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An Ode to the Library, a place of inspirational writing and distress

Library in Copenhagen

Black Diamond. (Photo by Debora Ceccato)

Blog |   18. Nov 2020

Debora Ceccato


Current Status: in a complicated relationship with the library (and my laptop).

Library, I’ve missed you

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written more essays while sitting on my bed than at a desk. And during my academic career, I’ve adopted several study patterns.

During my bachelor’s I spent most of my days off and after-class time at the library with my friends – scheduling communal lunches and coffee breaks or fresh-air breaks for a daily Vitamin D and O2 intake sessions. We had really no alternative to having a proper social life outside the library.

While on exchange, I hated going to the library. Firstly, it was under construction, but the alternative study space the Uni set up was incredibly cold – the air ventilation system was my enemy! Secondly, to allow students privacy, they set up these dividers that resembled a wall more than creating a relaxing space. Studying in these pods was oppressive. So, I studied most of the time in my room, with perfect lighting and Caribbean heat, and most of all, no external distractions.

It could be studying while sitting on your bed, or sitting on the floor, outdoors, at a cafe, on the sofa, on a staircase, in the bathroom. You name it

When starting at CBS, I was expecting to spend much more time at the library, but little did I know that I would have to juggle group meetings every week alongside work and a thousand other plans.

So there was no chance of spending full days at the library. I resigned myself to that fact thinking I would have the time to enjoy my favourite place while writing my master’s thesis.

Multiple Study Patterns – One Goal

However, there is no best practice for studying. There are those who defend the sacred institution of the library and those who prefer the cosy atmosphere of studying at home. Each person has an ideal study spot.

It could be studying while sitting on your bed, or sitting on the floor, outdoors, at a cafe, on the sofa, on a staircase, in the bathroom. You name it. If it works for you, then it means it’s the right solution!

The most important thing is the mental state that the specific location provides you with. Reaching a mindful state and a certain degree of concentration should not be underestimated, as they are critical for boosting the quality of the work produced during those hours.

Library Etiquette

Of course, the library is not everyone’s favourite hang-out spot. Apparently, there can be several sources of library distress, given that students, or library users in general, follow remarkably different etiquettes – not always for the sake of their peers. I wish I could be as comfortable at the library as if I were in my own living room, but I practice self-control and somehow I’m scared I would receive more than a few stares if I were to sit on the chair as I usually do at home while searching for writing inspiration.

Essentially there is nothing wrong with showcasing the best monkey poses on a chair or even showing up at the library in your house slippers. Why not embrace the principles that Danes apply to cycling clothes choices: comfortability must be a priority, so people shall act in a manner that makes you comfortable and at ease. It’s not for others to judge why you behave in a specific manner in public spaces.

The Juice Box Situation

For me, however, productivity isn’t guaranteed even if I finally find a seat at the library – one not occupied by a solitary pen or notebook belonging to a ghostly student doesn’t show up for the next 2 hours. Carefully, I set up my office pod for the next 8 hours: Laptop: 12% battery, Charger: plugged in, Water bottle: half-full, perfect reason for a restroom trip and stretching, Hand sanitiser: spray and clean the whole desk surface, covid-19 safe procedure. Earphones: … did I leave them at home? No there they are in the back pocket of my backpack … phew. Everything is set and I’m ready to rock my productivity session!

Then I hear it. The noise that will prevent me from concentrating on whatever you are planning on working on. I call this a “juice box situation”. What is it, you may ask? Imagine that you’ve reached the perfect state of mind to get that keyboard jamming to create your EP number 174,350,467, but then you hear a disturbing sound. Welcome procrastination!

Library in Copenhagen
Black Diamond. (Photo by Debora Ceccato)

In my case, what distracts me most and annihilates my craved peace is the noise of someone slurping loudly from a juice box. What kind of public offender brings such a drink to a library, where silence is holy? Instead, your personal juice-box situation could involve the guy sitting next to you playing music at an insanely loud volume, or the girl nervously tapping her feet on the floor. There are plenty of juice-box moments breaking the silence. So, what’s your juice-box situation?

The Art of being Social while being Antisocial

But that can be hyggeligt after about 7 and a half months of digital lifestyle, which gave me, and plenty of others, the opportunity to experiment with what works best for ones study or work routine. Each person can now say with certainty what fits his lifestyle and what doesn’t.

I tried the recommended compartmentalising techniques and separated my study environment from my leisure environment but that became hard to follow when I wanted some personal space. Over this time, my quick fix to make my day less monotonous was to schedule one outing per day to force me to take fresh air and find the motivation to turn an “anxious day” into a “happy day”.

Yet the pressure of sitting alone at the table staring at the screen, waiting for my hands to move by themselves and start typing was exhausting. I found myself literally crying while typing and reading papers – though definitely not because of the emotionally intense content of the academic articles in question. What I needed was to be alone, while surrounded by others. I missed the social factor of going to the library while having the privilege of still avoiding human interaction.

The stress cause by having to work on the thesis was intense, so I’ve decided to set aside my fears by going back to study at the library. It was a bit scary at the beginning, but after one day I felt more comfortable in going out in public spaces again. If I know that I’ll have to spend most of the day alone in the apartment, I opt for the old-new routine of going to the library to see friendly faces or at least, soak up the external motivation and drive to be productive. The anxiety derived from being home alone vanishes.

Another upside of being back at the library is being greeted with the expression “I know your study struggle, but you can do this!"

So, it has been three weeks since I’ve started going back to the Black Diamond. These were the three most normal weeks I’ve spent as a student since the pandemic exploded, despite the strict study routine of sanitising the table with my alcohol-based cleaning spray before buckling down. And for those three weeks, while I wrote my thesis, I created an alternative normality.

Another upside of being back at the library is being greeted with the expression “I know your study struggle, but you can do this!”.

Not sure if perhaps I am the only person experiencing this, but when you are at the library, your fellow study companions for the day create this social reinforcement mechanism of study motivation. You know that everyone there is concentrated on their work and needs your psychological support or motivation. Perhaps, their simple presence is enough. Of course you don’t know them, but it creates this form of social leverage to keep you on track without distractions.

So with that in mind, I haven’t yet satisfied my whim of strolling into the library in my pyjamas. But who knows, maybe I will eventually accomplish my dream.

I’ll keep you posted about that, and whether I finally graduate, so look out for #libraryinpjs.


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