For many law students, law school is one of the first times that you’re really forced to put a significant amount of effort into your studying. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of figuring out how you work best is determining where it is easiest for you to study. If you’re like most law students, you will at least take a crack at the campus library. Not only are libraries known for being the quiet-time centers of law campuses, they also offer a number of benefits that you may not have been aware of.
But, campus libraries come with some unspoken rules that you may not be aware of. Before you venture into a studying cubicle, you might want to take a glance at these or ask a mentor student if there are any specific “rules” that apply to your library.
1. Be quiet in ALL designated quiet areas
In undergraduate libraries, being “quiet” sometimes just means not deliberately stomping around or speaking at a louder-than-normal volume. In a law library, quiet areas truly mean SILENT. In many cases, commuters or students who cannot study even with white noise select these areas specifically for their silence. Do not be that obnoxious 1L who slams their casebooks shut or leaves the volume up on their cell phone. Be respectful of other people’s silence. If you think you’ll be making more noise than usual or you want the ability to talk to classmates, go to an area of the building that permits it.
2. If you’re able, leave some space between you and the next person
If you’re sitting at a long table and there’s multiple seats, don’t choose the one right next to someone else. In fact, try to pick one as far away as possible (this advice obviously does not apply if you and a friend arranged to meet at the library or something). Likely, if someone opted to study alone at the library, they do not want a stranger sitting super close to them and possibly distracting them from whatever they’re doing.
3. When you need an electrical outlet, sit close to it
Nothing is more annoying than someone taking up the equivalent of four chairs with their laptop’s charger since it needs to be plugged in. Your library should have plenty of available study areas with outlets; there’s no need to disturb the people around you by making your charger everyone’s problem.
4. Be mindful about your snack choices
Bringing anything super crunchy, smelly, or crumbly will almost certainly become a nuisance, either for you personally or others when they have to deal with the aftermath. Some libraries do not even permit food or drink other than water to be taken inside, so make sure you know the rules of yours before bringing a bunch of food with you as well.
5. For your sanity, don’t move into the library
Particularly during midterm and finals season, it’s a temptation to practically live in the library. People will bring blankets, their dinner, slippers, sometimes even their pets with them to the library around these times in an attempt to “lengthen” their study sessions. I do not recommend this for a number of reasons, not limited to health concerns, but because the quality of your studying is likely to increase. You’re better off studying for one hour with absolute focus than for five hours with only spotty attention paid to the subject in front of you. If you need some tips on how to work on your focus and attention, try checking out this post. The more time you spend in the library, the more your mind is likely to wander and the less likely it is that your study session will be a productive one. Also, your brain needs breaks.
6. Do not feel the need to say hi to everyone you know
In undergrad, libraries are often code for social hour. You knew at minimum fifteen people every time you went, and you probably stopped to chit-chat with at least five of them. Do NOT do this in the law library, particularly in quiet sections. If you see someone you know, a wave or a quick nod or hello is all you need. Many people dislike having conversations while they’re trying to study, but they don’t want to be rude and cut you off. Make it easy by not initiating in the first place. You can always text the person later or hang with them in the quad instead.
7. Don’t feel like you need to be in the library constantly
There are always small study groups that hang out in the library all the time. They can often (sometimes unintentionally!) make you feel like you, too, should be in the library constantly. You don’t need to be. Only you know how and where you study best, and just because the gunners seem to have changed their mailing address does not mean you need to as well. That being said, it’s good to have options for study spaces or good back ups. When exam season rolls around, people who you have never even seen in the library before will turn up and take your favorite seats all the time. If you want to know how to prepare for studying from home when you’ve been a “library person” historically, read up here.
8. Give yourself technology boundaries
I used to have app/site blockers on my phone and internet browser that I would turn on in the library. The worst feeling is camping out for a good six-hour long study session in the library and spending half of it scrolling social media or trying to curate the perfect studying playlist. There’s no need. Just buckle down and finish whatever assignments you came there to do, and don’t distract yourself or others by being on your devices constantly.
This advice all generally boils down to common sense, which you should always be armed with on campus. However, law students can be quite a bit touchier if these unspoken rules are violated, and if you can avoid it, stay on the upperclassmen’s good side.
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