Kamilia Khairul Anuar on what not to do in Quiet Study Spaces
Quiet study spaces in UCL are common. They are embodied by the reading rooms of the libraries and other study spaces around campus, like Foster Court. Given the infamous bed syndrome (where working in one’s own bedroom tends to result in one falling asleep instead) that comes with attempting to work at home, it’s no surprise that these are popular destinations for students to work and kill time productively in between the end of a 9am lecture and the start of a 5pm tutorial.
But do students know how to use, and preserve, a Quiet Study Space? A year’s experience in UCL for me hints at the answer being a resounding ‘no’. Here is a list of the biggest crimes UCL students commit in the study spaces:
Evidently, the fact that UCL is one of the world’s best universities doesn’t preclude students disregarding the words “This is a quiet study area” and using the study area to chat and catch up, exactly the way they might do in a cafe.
Severity of these crimes vary. While in Foster Court, I’ve seen groups of students blissfully chatting away over packed lunches while others around them attempt to do their reading. Of near-equal annoyance, perhaps, is the frequent occurrence of attempted quiet conversations in the Donaldson Reading Room.
Either way you slice it, talking – of any volume – is disruptive to the atmosphere of a quiet study area. It is baffling that, despite the multitude of spaces for discussion that exist both inside and outside campus, students would still use the quiet study areas for everything but quiet study.
As a frequent library visitor, I can somewhat sympathise, particularly if you’re past your first year and are by now probably living a tube or bus ride away from campus, and you have to stick around the library for long hours to make your trip worth it. Inevitably you’re going to get hungry in the middle of reading all that European Union law or solving equations.
But of course, the necessity of nutrition should ideally be subordinate to the all-important rule that a quiet study area is meant to be quiet. And when seized by the urge to eat, students have tarnished this all-important rule in the most outrageous ways, from chomping on raw carrots to munching on roasted almonds, right next to increasingly irritable fellow students attempting to drown out the noise with music whilst trying to push through their reading.
If you need to eat, you’re going to eat. But it doesn’t take much effort to bring your food outside the reading room for a moment and have your snack away from the conspicuous glares of annoyed students.
Putting phones on ‘vibrate’
Say it with me: vibrate is not the same as silent.
And if you absolutely must have your phone on vibrate in case you’re anticipating an important phone call or having a crucial text conversation, for the love of God, leave it in your pocket. Do not put it on the table, where everyone within a five-meter radius around you can hear and feel the earthquake-like vibrations.
Fidgeting is excusable if you’ve just sat down and you need to get out all your things and make yourself comfortable. Fidgeting becomes more of an issue when you continue to do it constantly…far past the twenty-minute mark. It may not be obvious, but it is distracting to notice the person sitting next to you tapping their pen on the table or shifting their books around for the thirtieth time when you’re trying to read something.
Obviously, watching videos in the library is never by itself a crime. It’s how you watch videos. Are you the type who can’t resist the urge to burst into noisy giggles when watching a funny YouTube video? Do you feel the need to gasp at shocking plot twists when catching up on your Korean dramas? Then don’t watch anything in the quiet study spaces.
The quiet study areas around UCL are meant to be the most conducive study spaces for students. In the myriad of other places you could use to eat noisy snacks, talk loudly and watch videos with exaggerated reactions, there really is no good reason for moving any of these disruptive activities to the quiet study areas – because really, you’re not the only one using those rooms, and some of us might actually need them for – I don’t know – quiet studying.