Hack Your Study Space

Although I’ve been working on an MLS for a little over two years, I’m still trying to improve my study space. While I plan to work IN a library when I graduate, my default study space is at home.  One thing I’ve learned in talking to my library school classmates is that there isn’t necessarily one best study space for every LIS student, or even for every assignment. How do you figure out your best study environment?

Where do you do your most productive studying?

During my first year of library school, I spent more time studying in the library, especially for the classes in cataloging and reference. Since then, I haven’t spent as much time in the library, studying instead in my home office, my cubicle at work, or at the home of one of my classmates.  I’ve tried other places too, from coffee shops to parks to different libraries, in an effort to balance the need to focus with a change of scenery.  The change of scenery is motivating sometimes, but distracting at other times. I never paid much attention to the music in coffee shops until I tried studying in one.  In my neck of the woods, the coffee shop music is too loud for my studying style.  I was surprised—and a little disappointed. So, I spend most of my study time at the desk in my home office.

The desk in my home office is a wide one (my sister says it’s perfect for writing The Great American Novel–maybe after I finish library school!), with a lamp near the right corner and lovely painting of colorful flower pots hanging above it.  My laptop is flanked by office supplies in a cup, my iPhone, and either a diet soft drink (one of the vices I’m having trouble giving up) or a cup of hot tea. My desktop is rarely as neat as it should be, but I try to start each new semester with a clear desk.

Does music help you find your study zone? (If so, what’s on your playlist?)  Do you study with the television or other background noise? Or do you insist on quiet when you’re studying? I usually prefer to have a quiet environment, unless it’s a breezy assignment. When I’m studying at home, sometime I find that a running washing machine and dishwasher help provide a comfortably domestic “white noise” while knocking out some chores at the same time.

Do you study better alone or with others?

Being an introvert (but just barely) on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m usually more productive studying alone.  Sometimes, having a study buddy has been motivating and helpful, but other times, we’ve ended up chatting about school and other things. One of the best decisions I’ve made in library school, though, was becoming part of a study group during my first semester.  The conversation started with one classmate, and the group grew and morphed as we took different classes over the past two years. Our group has small, ranging from 4-6 classmates, which helped keep study sessions manageable and often fun, meeting for dinner before our study sessions.  Although only three from our original study group (including me) are still in library school, we still meet for a “study group reunion” lunch when we can, a great way to network by staying in touch in person, encouraging each other, and celebrating graduations and new jobs.

What are your favorite tools of the (study) trade?

I do most of my word processing and spreadsheet work on a laptop at my desk, with my iPhone often nearby. Sometimes the iPhone can be a distraction (in which case I put it in another room), but often it helps. Right now, I have the Pomodoro Technique timer iPhone app running to help me stay on task, and it usually helps a lot. I also use Remember the Milk (the app and the website, which sync with each other) for task management, often creating tabs/lists for specific classes or projects.  I love checking things off a to-do list.

For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve had a thing for school supplies, especially pens! I must’ve enjoyed back-to-school school supply shopping from the get-go (who doesn’t love a fresh box of Crayolas?!), and I remember it being a big deal when we were finally allowed to use ink pens in school. So, I always have a cup of colored pens and highlighters, as well as pencils, near my laptop. I do get the irony of having writing utensils next to my laptop, but I also keep Post-its nearby too, for that fleeting idea that needs writing out, rather than typing on a list. My favorite pens? The Sharpie Ultra Fine Point and the Pentel R.S.V.P. are my tops on my list right now.  Much like reading a print book instead of an e-book, I still enjoy holding a pen and writing things out by hand sometimes.

What tools do you use for studying? What supplies do you like to keep nearby?


While a fair number of “Study Space” resources online are geared toward children’s spaces, here are some of my favorites that other grad students may find useful too:

27 Inspirational Homework Stations and Study Areas

How to Make a Study Space

Pinterest “Study Space” Keyword Search Results

YouTube Results for “How to Create a Study Space”

Where’s your favorite place to study?

4 replies

  1. I like the Pomodoro method a lot. Didn’t know it had an app- awesome! I study at home a lot, but in undergrad I used to go to the library with roommates and churn out work. I definitely work better alone unless it is like a library-buddy (like gym-buddy) situation. I use Evernote for to-do lists and personally like it better than Remember the Milk.


    • I enjoy Evernote too, mostly for brainstorming for papers and such. When I first started library school, I used Evernote for class notes, but eventually traded my heavy laptop for a pad of paper in class. Everynote’s great though–I have it on my home and work computers, and it’s a great way to sync notes.

      I’m also a big fan of Dropbox for syncing documents between work and home.


  2. I think that my semester has gone (relatively) poorly because I’ve been trying to do schoolwork at home. I need to get back to the coffeeshop!

    Tools: I don’t use pen and paper anymore (except rarely, at work), but my favorite pens are these: http://www.amazon.com/Stabilo-Point-color-parade-adjustable/dp/B000OZQB36. Color-coding can be very useful! I have an iPad for work — though I use it primarily for personal — and I use it to take notes in class (by hand, using the Penultimate app) and do reading (PDF annotation through evernote, which is a premium feature). And, let’s be honest, to play Candy Crush.


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