Life in the Library

Caoimhe Gordon discovers the vital information, the acceptable behaviour and the hard truths of spending time in the library, the place to be this exam season.


“Sure, isn’t it ironic!” I heard a young culchie say to his pal as they wandered into the area referred to only as the purple couches one sunny March day. “The library would be actually be a lot more helpful if they took out some books. Then there would be more space to study.” As they prepared themselves to find a seat in the midst of the weary essay finishers, the bored newsfeed scrollers and the eerily abandoned laptops that have accumulated in their masses, I could definitely see their point.

The library in Trinity College dates back to the establishment of the college in 1592. Today it holds over 6 million printed volumes from over 400 years of academic development. Most of these books are kept out in stacks in Santry. During exam time, however the library also becomes full of frazzled students.

As the countdown to the end of term continues in earnest and people enjoy repeating how many weeks of lectures that await the general student populace before the reality of study weeks hit, the race for a library seat becomes as competitive and cutthroat as an Olympic sprint. The early risers boast with blissed out smiles and heads swollen with knowledge while those with alarms that “didn’t go off” are forced into exile in the world’s loudest library, the Lecky. People try to outshine one another through the medium of complaints. The number of hours spent in the library becomes directly proportional to the amount of despair and the potential of total failure one can exclaim about to their friends as they enter their fourth coffee break. Every year, the stressed student finds themselves in the same position and every year, nothing changes.

In order to truly discover the true purpose of ones quest into the bowels of the Trinity library, one should turn to the Library Declaration. Yes, this actually exists. Available also in its original Latin and ready to be uncovered on the website, the statement becomes as valuable to the cause as the average Joe could imagine. As the study season approaches, it is recommended that all users of our fair libraries take the time to read this document in the language of their choosing. Perhaps it is worth jotting down a note of the finer points: “I,…., do solemnly promise that, whenever I enter the Library, I will treat the books and other furniture of the Library in such fashion that they may last as long as possible. I further promise that neither will I myself take away any book nor designedly damage or write in or badly treat in any way whatever any book, nor so far as in me lies will I suffer such things to be done by others. All and each of which things and all the Statutes of the Library, in as far as they concern me, I promise and vow faithfully to observe.” Keep your pledge alive this Trinity term. While Mischief may not be managed at the end of this Harry Potter-like exclamation, maybe some study actually will be.

The website also provides the typical student with a list of rules and regulations that should be adhered to while making use of the library facilities. One of the most disobeyed of this advisory guidelines reads as follows: “Readers are not permitted to reserve seats by leaving their belongings or books on seats and desks. The Library staff may move any property left at unoccupied desks or seats for more than 15 minutes except for officially reserved seats and carrels.” If you have ever trotted into the library around lunch time, it often looks like an abandoned PC World as a graveyard of sleeping laptops rest lifelessly upon tables without their owners to type unnecessarily loudly upon their keyboards. Often, a seat is spotted and a student feels confident of victory- until they notice the limp almost empty refill pad proudly placed to remind you that this seat is most definitely taken. William Edward Hartpole Lecky once said “One of the great differences between childhood and manhood is that we come to like our work more than our play.” If Lecky saw the amount of foot traffic passing through the library named in his honour, he may have had to withdraw that statement. On a sunny day, it is almost too simple to allow the library to act as a handy locker room but it eventually grows very tiresome for those who are in dire need of a seat.

The rules of the library make sense- naturally. Do not leave personal belongings unattended, do not smoke indoors, do not doodle on a book from the largest research library in all of the nation. However, some of the rules that are necessary for library etiquette today have not yet forged their way into the commandments of the BLU. The modern era of smartphones with not-so-smart owners have had a real impact upon the library experience. Just the other day while gazing out upon the cricket pitch, I received a WhatsApp message from a friend who sat only mere metres away. She had grown shocked then appalled. As she calmly read her materials, she noticed a phone rise slowly up from behind the laptop of the boy sitting opposite her. He was not so discrete as he believed because she realised that he was no doubt attempting to capture a sly snapchat of her at work! Perhaps he succeeded. This is not appropriate library behaviour. No one wants to feel the lens of a potential paparazzo upon them in the middle of the Ussher. Or the Berkeley. Or the Hamilton library, if you are that way inclined.

During study weeks, will students arrive in their drives to claim a bit of territory within one of the college’s many libraries and study areas? Will they battle for the prestige of a seat in the vicinity of a socket? In the wise words of Usher, the performer who the library is sadly not named after (much to the dismay of many a naïve first year): “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” During this tense time of year, the refuge of the library only seeks to offer comfort and assistance despite the often strange cast of characters that come out of the woodwork as soon as the exam timetables make their ultimately late appearance. The Provost himself is a big fan of the library, explaining that “university libraries in the 21st century are more essential than they have ever been.” The library even has its own strategy for the future. Hopefully this strategy will assist every student in achieving their own future goals this exam period. Only time will tell if the sun streaked queue for the 24 hour will grow as long as that for the Book of Kells.