Library Etiquette | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Library Etiquette

Is it just me or are there unspoken rules in the library? I certainly have some of my own to follow and if I see anyone breaking them I am astonished and a little bit miffed

Is it just me or are there unspoken rules in the library? I certainly have some of my own to follow and if I see anyone breaking them I am astonished and a little bit miffed. I know there are actual rules in the library (no food out of the ilounge, quiet zones, pay your loans, get your short loan books back by 11am the next morning regardless of whether you’ve been to Vodbull etc…)

Whispering: the maximum time for whispering is five minutes and if you get death stares from anyone sat in the vicinity you move on, sharpish. Also if you’re a shusher then that’s great – there needs to be at least one in each area. I can spend a good twenty minutes getting extremely annoyed with someone for whispering to their friend and saying in my head: ‘I’m going to shush them in a minute. I am. I’m going to shush them good and proper and give them my worst dirty look.’ Guaranteed I won’t and I’ll wait for someone else to do it. Thank you library shusher, you’ve shushed me in the past for my own hypocrisy, but I salute your services.

Eating: you’re not allowed to eat or drink in the library but people do. The absolute worst is when someone brings in crisps or soup. Soup stinks, crisps crunch. Take quiet food in the library please – if you insist on breaking the rules then quit crunching and actually do eat your food in the ilounge. There is no shame in eating alone in there or surely you have a friend to rope in. It’s an excellent opportunity to people watch if nothing else – and there are a lot of interesting characters in the library.

Sitting: If the area is empty, except for one person you don’t know, then absolutely under no circumstance sit next to them. This is a major faux pas. If you sit next to me in a deserted room I will assume there is something wrong with you. The booths are claustrophobic anyway no one needs someone else spilling into their study space. I was sat on 5C the other day on one of the big tables – the unspoken rule up there is if you sit in one side of the table then, in non-peak periods, it’s acceptable to sit diagonally opposite someone else. If someone has left their pen and paper but gone to the loo or for a water top up then this still means you sit diagonal from them. Rules is rules I’m afraid. Low and behold I come back to find a girl sat bang next to me (with whole other tables available around us). So I sat down defending my seat which I’d had for four hours at this point and she looks affronted and questioning. I stare back at her trying to indicate – don’t you know the rules!? I gestured my eyes desperately to the other side of the table, to no avail.

Finding: Some books just don’t exist on the shelves. The catalogue says they are there but they’re not. This is just a fact of life. There’s no etiquette for this apart from to miserably drag yourself to the front desk with an ashen face to request a ‘pink form’ that will find your book in up to six weeks… when you’ve graduated. I would also like to take this opportunity to say how sorry I am for almost crushing a girl between the shelves of 4B the other day – you wind the shelves apart in case you haven’t been in there – I am sorry. She had stupidly sat down on the floor though however. Whenever I go in there I get a slight panic that some maniac is going to crush me between the shelves, low and behold I’m the (unintentional) maniac on this occasion. Lesson? Don’t sit on the floor – you could meet an untimely end and you get in people’s ways.

Recalling: Someone’s doing the same topic as you. What a surprise. The recall war begins. Who can have the book the longest? Most of the time people are more than capable of reading a book in a week but for some reason people become enraged at a recall and instantly recall it back rather than getting down to the business of reading it. This is a bad etiquette – read the book and return it graciously and try and maintain your dignity.

It’s a tough life in the library and you’ll probably spend more time staring out of the window or checking facebook and twitter than actually reading, but for heaven’s sake follow the library etiquette to avoid embarrassment.


Vicky Hodgkinson



21st April 2011 at 3:16 pm

Last Updated

21st April 2011 at 3:30 pm