When it comes to college, one important rite of passage is being up late studying in a library at least once in your time as a college student. Today I am going to walk you through the steps of how to effectively study in a library. From what to bring to where to study, I have you covered on this post.
I. How To Plan Your Library Study Session
It is important to think about what you will bring to the library. At least when I lived on campus, going to the library was kind of a thing. Most people don’t live right beside the library so even if it’s not that big of a deal to walk, if you leave the library, chances are you are done for the day (or at least a few hours). So, to effectively study in a library I suggest you do the following:
Go Over What You Intend To Study
What do you need to do at the library today? Figuring out exactly what you need to study in the library will help you out a lot. If you have a plan of what courses you will be studying for when you get to the library you can then make an effective plan for what to bring. You want to be well prepared when you go to the library so having all the textbooks and miscellaneous things you need is essential, but so is not carrying things you don’t need.
Having too many things in your backpack on the way to the library can be exhausting. It can make you question why you want to go to the library to begin with. Don’t question yourself. Make smart decisions and be smart about what you pack by having a study plan before you leave.
Be honest with yourself, how much can you really get done in a few hours at the library. Even if you are the most focused person in the world, a library grind session can only produce so much in terms of results.
PRO TIP: If you are studying with someone in the same class as you, coordinate with them. Chances are you both won't need the book at the same time, so see if you can coordinate which one of you will bring the book during your study session.
Click the picture above to download my awesome Library Study checksheet. Print this out and then fill it out for each study session you have. This sheet is awesome because it details your big picture item for the study session and allows you to break that big picture item into various tasks. Then it allows you to write out some smaller tasks that will be helpful to do during your library session as well.
During your study session, you want to focus on your big picture task. Then once that is done, if you still feel like you can study longer you have a list of three secondary tasks you want to work on. I know getting four tasks done during a library study session sounds small, but if you are like me, this is important. After a while in the library, at least for me, I ended up doing more goofing off than studying. Doing just four tasks, and doing them well, will serve you best so you don’t overwork yourself while you are in the library (and so you don’t waste your time by feigning productivity.)
The Happy Library Study Packing List
Here are the things that I recommend for every library studying trip.
- Laptop and laptop charger (if you plan to be on your computer, some libraries allow you to rent laptops in the library, which is what I usually did instead of bringing my own to the library)
- Necessary textbooks if you have physical copies (don’t bring every textbook, only the ones you know you will use.)
- Your Planner/Your Library Study Plan Sheet
- School supplies (at least a notebook and some pens and/or pencils)
- Cell phone and cell phone charger
- Headphones (to be quiet zones, libraries can be awfully loud, especially campus libraries)
- Water bottle (always remember this, don’t fall prey to the vending machines, I recently bought this one from Ban.do and I am obsessed!)
- Student ID (a must for any library trip, especially if you want to print)
- Food (no excuses to leave, bring some snacks)
- Have something substantial, but also something that can sit out for a bit.
- Hummus and pretzels
- Celery, raisins, and peanut butter
- Trail mix
- Dried fruit
- Try out this list over at Spoon University called Quiet Snacks That Won’t Make You Feel Like An Asshole At The Library.
- Have something substantial, but also something that can sit out for a bit.
- Period supplies (if it’s your time of the month, definitely bring these, your library probably doesn’t provide them)
II. Where To Study
The library can be a pretty sprawling place. Here are my rules for where to study in a library:
Never Study On The First Floor
This is my BIGGEST study rule for library studying. If you can help it, never study on the first floor, especially if you want serious results from your study session. Your best bet for a serious study session is to go up at least to the second floor. The higher you go up in the library, it seems, the quieter it gets. You want to study as far up as it makes sense for you.
Never Study Near Stairs Or The Doorway
Again, this is a huge spot for distractions. People don’t really consider their volume as much when they are just walking into the library or when they are taking the stairs/getting off an elevator. These spots are bound to have a ton of distractions so your best bet would be to stay away from them when you are deciding where to study.
Try To Get A Study Room
Study rooms are amazing. At my old university, we had a plethora of study rooms and I always love studying in them way more than I liked studying in the open. If you can find a study room, they are great because they offer you a bit of privacy when studying, and you can talk things out a lot more within them than you can in the general library.
Understand How You Study Best
Studying in a group is something that a lot of people love to do, especially in the library, but it doesn't work best for everyone. I will elaborate on this more in just a second, but be wary that what works for others will not always work for you. Your friends and their study habits will not always work for you, and as I have stated on the blog before, you have to stop worrying about other people's study habits.
III. Using Library Resources
Your library has a plethora of amazing resources that will help you become more effective at studying as well as a more effective student.
I have a huge post all about how to use research databases that I published over the summer. This is one of my favorite posts on The Happy Arkansan so you should go check that post out right now if you want to use your library's research database.
Chances are your library also has an online catalog of all the books in the library–use this system. Searching for books in a college library can be a complete and utter pain, so don't do it without going on a search online first. Having a great understanding of what your library has to offer by checking it out online first really helps because aimlessly searching for an important book just isn't okay.
PRO TIP: Don't forget about library services like Interlibrary Loan. These services will help you boost your study skills and really help you with any papers you have to write.
I sent out a tweet about this post looking for some pro tips about studying in the library and one of my Twitter followers, Heather, mentioned Interlibrary Loan (or ILL.) This is seriously one of the best things that colleges have to offer, especially when you start doing extensive research. You are NOT confined to your school. Use ILL to your advantage and request documents if you need them to do your research. Never feel that you have to be pigeonholed to your library's information.
Become Best Friends With Your Reference Librarian
Most libraries have at least one librarian with the title “reference librarian.” If you are not currently comfortable with using a library or you even need help on something more advanced, your reference librarian can really help point you in the right direction. Find out who this person is, and talk with them. If you can't find them, any librarian will probably know the basics of the library, but if you can find the reference librarian they will be an even bigger help to you. Reference librarians are well trained on the different offerings of your school library so that is why they are the most trusted source.
You can usually easily spot the reference librarian because they will have a sign or they will be the person working the information desk at the library. Ask them questions and you can begin to unlock all the amazing things your library offers.
IV. Remember, The Library Won’t Make You Productive
Before we leave, I have one thing to say, the library won’t make you inherently productive. Yes, studying in the library can be a great experience, we all want to get together with friends or camp out alone in the library one night. This will not make you inherently productive, though. You may hate group study sessions and find them distracting. You may hate the entire concept of libraries and study better in the student union or in a student lounge area.
I do think studying in the library at least once is a rite of passage for college students. Do it. It is great. But if you find out that it doesn’t work for you, don’t force yourself to love studying in the library. Some people are more productive laying in their bed, some people are more productive in a private study room in the library.
The most productive thing I ever started doing for myself was using The Pomodoro Technique which I have talked about on the blog before. It's not always going to the library and working tirelessly, sometimes it's just better time management that will help you and your study habits out.