The ‘Take Time Out’ Tent is back at the Maughan

Take a break, you’ve already done enough revision today

Exams have officially started today. Whether you’re in the Olympia shitting yourself or in the library preparing to inevitably do the same, tension levels have risen.

But never mind that – a marquee has been erected outside the Maughan Library!

This is the ‘Take Time Out’ Tent; it was here last year and now it’s back. Woo. To celebrate its return, we chatted to Robert Hall, Director of Library Services here at King’s, about exam stress, respecting the library and why we all need to ‘take time out’ every now and then.

This is the marquee

Aside from the books and computers, why is the library a better place to revise than, say, home?

It is up to individual students where they study of course but the libraries provide different zones – Quiet / Silent / Discussion – which allow students to find a suitable space to study according to their needs or preferences. Feedback from some students is that they like to come to the libraries to get into a “work mode” as this keeps them on track with their studies. We use all of the feedback that we get throughout the year to help us design our libraries to meet student needs.

What is involved in ‘Take Time Out’?

The Health & Wellbeing and King’s Sport teams created the Take Time Out campaign in May 2015. There are online resources for students focussing on health, and wellbeing tips for students especially around the revision and exam periods. As well as the online resources there are events at IoPPN and Waterloo campus, and marquees outside the Maughan Library and at the Guy’s Campus offering yoga, mindfulness sessions, free water and fruit, table tennis, smoothies, a creative corner – to name just a few of the things on offer.

We wanted to provide various events and activities to help and support students during the revision and exam periods. We do this both practically with healthy food and drinks, and help students prepare mentally for dealing with stressful times both during their time at King’s and after. We trialled this campaign last year this and with the interest and feedback we received we have expanded it this year.

Aren’t they just ecstatic?

Do you think that students don’t know how to give themselves time off? And if so, what do you imagine the reasons for that are?

I think some students can get very focussed on studying especially during the revision and exam period and may not always remember to give themselves time off. The TTO campaign reminds students of the value of taking breaks and getting enough rest so that their studying can be more effective.

What exactly motivated the decision to open the library 24/7? Do you think is has been a success? What do you make of students who work in the library throughout the night?

We have opened four of the libraries for a number of years between March and June, to assist students wanting to use the libraries to prepare for exams. We had a lot of feedback from students wanting to have the libraries open 24/7 for more weeks of the year, and so we are piloting a longer period this year. We also stayed open between Christmas and New Year in two of the libraries and are staying open later through much of the year outside the 24/7 periods. We have received overwhelmingly positive comments during the pilot.

We encourage students to ensure that they keep themselves healthy, and working throughout the night in the libraries on a regular basis may not be the best thing for that for some. In the run up to exams, we know that students have different ways of preparing, and keeping the libraries gives students who like to work through the night occasionally the chance to do so.

It has been well publicised that in 2016, mental well-being among students is at an all-time low, do you think that exam-related stress has anything to do with it?

It is possible exam stress could impact on mental well-being for some students, along with other things like financial and emotional pressures. We that recognise everyone deals with stressful situations differently and that student mental well-being is a growing issue. King’s takes mental health very seriously and we have support mechanisms in place to help students. The Health and Wellbeing pages on the web contain useful information, advice and support. In December 2014 King’s formally committed itself to supporting open discussion and awareness on campus around mental health problems and stigma by signing the Time to Change pledge.

Gotta keep hydrated

Tell me about the ‘Respect Your Library’ campaign.

Library Services are here to make the experience of studying in the libraries as comfortable and productive as possible. To help achieve this, it is important that everyone shows respect for others and the libraries themselves. The RYL campaign raises awareness of issues which students tell us get in the way of productive studying. These include noise levels, strong smelling foods, reserving spaces when the libraries are full and respecting the books (e.g. by refraining from writing or highlighting in them). We hope the campaign will encourage students to empathise with and respect one another by highlighting these issues.

What exactly inspired the relaunch of the campaign and why do you think it is necessary?

We relaunch the campaign every year especially during the revision and exam periods as these are the times when the libraries are at their busiest and when we receive the most complaints about behaviour (ed. we assume by this, he may or may not be referring to the consumption of alcohol within the library). Next year we intend to run the campaign at the start of the academic year as well and we will be working with KCLSU to promote it.

How long would you recommend working in the library in one sitting?

Again this is down to individual preferences of students, but we would recommend students be aware of how they feel and ensure they take breaks, stay hydrated, eat healthily and get plenty of sleep. Advice on these things is provided by the Take Time Out campaign.

Exercise bikes, you know, in case you fancied peddling away your stress

How did you revise for exams as a student?

That was a long time ago now! I studied English literature, and spent a lot of time in my university library making notes, and I also recall lying on my bed endlessly re-reading Victorian novels (or so it seems in retrospect). I was lucky to be studying close enough to some stunning countryside for some walking and fresh air to have time away from the books.