on your “studying productivity” by getting there earlier, do not be mistaken into thinking that you are allowed to leave your books and papers at the tables while you take a two-hour long lunch break. There’s nothing more annoying than arriving at the library to work, only to find yourself unable to get a seat among the many tables that are absent of students, but with belongings strewn all over them (highly susceptible to conniving thieves, we want to point out).

Try not to take up an additional entire seat by piling your things on it. Things like bags and files can be easily kept on the floor, while jackets can be draped on the back of your own seats.


Minimize space usage at shared tables – it’s not fair that you get to generously spread out all your worksheets while the poor guy next to you is forced to keep his elbows off the table in order to study!

Also, as one of our interviewees pointed out, in the situation there are relatively plenty of blank places available, you should try not to take seats at a table with power sockets that are clearly meant for students who need them to work on their laptops.


The same “don’t leave it for hours” rule applies – if you’re going to be gone for a good period, log out now and find another computer when you come back.

And while it’s tempting to use the schools’ super-fast bandwidth to engage in mindless surfing, pity those who can’t bring their computers with them and are waiting to use a computer to look up an important academic reference for that 4000-word essay. So skip the YouTube videos, DotA games and manga-reading, and do that all at home instead.

And don’t “check-in at the school library” via Facebook. It’s highly unnecessary.


Real energy is required for studying, and that comes in the form of food – which is why most of the students we spoke to agreed that food and drink consumption in libraries was not something that generally annoyed them.

Still, you should stay away from breaking out foods that reek too much – anything involving belacan (shrimp paste) is definitely out. And dispose of your trash when you’re done. No one fancies cleaning up after you.

Also, try to resist the urge of taking off your shoes while studying: sensitive noses may be able to pick up on that foot odour you didn’t know you had.


This is the golden rule and yet, it is the one that is broken most often.

One student we spoke to recalls a ridiculous scenario in which she witnessed three international students talking and laughing at the top of their voices in a library corner which had three individual “SILENT STUDY AREA” signs plastered on the walls.

It is utterly impossible to keep absolutely quiet and not talk to your friends in between studying – shared discussions and helpful tips are the main benefit of these group study sessions. But, do take care to keep it to a minimum. This will save you the embarrassment of being yelled at by the passing librarian or security guard (but you probably still have to handle the looks of death that students sitting around you will give you).

There is absolutely no reason for your phone or computer to be in “loud” mode in the library either. If you’re going to take a phone call, have the courtesy to do it outside. And plug in your earphones – nobody  wants to listen to “Nyan Cat” on YouTube in the school library!

Do you get annoyed by people in the library? Agree with our tips? Disagree? Take our poll, or tell us your worst experience in the comments section below.

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