You have two choices, studying at The Library, where you can access a quiet environment for concentration. Or, study at home and enjoy the comfort of your own space. This article gives you all of the pros and cons and lets you choose which of these is best for you.
However, in the end, your choice will likely come down to a single theme that distinguishes these locations.
Ultimately it’s clear that after analyzing these locations, studying at home is the better option if you have the discipline to make it work. This is because you need to be able to focus with so many distractions nearby. The library is more limited in most ways but it’s easier to focus there and thus requires less self-control for it to be effective.
Now let’s get into why this is the case by weighing the pros and cons of each location.
Pros of Studying at the library
The main benefit of studying at the library is that you just have fewer ways to get distracted than if you are sitting at home. There are a few reasons for this.
First, Studying in a quiet space simply gives you more control over what you hear while studying. You either choose to be in silence or you can wear headphones and listen to anything you want without the outside world bleeding in. This makes the library’s silent environment one of its biggest benefits.
Second, you have less access to distracting devices. If you have a TV, console, other computers etc, you won’t be able to use these in the library (obviously). This makes procrastinating on devices harder, although you can still do it since you probably need to bring your computer and phone with you. However, you can install blocking software on these to eliminate distractions completely.
Changing up your learning environment
Because of the rules of the library, its environment is one of the quietest available, and studying there will likely improve your grades. This is because studying in a quiet environment is similar environment that you might take a test in. Research indicates that matching your learning and recall contexts (studying in silence and taking a test in silence) has been shown to improve your grades compared to a mismatched context.1
This is about as good as it gets if you are planning on only studying in a single location. But there is actually an even better way to harness these environmental memory effects. You should ideally use the library as just one of your many studying locations.
Studying in a matching context is good, but the research shows that studying in many different contexts is even better for your grades.2 I wrote another article on the research behind getting better grades by regularly switching up your studying environment if you are interested.
So ideally you can use the library as one of your studying locations. If you want more ideas on where to study, apart from the library, I wrote a guide to study in a coffee shop. This way you will have 3 locations: Home, the library, and various coffee shops.
It’s (mostly) free
Out of all the places that you can choose to study the library is one of the cheapest quiet studying environments apart from home (if your home is quiet) or on-campus study spaces. You don’t have to buy coffee or a drink to study in a library which is a nice benefit, especially if you like to frequent the same study place every day.
However, you will have to pay for transportation if you are outside of walking distance, which is why the library is mostly free rather than totally free.
Your friends won’t find you
This applies especially if you live on campus. You won’t have your friends knocking on your door asking you to go out with them to parties etc. Becoming harder to reach in general is helpful when it comes to getting work done with high quality. Just don’t neglect your social life too much.
Access to library-specific resources
Having access to resources is something I almost didn’t put on this list since we just use the internet for everything now. But yes, there are some library-specific resources (like print books) available to you that aren’t available elsewhere.
If you need these resources then the library has a lot of value, but ultimately it’s unlikely that you will actually need these resources these days since we have access to them almost everywhere.
Cons of Studying at the library
You have to commute
One of the biggest downsides is that in order to actually get to the library you need to get there. Regardless of how you transport yourself around this is definitely inconvenient. For example, If it takes you 20 minutes to get to and from the library you just lost 40 minutes of time you could have been studying!
Breaks are hard to take
Another downside is that it’s harder to take study breaks in the library because you need to either bring a friend to watch your stuff or pack up and leave when you take breaks.
You can’t really walk that far away from the desk unless you do either of these things. Repacking all your stuff and finding a new seat each time is annoying and a friend could be distracting.
However, If you find that studying for a long session is hard for you, this actually might be a pro rather than a con. But even after you study for a long time you are going to need a break eventually and you will run into this issue.
Limited study setup
Another big con for me is that in a library your study setup is much more limited. At home, you can set up multiple monitors, a good keyboard and mouse, have a good chair, and have access to making drinks like tea.
There are so many reasons that the environment of studying at home is just more pleasant to be in for a longer period of time compared to the library.
The library has fixed hours. So if you want to study at an unusual hour then this location is off-limits for you. However, your university might offer different hours during the final exam season. Some universities open their libraries 24/7 at the end of the semester but for most of the semester, this won’t be the case.
Food or drink limitations
Most libraries will have restrictions on bringing in food and drink. You should at least be able to take a water bottle inside so you can have something but you will definitely still be limited in this regard.
If your library does allow for food or drink you will probably need to being your own food as well which is another downside. You shouldn’t eat out of vending machines.
Pros of Studying at home
Better studying setup
One of the best things about studying at home is that you have so much more control over your desk and chair setup. This setup can be dedicated just to studying and does not need to be rebuilt every time you use it. You can have multiple monitors, an ergonomic chair, a good mechanical keyboard, a nice mouse with a trackpad etc. These are just very nice creature comforts to have when you are trying to get lots of work done that other locations cannot offer.
The image above is what my studying setup looks like at the moment. I definitely prefer to study here rather than in a library stall.
Another benefit of studying at home is that you actually get multiple studying locations instead of just one (depending on your house). For instance, You can study in your room, the living room, kitchen, dining room (if you have one) etc. I even wrote an article on studying in your bed (although I wouldn’t generally recommend it).
Being able to routinely switch up your studying locations has its benefits, as previously discussed, but I also find that studying in a new environment is just refreshing. It motivating to be in a different space compared to the same one every time.
Taking a break at home is easy, but be careful with this, if you don’t have the discipline it might be too easy and your breaks could be too long.
But nevertheless, you won’t have to watch your desk or pack up your stuff if you want to go outside and go for a quick walk or just leave the room to get a change of scenery.
Food and snacks closeby
In addition to more flexible break options, you also will have better access to food. This is another option that requires some discipline. It’s very easy to procrastinate by telling yourself, “I’ll just make something to eat or drink before I get started” etc.
But if you don’t over-rely on the kitchen, you have lots of food at your disposal to make food and drinks as you study. These will also likely be much cheaper than buying food from outside.
Another pro is that your house is open 24/7 (duh) but you should still keep a consistent sleep schedule.
Don’t sacrifice something as important as your sleep just for more time studying. I wrote an article on the importance of sleep and how much you really need the night before an exam if you are interested in the specific reasons that you shouldn’t sacrifice your sleep for studying.
It’s (totally) free with no commute
Lastly and obviously, studying in your house won’t cost any extra and there is no commute so you have more total time for studying. However, you has to make sure that you are actually capable of using this extra time effectively.
Cons of Studying at home
While studying at home yields much more freedom, this can be a double-edged sword. To really take advantage of studying at home you need to have some discipline to make it work so you don’t fall into procrastination and distraction.
At home, there are so many things you can do and so many of these are calling for your attention. This is especially true if you use the same place for studying and entertainment (Watching youtube or video games).
On top of this, people who live with you including family, partners, or pets can cause distractions by making noise, or talking to you or each other when you are trying to work.
Having so much freedom with everything at home can lead to procrastination. Unlimited time and easy access to food and entertainment can all lead to you putting things off until later.
You need to have a schedule with dedicated studying time each day if you study at home to mitigate these downsides. Otherwise, you are sure to be less productive than if you had just gone to the library.
As an example, here is a screenshot of my actual schedule while studying online at home during the pandemic. The brown entries are the actual time I spent working, I use software to log these entries automatically. I always started my work around 7 AM and this did wonder for my productivity.
As you can see the cons of studying from home don’t necessarily need to be cons if you approach home studying in the right way.
I wrote an entire article going into detail on how I keep my work consistent like this using just 5 simple strategies for focusing while at home if you are interested in learning more about working from home as a student.
Studying at the library or at home is a personal one that should be made by comparing the pros and cons of each option.
Ultimately it’s going to come down to a balance between freedom and discipline. The more disciplined you are the freer and more relaxed you can be in your studying environment. If this doesn’t sound like you then the library is probably the best option because it’s harder to get distracted there than at home.
- Grant, H. M., Bredahl, L. C., Clay, J., Ferrie, J., Groves, J. E., McDorman, T. A., & Dark, V. J. (1998). Context-dependent memory for meaningful material: Information for students. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 12(6), 617–623. https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03197465
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