"More than machinery, we need humanity."

How to Reserve a Seat in a Library

Not unlike New Year’s Day, the start of the academic year is a time during which many people try to establish the routines and behaviors that they hope to stick with for the rest of the year. People purchase planners, people set their alarm clocks to go off early, people carefully divide their days into blocks of time to be devoted to specific activities, and so forth. For many people the development of these behaviors also involves picking particular places that are well suited for these various practices; and one such place is the library. And yet, to be frank, for many a person there are simply certain spots in the library that are preferable to others. Thus, these early weeks become an important time to try to lay claim to the desired spot in the library.

What follows is a carefully constructed guide for reserving a spot in the library. As with all of our carefully constructed guides, take (or ignore) this advice at your own peril.



Obviously, the first thing that you will need to do is to select the spot in the library that you would like to reserve for yourself. You should not approach this decision casually. Truly, it may be one of the most important decisions you make all year! And as this guide demonstrates, as the year goes on it will be harder and harder to select a new spot (as most of them will have already been claimed by others). Therefore, you must select wisely. Here are some of the factors that you may wish to consider as you make your selection:

– Access to power outlets,

– Table size,

– Overall comfort of the chair (or couch),

– Degree to which this part of the library is haunted,

– Proximity to windows,

– Extent to which this part of the library is generally used for socializing or studying,

– Proximity to the nearest bathroom,

– Relative privacy of this spot,

– Access to the microfilm readers,

– The sort of food and/or beverage are permitted in this area,

– Number of eldritch runes carved into the table,

– Proximity to photocopiers,

– General crowdedness of this area,

– Position in relation to the library shelves to which you need regular access,

– Location of the nearest emergency exit,

– Proximity to that librarian who is always grumbling about something,

– Chance that other library patrons will want the same spot,

– [insert your own particular concern here].



Having selected your desired spot, it will now be necessary to try it out so as to ensure that it actually satisfies your needs. Wiser people than you have picked a spot, fought diligently to secure it as their own, only to realize after a week that the chair is actually very uncomfortable or that the microfilm readers are not quite as close as was desired. For these purposes you will want to play act the various types of activities you will be performing in this spot. However, you do not want to get too carried away in actually doing things there. Remember, the whole point is to test the space out – and if this space is not going to satisfy your needs you will want to figure that out quickly so you can find another space before they are all taken. Ideally you should be able to test out a space in under fifteen minutes. If after the fifteen minutes have passed you feel a desire to stay put, it is therefore likely that you have found a satisfactory spot. But if there is even the slightest doubt in your mind, or your body, after those fifteen minutes have passed you should begin searching anew. And do not allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of satisfaction simply because you are tired. Think of this kind of like “speed dating,” only do not actually think of it that way, as that would be silly and this sort of selection deserves to be approached with the utmost seriousness.



You should repeat steps 1 and 2 until you are confident that you have found your proper place. It is important to remember that this is not about finding your place in the universe, or your place in an existential sense, but merely about finding a good spot in the library. If you are really focused on finding your place in an existential sense you may want to peruse the philosophy section of the library; however, you can wait to do that until after you’ve claimed a good spot.



Congratulations! If you have made it to this step it means that you have picked a spot! Many a library is filled with lost souls who are caught perpetually wandering between steps 1 and 2 (to say nothing of those who get bogged down in step 3 [such people are often referred to as “graduate students,” the poor souls]). Having selected your spot, you will now want to get to know it better. If despite being cautioned not to think of step 2 as being akin to speed-dating you did so anyway, then you should think of this step as being akin to actually going on a real date; however, you should not think of it that way, because that would be ridiculous. Moving on, you will now want to genuinely spend some time in and with your selected spot. Ideally you will want to present yourself to the spot as you truly and genuinely are. Certainly, you will be tempted to approach the spot in such a way that highlights your best qualities as a library user (your alertness, your diligence, your focus on the task at hand), but be honest with the spot and yourself. You don’t want to get locked into something based on the premise that you are going to use this space for reading four books a day, when in actuality you’re going to mainly read the news on your phone or take naps. It is not too late to return to step 3! But now that you have picked a spot you need to be sure it’s the right one. Read that book! Take that nap! Time how long it takes you to get to the microfilm machine while moving at a brisk pace! Carefully examine the table for evidence that occult rituals have been performed here! Listen closely to determine if this is really a “socializing” or “studying” section of the library! If you know that you have chosen correctly you may advance to the next step, if not…well…you had better return to step 3, though you may want to reevaluate step 1 as well.



Now that you have selected your spot it is important to make it clear to one and all that this spot is yours. It is reserved for you and you alone! And you need to make it clear that you will find it unacceptable if someone else is using it (more on that later). Yet, before we discuss how you should mark this spot as reserved for you, it is important to clarify some of the things you should not do to show that it has been reserved for you. It must be emphasized, doing any of the following things may result in you being permanently banned from the library (or worse).

– Do not carve your name into the table,

– Do not “mark” your spot in the way that a dog might “mark” their spot,

– Do not cover the desk in fake runes in an attempt to dissuade others from using it,

– Do not hang a “maintenance needed” sign on your spot when you’re not using it,

– Do not hide a tape recorder playing “ooooo”ing sounds under the chair to convince others that the spot is particularly haunted,

– Do not attempt to bribe a librarian,

– Do not have a mannequin made in your likeness that you position in the spot when you are not there,

– Do not hire a Freshman to sit in your spot when you’re not using it,

– Do not install electrified fences around your spot,

– Do not bring in a guard crocodile (or a guard alligator),

– Do not decide that your spot in the library is your new apartment,

– Do not hack the library’s website in order to add a section stating that a given spot is reserved just for you,

– Do not put a traffic cone on the seat.



What, then, is an appropriate way to claim your spot? Frankly there is only one – unless you unwisely want to run the risk of being permanently banned from the library which defeats the whole purpose of trying to guarantee your spot there. And that one way is to use your spot so consistently that other regulars to the library come to think of that spot as yours. To achieve this, you will need to arrive at the library when it opens, beat a hasty path to your chosen spot, and proceed to occupy it for the span of hours for which you feel you will want it. And then you will need to do this the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and the day after that, and… Rigorous scientific studies (that have been successfully replicated) have agreed that a library user needs to consistently use the same spot for 23 days (with the only breaks being weekends and national holidays) if they want to make it clear to other library patrons that a spot is reserved for them. In this period, it is important not to merely plant yourself in your chosen spot and scowl at all who dare come near, rather you will want to (at least make it look like you) work in that spot. And you will need to allow yourself to be seen working in that spot consistently. Thus, it is not sufficient for you to mainly show up to the library at your leisure, casually saunter to your chosen spot, and hope to find it unoccupied. If you want the spot to be yours, you must sit there as much as possible.



As you go about establishing that your seat is truly yours, you should also make yourself aware of what other nearby seats have been similarly claimed by others. On the one hand this will allow you to have a backup spot at the ready in case some miscreant has taken your spot (more on that later), but more importantly it will allow you to form alliances with other library users. Such mutually beneficial arrangements may mean throwing a coat over a chair if someone is running late, or placing some books on a spot to make it look as if the regular occupant has just temporarily run to the bathroom, or it could simply take the form of politely telling a would be interloper that this space has been taken. Importantly, if you choose to enter into this sort of a cooperative relationship with other library regulars you will be expected to defend their spots just as you would expect them to defend yours; however, it can be worth it. Few things will bolster your argument that a seat is yours quite like having other library patrons willing to attest to the fact that a given seat is yours.



If you are bold enough, imagine this horrifying scenario: you arrive at the library and make a line for your regular spot. Your bag thumps against you as you walk, reminding you of how much work you are carrying to your chosen place. Yet as you draw nearer to your carefully chosen haven of efficiency you notice that [gasp] the seat is currently occupied! And not by an ally reserving the spot for you, or by the realistic looking mannequin you use to hold the spot when you’re not there, or by your identical twin lost who you had feared was lost at sea, but by that horror of horrors – another library patron. Clearly this individual is not a regular in this section and therefore does not know that this space is yours, and clearly your allies failed in holding the spot for you or in persuading this knave that the spot was not open for the taking! What then are you to do?



Here are some unacceptable things to do:

– Hover,

– Glare at them,

– Convince them that one of the librarians is looking for them,

– Challenge them to a duel,

– Tell them that they have to move,

– Challenge them to a battle of wits,

– Whine about it,

– Challenge them to a dance-off,

– Tell them that you have formally reserved the spot for a group meeting (unacceptable if it’s untrue).



Here are some acceptable things to do:

– Find another spot,

– Politely wait for them to finish with the spot,

– Perform the ritual to contact the unspeakable eldritch deity with whom you had bargained for the spot and insist that this being of unfathomable terror hold up its end of the bargain,

– Offer them somewhere between five and fifty dollars to move,

– Tell them that you have formally reserved the spot for a group meeting (this is acceptable if it’s true).



Let us assume that you have found a spot, successfully executed the steps on this list in painstaking detail, and generally have found yourself enjoying your seat of choice for several days/weeks/months. And then suddenly…[gasp]…something happens that convinces you that this spot will not do! Perhaps construction is occurring nearby that is making this spot much louder than you find acceptable, perhaps the library has decided to move the microfilm readers to another section of the library and this spot is no longer as close to those sacred machines as you wanted, perhaps you are reevaluating your life – regardless of the particular reason, something has happened that has made it so that the spot you have chosen (a spot you have fought for [but not literally fought for]) no longer meets your needs! What to do? Alas, you have no choice but to go back to step 1, or you can try and find another library user who has become dissatisfied with their reserved spot and work out a swap. However, dear reader, be warned. As the semester goes on it will become harder and harder to find a new spot – especially once the weather turns cold and those who enjoyed reading outside are driven to seek reading spots inside the library. All of which is to say, your choice of spot should not be taken lightly! But what are you doing still reading this, don’t you have a spot in the library to reserve?



Also, some libraries genuinely do allow patrons to reserve desks. If you want to know how to do that, you should check the library’s website or talk to one of the librarians there.


More advice of questionable merit:   

How not to ruin a book!

How to sleep in a library!

How not to be seen while in a library!

How to gut a book!

How to grade assignments in a library!

How to make the most of your trip to an archive!

How to read a large book while riding on public transit!

How to defend yourself with a book!

How to move a large quantity of books!

How to keep what you’re reading secret!

How to organize your library!



About Z.M.L

“I do not believe that things will turn out well, but the idea that they might is of decisive importance.” – Max Horkheimer @libshipwreck

2 comments on “How to Reserve a Seat in a Library

  1. Pingback: How to stay cool in a library | LibrarianShipwreck

  2. Blessing
    February 21, 2023

    😂😂😂 hilarious! This is beautifully written. Thank you.

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