The Dos and Don'ts of Doing Homework at the Library

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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How to actually be productive in the library.


For college students, the library is the hub for printing and copying papers, looking for scholarly sources, and, of course, doing homework. Being productive in the library, however, can be challenging: distraction, procrastination, and exhaustion are usually associated with the library. Even the most dedicated lib-goers (library-goers) sometimes struggle with finishing all of the work that they had set out to do when they arrived at the library in the first place. Being a frequent lib-goer over the course of my undergraduate career, I have compiled a shortlist of what to do -- and what not to do -- in order to make the most of your time in the library.


Be organized.

Before starting your journey to the library, decide what you want to work on and what you want to accomplish. What homework is due the soonest? When is that test I have to study for or the due date for that paper I have to write? Asking yourself these sort of questions will help you prioritize your work. Prioritizing, along with figuring out how much time you have to spend in the library, will help you determine what to work on as well as what books and notes you’ll need to bring.

Take care of yourself.

The library is normally associated with stressful cramming and long nights of studying or writing. There are many ways to ease your stress and boost your morale. Listening to music, taking periodic breaks, and eating snacks are quick fixes to stay focused and get as much work done as you can.

Utilize the café.

If your library has a café, be sure to take advantage of it. The lib-caf at my school is my favorite place on campus because of the social yet productive atmosphere. The café is a great place to work on group projects because, unlike the rest of the library, talking at normal volume is encouraged. If you work best with background noise, no other on-campus space beats the lib-caf!

Work with friends.

Going to the library with friends is a great way to keep yourself motivated. Your friends make sure you’re staying on task and won’t be afraid to call you out if you keep procrastinating or talking too much. It’s also comforting to have friends with you while you work to remind yourself that you’re not alone. Doing homework is stressful, but knowing that your friends are in the same boat as you may ease your stress and provide an outlet for talking about the workload.


Overwhelm yourself.

Thinking about all the homework you have to do is stressful. Instead of thinking big picture, try breaking down your homework by class, time commitment, or due date. Which class do I have the most homework for? How long do I think it will it take? When is it due? These questions are essential for prioritizing your work and avoiding getting overwhelmed. While it is good to try to get as much done in one sitting as possible, you also have to think realistically about how much can actually be done.

Over-caffeinate or under-sleep.

While it might sound tempting, drinking too much coffee or losing sleep in order to finish all of your work won’t pay off in the long run. Neither practice is healthy for you, and oftentimes, you end up producing poorer quality work when you overdose on coffee or underdose on sleep. Aim for 1-3 cups of coffee and 8 hours of sleep per day in order to maximize productivity.

Talk too loud.

Despite serving a wide variety of purposes, the library is still a library. Whether you choose to sit in the café or elsewhere, you must respect others around you. Being surrounded by other stressed-out college students makes it difficult at times to remember the library’s rules, but always keep this one in mind to avoid being asked to quiet down by a librarian or fellow student.

Get too distracted.

Between music, breaks, snacks, and friends, staying on task at the library is difficult. If you find yourself procrastinating too much, try recalling what needs to be done in order to refocus your attention on your homework. Setting specific time limits on your breaks -- as well as how often you get to take them -- can help you focus as well. As for music, jazz and classical are common genres that students listen to when they need to remain motivated in order to meet the homework goals they set for themselves.

The library is a popular study area for much of a college’s student body. By staying on task, keeping organized, and using your support system of friends, success at the library is entirely possible!

Kelly Vena
The College of New Jersey

Kelly Vena is a senior at The College of New Jersey, where she is finishing up her English major and Communication Studies and French minors. She has worked as a marketing intern at Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishers, the high school textbook branch of Macmillan Learning, since the start of the 2018-2019 school year. Kelly has been a writer since her senior year of high school, and her poetry has appeared in two publications as well as multiple editions of TCNJ's literary magazine.