Surviving the Library: A Fresher’s Guide

Battling the books, boredom, and brutal cataloging system

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Let’s face it. The library is not an easy place to be.

The library is to Cambridge what quinoa is to the hipster. It’s a Mecca, the receptacle of all worldly knowledge, the source of every book on your reading list that you’ve taken out but haven’t yet read. It’s precious and essential but also perilous.You can get lost in its winding halls, swallowed up by stacks of looming books, or get cornered by that Cantab you haven’t looked at since getting with them in Cindies in freshers week.

Long, caffeinated nights are pretty miserable, but they’re always better if you come prepared.

Much book, very study

Bevs, Bevs, Bevs

Tackling the library without sustenance is not just inadvisable, it’s just plain impossible. Getting a bit of life-giving H2O could take your essay from a fail to a solid first. Other, harder library users turn to the sweet nectar that is coffee; which has facilitated essay crises since time immemorial. Watch out for the individual library’s rules, though. Librarians protect their treasure with all the ferocity of a dragon, and getting on their bad side could result in hours of intense caffeinated procrastination in your room.

That being said, make sure that clear liquid in an Evian bottle is water. There’s nothing more soul-crushing than taking a sip of last night’s voddy when you were looking for Cold Water (Never say never to a Bieber reference).

Be as hyped as these guys

Library Fwends

Yes, your hardcore workaholic NatSci neighbour can pull off a productive solo library sesh, but if you’re a humanities student like me, you’ll know that the temptation of mindless internet scrolling and inane Vice documentaries is just too much. With one sharp glare your library buddy can keep you focused on whichever interminable book you’re crying over. You can fantasise together about the spicy Cantab who just walked through the door and you can unashamedly colonise a choice corner of the library as your own little fiefdom.

Beware though, not every Cantab you see in the hallowed house of books is a friend. You’ve got to watch out for the snakes. These sneaky bastards love hoarding the entire reading list. They stalk their prey like panthers, often working alone, with all the stealth of a (rather gorgeous) Royal Marine.

They probably mean well, it’s not a bad thing to be studious, but when a Cindies-addict needs the ‘Cambridge Introduction to Something or Other’ 24 hours before their deadline, they really, really need it.

Every Cantab’s nemesis


If there is a hell, then I know iDiscover will be there with me. It’s absolutely baffling to think that college can’t afford to have affordable rents, but the university pays for this monstrous application. The fact is that iDiscover is a little like Sainsbury’s Basics vodka- it helps you get drunk on knowledge, but actually using it just isn’t pretty.

Even if your books survive the snakes, actually getting them is tougher complementing Katie Hopkins.

Beware the fines

These aren’t the good kind of fines. No swap is complete with drunken cries of ‘FINE if you got with your college dad’. These are the bad kind. The Trump presidency of fines. I’ll give it to them, Cambridge University has some pretty sly marketing material. They never tell you that you’re applying to Scrooge University, where overdue fines slowly eat away at your student loan.

All you can do is remember to keep your books close, and your deadlines closer. Don’t regret the money you spent on fines when you

Get a pit crew

Long hours are a normal part of the Cambridge lifestyle, but endless hours in the library lead to diminishing returns. There’s nothing better than going for a cup of tea and a catch-up in a friend’s room to soothe the library-goer’s snapped patience. Watch out though, ‘a quick chat’ could turn into a three-hour gossip sesh and to misquote the PM, deadlines means deadlines.

All you can count on is a deep love of your degree to keep you away from the warm embrace of life away from the books.

When the deadlines loom close, your hangovers get worse and week 5 approaches you need a game plan to survive the onslaught of work. Keep calm and watch out for snakes.