Do You Belong To A Library Tribe?

Sleepers, Shelf Clearers, and Point-of-no-Returners; Harry McCarthy guides you through the Library’s usual suspects.

Exams library Procrastination students Study


With exam season approaching faster than is desirable and the Forum’s gleaming doors having finally been opened, our shiny new Library is likely to be busier than ever.
Finding a seat on any of the three garishly decorated floors (since when is bright green conducive to productivity?) is a fine art at even the best of times, but as dissertation deadlines strike and Red Bull-fuelled cramming commences, it can be nigh on impossible.
This situation is certainly not helped by the ever-increasing number of Library Tribes.
Be it morning, noon, or night, you are guaranteed to find your productivity (which, let’s face it, was never going to be that great anyway) severely stunted by members of each and every one of the Tribes. Anyone who’s spent more than ten minutes among the nineteen kilometres of shelving will have found themselves in a face-to-face encounter with a Shelf Clearer, busy taking out everything ever written on Shakespeare, ever.
We’ve all been on the point of tears as our iPod reaches its highest volume setting and yet still fails to drown out the incessant bleating of a pair of Chatters. And each and every one of us has wondered just how much a Sleeper is expected to get done while conked out under a blanket.
Although not always easy to spot, members of these Tribes can, with a little carefully guided intuition, be pinpointed and, better yet, avoided. To help you out, here’s my run-down of the five tribes that you’re sure to encounter.
1. The Sleepers
In spite of the University’s multi-million pound investment programme, there still appears to be a sizeable number of students who don’t realise that in order to get anything done in the Library, one has to be awake. I give you the Sleepers. Barefacedly occupying three spaces each, the Sleepers shun the full extent of the Library’s facilities and simply… well, sleep. And sleep. And sleep. Until you’re left wondering whether they actually have any work to do. Or indeed a home to go to. Usually (but not exclusively) from far-off lands (you don’t need me to tell you where). Maybe it’s the jetlag.
2. The Newcomers
It isn’t just first-years who can be found staggering from section to section wearing an expression of utter bemusement; there are those higher up the pecking order who, for whatever reason, have managed to get through the majority of their University career without paying the Library a single visit. Like those who have never tried sushi or bondage, the time eventually comes when these Newcomers want to see what all of the fuss is about. Watch with a smug satisfaction as they tentatively approach a self-service checking machine, or wonder aimlessly around French History when what they’re looking for is in Theology. The most harmless of the Tribes – they won’t stay for long, and certainly won’t come back.
3. The Chatters
If you can’t immediately see a member of this particular Tribe, you’ll almost certainly be able to hear one. The Chatters are comprised of those lucky students whose deadlines are still far off (or non-existent) but nevertheless come to the Library for a good old chinwag at the expense of everyone else’s silent study (or Facebook stalking). Crisp flavours, engine speeds, Derrida, group masturbation – there’s no subject that the Chatters will leave unexplored. It sometimes seems as though this Tribe have wondered into the Library assuming that it was an edgily-named silent rave. Then again, at a University where we call a study space a ‘Sanctuary’ they could probably be forgiven for this mistake.
4. The Shelf Clearers
There’s one in every seminar group. Having anxiously refreshed ELE until the golden essay questions are finally posted, the Shelf Clearers trawl through the online catalogue until they have comprised a reading list as long as their arm and race down, tote bag in hand, to raid the shelves before the rest of us have even got out of bed. More adventurous Clearers may not bother with a list at all, preferring to blindly grab at anything and everything vaguely related to their essay subject. Whatever their approach, one thing’s certain: at least half of the books they struggle through town with aren’t going to be of any use to them whatsoever. But while they’ve got them, no one else has.
5. The Point-of-no-Returners
In spite of what my colleague Aggie Romeril may try and tell you, the fifth and final tribe is not named after those who spend their Library hours clad in fur, munching on tiger bread and listening to Phantom of the Opera; no one (except her) is that edgy. The Point-of-no-Returners are made up of those who have blithely spent the last three weeks and six days pretending that they don’t have a deadline. Now, with only hours to go, they decide that they’d better get cracking, only to discover that, actually, they have no idea where to begin. Nevertheless, they soldier on – surrounded by toastie wrappers and discarded Pro Plus packets, they spend half of their time sighing audibly, and the other half updating their Facebook status with their non-existent progress. But don’t you dare suggest to them that they might be more productive if they actually made a start – they’ve still got all night, after all…