The Library Battleground

Daisy unpacks the chaos of being a student in deadline season at the Main Library.

There has never been a time when the Main Library needed the (mysteriously gone but never forgotten) lobster more. The chaos of the library in St Andrews is at an all-time high. I’ve officially graduated from the unproductive Pret study days of first year and have found solace in the main library as a place to actually do my reading without having “oat latte” yelled in my ear every other minute.


As a now avid library go-er, I’ve never been so glad to have a place where I can rest assured that I’ll actually finish a deadline or two before the sun rises. However, I quickly became introduced to the drama and politics that is the Main Library. Specifically, in fall of 2022.


From the opening hours to the construction and the silent zone, there’s no shortage of complaints and debates on who’s right, who’s wrong, and what the university is doing (or not doing) to fix the situation.


When the new year started, things were looking up. The library released a statement on “you asked”, “we delivered” initiatives which ranged from the installation of gender-neutral toilets to better heating and eating spaces.


While these efforts were creditable to the general student public, there was immediate backlash when they realized what they had to give up for these refurbishments to be completed. And more importantly, at what hours they had to bring in the construction team with drills, hammers, saws— sounding like we’re transported to the streets of New York.


Credit: Daisy Finefrock


Students took to St Fessdrews to angrily post, saying “why tf is the uni employing builders to work at 1AM in the library” and how the sound of sniffling is drowned out by “constant drilling in the library!” Although there’s no ideal time to carry out the construction, students find themselves upset with impending deadlines, looming exams and the sound of drilling echoing throughout the walls of the library. What was once a quiet and focus intensive zone, has now become a constant murmur of metal and tools clanking.


The university vice-principle Tom Brown noted that “libraries are at the heart of the university” which means that “it was necessary to enable the essential refurbishment works to begin and to deliver a world-class library service.” While there never would be a perfect time, students complain that the construction, which often doesn’t start till evening, disturbs those who are working towards pressing deadlines.


Let’s be honest, those who are sitting in the library past midnight are in an emotionally exhausted state with Sainsbury snacks strewn across the table and a half-written essay in front of their overheated laptop. And I say this as someone who is currently sitting on ground floor at a lovely 1:43am with the hum of construction workers stomping a few yards away.


Credit: Daisy Finefrock


The wars and debates of what silence means are where people have the most to say. While it personally doesn’t affect me as much, with noise cancellation earphones and music on full blast, it can be detrimental to the studies of those who struggle to focus.


When scrolling through your Facebook feed (as any St Andrews student soon becomes accustomed to), you’ll surely be bombarded by a swarm of posts with words like “silent zone”, “coughing”, and “construction” being thrown around. There’s never been a worse time to have the sniffles in this town than now, with a mere cough or sneeze sending you into exile. One student anonymously posted, “wear a face mask in the library or stay home if you’re hacking up a lung.” Comments like these have become routine, with targeted messages firing every day.


Whether it’s calling out a particular girl’s sweater who typed loudly or shaming the guy eating a carrot on the fourth floor, the posts are comically aggressive. Suddenly, it is a sin to be sick and God forbid you’re caught red handed by the silent zone text police.


Credit: Daisy Finefrock


Let’s say you want to escape the drama and politics of the top floors and venture into the casual ground floor study spots… that is, if you’re able to find one. As one student posted how ridiculous it is that “the uni expects 10,000 people to work in study spaces designed for about 3,000.” While we can commend the efforts of the refurbishments to add extra seats, in the meantime, it makes studying a little less than convenient. At random times, an entire section of the library will be cut off with construction zones which pushes people to overcrowd tables and sit on couches trying to work.


Amidst all of the issues within the Main Library, no one can be too upset with the situation, given that it is the only library that has opened its hours till 2am. Cafes and study spaces in town close in the late afternoon which leaves an astounding lack of options. Even if there’s construction, overcrowded hordes of students, and subtle aggression, it really is the best choice for those late night study seshes. One can only hope that once all this uproar dies down, that a 24-hour library is in St Andrews’ horizons.



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