Library or room, library or room, libr-? Room

Image credit: Geograph

To be ‘thrown in at the deep end’ is certainly no understatement with regards to the start of my third term at Cambridge. Drive back down to university, unpack my cases, open files, folders, books and bags, library doors, new browsing tabs. Drowning in the endless abyss of books, I had to somehow resurface and catch my breath. Next thing you know, I’m diving head first into an exam paper, spluttering droplets of words page upon page. This is the first exam I have ever sat at university and I am not sure if I am doing it ‘right’. Words are already overflowing the page, spilling out into the margins, and I am positively surprised that the source of the downpour is the ink of my pen and not my eyes. Before I know it, we are all flooding back out, only to find ourselves engulfed by yet another wave of revision. Perhaps this all sounds a little bit too dramatic. After all, I only had to sit prelim examinations. Who am I to talk about the pressure of exams? But all of this exam frenzy seemed to hatch a thought.  What is the most effective way to revise? What are those small changes which could truly make that big difference?

Have you ever encountered the well-renowned dilemma of library or room, library or room, libr-? Room. I always choose to study in my room. The library environment seems rather stressful to me, with its overwhelmingly tall shelves of many unread books, sandwiching words which could have been the secret to my success. Next is the furious tappers and typers, the pen-clickers and the heavy-breathers, the loud-chewers and the whispering thinkers. The library is much too distracting. And look, over there, it is so and so! I wonder how her weekend has been. And I wonder how much revision she has done. I need to go and talk to her. Just a quick quiet catch up. 

My room whereas is cosy and calm, quiet and alone, no one to distract me, secret chocolate stash, oh and my warm, inviting bed, my fortress of pillows, my sweet blanket haven. How did I end up under my duvet with my laptop perched on my knee again? Surely, this is not productive work. So, what is the solution? Only you can decide which is the best learning environment for you but working in the library may enhance concentration far more than studying within your four walls of procrastination. Put your ear buds in, sit in a quieter part of the library, face away from any distractions and you are good to go. It is often more helpful to distinguish between your ‘work’ environment and your ‘play’ environment. You might find it easier to fully activate your brain when you are surrounded by other focused thinkers, hard at work, in an academic setting.

Just as I think I have grabbed my lifebuoy in the rocky waters of that conundrum, the library seems to rise in another tempestuous dispute. Which is better, online resources or physical books? It is no secret that Cambridge provides some of the best facilities for its students. The internet can offer a vast array of different materials. Speaking for my degree, we can access Literature Online (LION), a virtual historical and literary timeline, Cambridge Companions, and as of late, the Royal Shakespeare Company Live Collection on Drama Online, through the library’s trial scheme.  In the library we can gain access to older material, which may not even appear online, or at least not in its entirety, and facsimiles of famous works. That being said, it can be quicker to take notes from online resources with a simple copy and paste. At the same time, reading a physical copy, rather than the online version, may unlock new levels of understanding, allowing you to absorb the words more, instead of hurriedly skimming your computer screen.

Clearly, this provides no concrete answers to these discussions; the decision is all yours. Library or room? Online or library? These are just two of the questions you should find yourself asking throughout exam term. In what ways can you improve your revision plans? How can you work most effectively? What simple changes can you make to your daily routine to improve your work-ethic? After all, it may be the small changes which make the biggest difference.

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