University Post
University of Copenhagen
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The dos and don'ts of the reading room

Etiquette — Do you chew celery, eat herrings, or bang on the keyboard in the reading room? Then please stop. An exam-stricken student guides you through some reading room etiquette.

It hasn’t been an exam season if you haven’t sat in a reading room with the caffeine-shakes and a blank stare at today’s blockhead who reckoned that carrots was an appropriate snack for the reading room.

This is certainly according to the University Post’s own student fusspot. Here is her comprehensive, but not exhaustive, list of the reading room’s do’s and don’ts.


Food that is noisy or smelly

It’s a reading room cliché, but it is still true. Every exam season there is some poor 1st semester waif that forgets rule number one in the holy book of good reading ethics: Ye shall not eat carrots, or ye shall be exposed to eternal disgust and unfriendliness.

The rule also includes other crunchy foods like asparagus and celery (if you are the type of person that snacks on celery), and in the same ball park we find food that smells. At all costs, do not bring tuna, cheese or anything with curry. Even the mildest cheese smells after 5 to 6 hours in a lukewarm backpack.

Sometimes you have to resort to the trial and error method, because even food that smells heavenly can trigger sharp reproaches. Chances are that half of your fellow students have forgotten their food and are now not only fighting their discourse analysis and paragraphs, but also a stomach screaming with hunger.

…Perhaps you should just step out of the reading room and eat your lunch.

Loud footwear

This not only applies to high heels. Your I-got-a-job-in-a-ministry-or-a-major-private-company-shoes are also noisy. Very noisy. All the way down the corridor. All different types of what my niece calls ‘click clack’ shoes are prohibited. It’s actually simple: You’re not in the office and you’re not on a date, so stick with the sneakers.

Save the space. Not

Early to bed, early to rise, and it is actually impressive that you got up in time to get a hold one of the most coveted reading spots.

It’s just too bad that the last seemingly free space is occupied by your books that are keeping the space for you while you have taken a coffee break / gone for lunch / nipped to H&M to do some shopping. Ugh!

Unless you really do have asthma, you will simply have to learn to breathe through your nose

Taking up space unnecessarily

The University of Copenhagen has approximately 40,000 students, but far less than 40,000 places to study. Only an oaf decides to take up two seats. Or an entire desk. Or to put their feet on the last free chair of the room.

Letting off your frustration on to the keyboard

Your keyboard is not a rusty typewriter from the last century – and you don’t need to treat it like one. You are stressed, tired and frustrated, and it may feel right to hammer it all out on to the keyboard, but we are all in the same boat here, and it does not help anyone’s exam to disturb 25 other afflicted people.

You don’t write faster on the keyboard by doing it, you don’t write better, and it is no compensation for the fact that you spent too many hours at the bar and too few hours in the reading room during the semester. Sit back in the chair for a moment and take a deep breath. You got this.

Breathe like a 70s piece of pub furniture

Unless you really do have asthma, you will simply have to learn to breathe through your nose. Not only do you sound like a mixture between Darth Vader and yours truly after five kilometres on the treadmill – it’s also unhealthy.

When you feel stressed or breathless, your body pumps cortisol into the bloodstream. Too much of the steroid makes you more uneasy, nervous and tense (than you already are). But as soon as you take a few deep breaths, the amount of cortisol decreases by itself. You will be both calmer and happier. As will I.

Reading room: (PLEASE) DO

It’s not too late. Even if you have sinned, you can still put the carrot away, take off your heels and slowly (and quietly) gather your belongings. And if you remember to do any of the following before you split, you can leave with your head held high.

Stay at home if you are sick

Just realise that you are sick and take the day off. You won’t get anything done in the reading room anyway when you have to run out and blow your nose or constantly sit and snivel. Stay in bed, treat yourself, and entice your mum to drop by with some soup. No one in the reading room will miss your bacteria.

Fetch coffee for your study mate

Are you headed down for a caffeine top-up? Smile to the person next to you (or the cute girl sitting across from you), gesture towards your own and their empty coffee cup and then proceed to bathe yourself in their goodwill for the rest of the day. And who knows maybe it will be the start of a beautiful friendship.



Take off your rainwear outside

It is not only the reading that should take place quietly, but also your arrival and departure. Your rainwear and your huge winter coat with that janitor-sized bundle of keys in your pocket is making a noise. A lot. Just like everything in your bag does when you rummage around in it mindlessly. And so do your books when you choose to slam them onto the table, instead of putting them down quietly. Shhh!

Do a sound check

You don’t have to be musically gifted or technically skilled to do an audio check. The reading room audio check is done by simply double checking that the cord is plugged into the computer, or that the Bluetooth is connected to your earphones, before sharing your tender indie rock with the whole room.

It also shows your good taste and civility if you take off your headphones sometimes to get a feel for how much your study mates can hear, and then adjust the sound level accordingly.

Turn off the sound from your phone

‘Bzz bzz’ … ‘pling’ … ‘pling pling’ … Shhhh!

You get it, right? Phone interference is the worst. Apart from the fact that everybody mistakenly believes that it is them receiving an Imessage that could mean the difference between life and death, research shows that your IQ drops by almost 10 points as a result of the constant disturbance. I don’t know about you, but I need all my IQ points to pass this exam.

So, pretty please, would you please turn off the sound (and vibration) on your phone?

Use you brains

You are smart, you are a university student and you are an adult. If you yourself would be annoyed by the fact that the person next to you were eating herrings, then don’t do it yourself. And respect the signs. And use the bin.