Why is There Never Any Space in the University Library? | Top Universities

Why is There Never Any Space in the University Library?

By Chloe Lane

Updated February 23, 2021 Updated February 23, 2021

You’re back at uni for the start of a new term and decide to head over to the library to get a head start on the term’s work, only to find there isn’t a free seat in sight.

You walk around for a bit, balancing all of your bags and books in your hands, only to be met by the fleeting glances of smug students who have got to the library at the crack of dawn to claim a seat. 

So, you go to the ‘alternative study space’ but you’re met with exactly the same problem. Sound familiar?

At this time of year, university libraries and study spaces across the UK (and possibly even around the world) are overcrowded, with too many students and not enough desk spaces. This year, things have got so bad at the University of Bristol that students are being expected to study on the SS Great Britain, a museum ship from the 1800s. 

Is it really fair to ask students to work in such conditions? Some people will read this and say “just study at home”, but this doesn’t work for everyone, especially with the numerous distractions readily available at every corner (most notably the fridge).

With nearly half of young people now going to university, universities are often filled to capacity, meaning there often simply isn’t enough space for everyone to study in the same library, and fighting to get the best seats as soon as the library opens has unfortunately become the norm for many students.

How is this fair when students in the UK are paying £9,250 per year for their studies? It’s understandable that students expect to be able to find a seat in the library in return for their money.

The fight for seats has plenty of other unintended consequences too.

Stress levels go up

A venture to the library, especially during exam time, is likely to actually increase students’ stress levels, and on top of this, you will most likely waste time searching for a seat – time that could be spent studying. 

Once you get a seat, you’re too terrified to leave it

If you’re one of the students who gets up as soon as the sun rises (or even before in some cases) and manages to find a seat, you live in constant fear of the seat being taken if you leave at any point. Who in their right mind would want the pressure of that on top of their exam stress?!

You’re expected to study in poorly equipped ‘alternative study spaces’ instead

SS Great Britain

Despite most universities having this issue with overcrowding, it is often dismissed when mentioned, with universities offering ‘alternative study spaces’ – i.e. extra (often worse) rooms to fight for a seat in.

As mentioned earlier, the University of Bristol has offered the SS Great Britain (pictured above), located on Bristol harbour, as one such space for its students. They were told they will have exclusive access to the site’s reading room and will be able to get discounted food and drink at the site’s café.

Although many students are sure to jump at the chance to study in this historic site, it is far from convenient for most students, being located more than a mile from their campus. This is a result of the university’s main campus libraries becoming so crowded that students were queueing from 7am to get a seat. 

Prospective students will be pleased to learn, however, that the University of Bristol is also proposing a new library for its central campus, reportedly costing £80m, but this will not be opening until the end of 2023 at the earliest. 

Or you study in a café and spend all your student loan on flat whites

Alternatively, many students enjoy going to nearby cafés to revise and do work. Cafés were always my go-to at university when the library was too full, due to their relaxed laid-back atmosphere and, of course, the added bonus of coffee. Although, beware, this can get quite expensive if done frequently!

This article was originally published in January 2020 . It was last updated in February 2021

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Written by

A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. She enjoys writing articles about a wide range of topics for a student audience. 

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