Writing in the library: A story of exasperation

by Tegan Darnell, Research Librarian
University of Southern Queensland, Australia

As a research librarian doing a work–based Doctorate, with some work time dedicated to research, I thought I would find time to write. I even have time in my electronic calendar set aside for research activities. What I have found, however, is that a university Library is no place to write.

We work in an open plan office space, surrounded by our colleagues and in particularly close proximity to members of our work team. It is a great space to work together, to chat about incidentals, or encourage communication. I do not dislike it. In fact, I rather enjoy it when I’m busy answering inquiries or responding to urgent issues.

I have tried all the things to try and write.

I have tried:
• headphones
• headphones with loud music
• headphones with soft music
• wearing a hoodie
• wearing a hat

and even

• sitting under my desk with a laptop.

It doesn’t help. People can see me. They know I am there. They can say ‘Excuse me’, tap me on the shoulder, or send me an email – and they know that I just got it because it popped up in my notifications and they can see my computer screen…

It is no place to write.

I tried writing in the Library space. Surely, I thought, this would be the ideal place to write.

The private study carrels were all taken, so I sat down on a lounge with my laptop actually in my lap, ready to go.

“Hi! How is your research going?” someone asked within fifteen short minutes.

Shortly after returning to my writing, some students started moving the furniture around to set up a table for a group project. A few minutes later, the security gates went off. A small child took up residence on the lounge opposite me, rolling around on the seat. A student (and parent) snapped at the child and dragged them away by the arm.

The Library is no place to write.

Research writing takes focus. It takes time – dedicated time – and concentration. I have none of these resources in abundance.

I get out of the Library.

On campus is a small, abandoned office with carpet that lifts off the floor under the chair. The corridors here are silent, and no one ever pops in for a visit. There is no name on the door. There is no phone connection. This room is not connected to the heating or air conditioning system and has its own noisy air conditioner on one wall. I leave it turned off.

I turn off my email, and turn on an alarm to let me know when I can have a break to check for urgent messages.

Forty-six minutes of writing.
_____________
Bing dong bee ding! Bing dong bee ding!

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

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