Which is the definitive best seat in Hartley library? An investigation

The most important thing you’ll read all year


Hartley Library is at the very heart of the University of Southampton, the place that you will spend almost all of your life whilst at uni. With over 2,900 seats to choose from, this guide can cater to both the late-night crammers as well as the early-bird planners.

Level One circular tables

These seats are great, arguably the best, but they depend on what you’re going to Hartley for. If you go with a bunch of friends and secure one of these circular tables, allowing optimal socialising, you’re in. Or even just go with one of your friends and nab a whole table to yourselves: In range of the toilets, water dispensers and plug sockets, as well as the vending machine only a short flight of stairs away. Amazing.

However, if you’re coming for a solo study session maybe reconsider these larger tables, as it can get very loud around here, particularly in exam season.

Rating: 7/10

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The back of Level One

Situated at the back of the ground floor, these desks are great if you’re coming for a few hours, although the chairs can be very uncomfortable after the third hour. A bland view of the back of campus keeps your distractions to a minimum, but I would definitely advise checking the plug socket works before you spill your life onto the desk, as this is a quieter area of the ground floor and you will definitely get some death stares if you shuffle over to the next desk.

A good space for some private time between classes, if not only to unwind with a good YouTube video.

Rating: 5/10

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Level Two behind the cafe

The study desks opposite reception. They’re perfect if you’re running for a coffee every half an hour, but they’re almost always noisy and very public, meaning they’re full of distractions: Definitely not ideal if you’re after a lengthy library session.

You can normally find freshers here, as they haven’t quite got the hang of the rest of floors, or people awkwardly waiting for their friends to join, so they just sit and peruse through Instagram.

Rating: 3/10

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Level Two behind reception

You can find these graveyard-esque seats behind the reception on the second floor. This for me is not the one. It’s noisy, despite being a quiet area, it’s almost always cluttered with food wrappers and overpriced cappuccino cups and, it’s freezing. The never-ending desks are very reminiscent of exam halls – not ideal.

Also, the noise from the reception area can leak in, leaving you no choice but to listen to everyone’s conversations about their bitchy flatmates or catastrophic nights out.

Rating: 3/10

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Level Three booths

These cubbies are situated on the third floor, so not the loudest floor but also not the quietest, and the first floor as well, although a pair of headphones is advised for all Hartley visits.

These are the pinnacle of studying. Private, cosy, and often used for occasional naps too. They’re great for a long visit to the library, as they have a plug socket on the desk, and you don’t have to worry about being disturbed by others shuffling on the desks next to you.

I can personally recommend these seats when you’ve had one too many Jesticles the night before; just pop your jumper over the ‘entrance’ and you’ll be free from human interaction for hours. Perfect for last-minute essay writing.

Rating: 8/10

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Level Three computers

I’ve often heard these seats being referred to as the American fast-food company: In’N’Out. These swivel chairs easily steal the "Most Sat On" title. I waited around for a friend near these desks for 20 minutes (lame friend) and saw smoke coming out of the keyboards. I even spotted one guy plug his phone in for 10 minutes and jet off again.

I would recommend a seat like this for a quick print out moment, or to check something, but long-term they are no good. Surrounded by noise, uncomfortable seats and the constant urge to push yourself around in a circle as a form of procrastination. Steer clear.

Rating: 1/10

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Level Three sofa booths

I present to you, the third-floor comfies, the wonderful little sofa-like seats on the third floor of Hartley. There are only three of these delightful seats so don’t see them as an option, as most others think the same way you will. Don’t be deceived by the plump padding, they’re not sleep-worthy, but a good few hours would be great here.

If you need more than your laptop then, again, not ideal, but they have plug sockets on the pillars next to each chair, so if you just fancy a little Netflix binge then pop down.

Rating: 6/10

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Level Four quiet study room

Welcome to the fourth floor, the best of all floors. These seats are great. The windows bring natural light, but there are also a few *working* desk lamps. Situated in the quiet study room, they are cut off and spacious, but also heavily sought after.

Definitely get here around 9am or earlier, or after 6pm, as all the seats will be gone, this is the place to be to get shit done. Make sure you eat and bring water, because you’re four floors up and that, for some lazy folk, is too much for a tepid coffee.

Rating: 9/10

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Level Five

The fifth floor, otherwise known as the scary floor, so be aware if you want to take a chance on one of these seats. You can typically find stressed-out third years in these seats, busy concentrating frantically typing away at their dissertations, but in the off chance they are free; be silent. Bring a tote bag, the sound of zipping up your backpack is too much. Wear soft shoes, your steps might echo. Clear your sinuses, for even the sound of your breath, may spark an offence.

Just remember and be respectful of these poor souls trying to get their first-class degrees, and think that it will be a struggle you will face one day… and maybe just sit elsewhere.

Rating: 5/10

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So when you next visit Hartley, remember to choose your seats accordingly and move quickly throughout exam season, as most of the good ones will go.