Sunday, May 1, 2011

What You Need at the Library

I have two homes at Taylor. The first is my apartment. The second is the library. I have spent more time at the library then in my apartment, much less sleeping in my apartment, like many "good" students. (The really good ones don't goof off watching youtube and play chess.) There are a couple things I have learned about the library, and I wish to bestow my wisdom to those who, like myself, will be living in the library in the future.

1. Don't "live" in the library.
The purpose for going to the library is to get work done separate from home/dorm/apartment life. It allows you to concentrate. When you begin to live at the library, this separation is broken down. So leave your pillow, your movies and popcorn. The library is a place for you to get work done.

2. ALWAYS have with you:
  • Ear plugs - good ones. Having complete silence and a barrier to distracting chatter helps you concentrate on getting your work done quickly and efficiently. See this article on silence and concentration.
  • Miniature white board - I was surprised how helpful it was to have a small white board to draw/write out ideas or review information for tests.
  • A pen and paper - it is very irritating to arrive at the library and realize you forgot the most basic tools of school.
  • You Power cord - I hate it when my computer battery dies out, and I don't have my power cord with me.
  • A Timer - I have found that having a timer motivates me to get work done. It becomes a race to see if I can complete a task in a certain amount of time. It cuts down on procrastination and improve efficiency.
3. Find a Good Location
One of the most frustrating things you can have at the library is when you get to your favorite spot, you sit down, get all of your stuff out and start to work but realize after the fact there are four big 'o football players next to you who don't understand the concept of silence. Your glares don't help either. (And yes this has happened to me. Four big 'o football players.)

Location is key in the library. There are about three areas in the library that I enjoy studying in, but often these spots are either taken or overrun by noise. So I found three other backup places that are harder to find and more out of the way. In fact I know one of them is almost aways free because of the uniqueness of the location. These spots are sometimes found in the basement, miscellaneous stairwells or in a corner of the library. It's important to scout out locations before you take one. Make sure the people around you aren't going to start talking to friends or aren't actually working.

4. Types of Good breaks

It can be hard to decide what is a good break. For instance, starting to watch youtube videos or getting on hulu is not conducive to a good break. Five minutes often turns into thirty minutes. I have found that walking about looking at books is often a good way to take a break. Sometimes I'll just pick a book off the shelf that seems interesting and read a couple paragraphs.

This is something I wish I did more often. It's easy to take a break at the desk and play around on your computer. This isn't a real break. A real break means getting out of the place where you're studying and putting yourself in a different environment. Switching from a computer screen to real print can be great. If you're doing a lot of reading, get on one of the library computers or find a magazine. The key is to get out your seat. Get away, but still keep your mind active.

Tips and techniques only get a student so far. You reach a point where you have two choices. One to do your work and other not to do your work. Being a Christian is helpful at this point because if you commit your works to the Lord, your thoughts will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)

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