Answered By: Ewan McCubbin
Last Updated: Dec 15, 2017     Views: 57

Thanks for your You Said We Did feedback card last week.  Thank also for your kind words about our staff – we do try!

I agree, the problem of seat hogging is incredibly frustrating but what appears to be a straightforward problem does not have a straightforward solution – it’s something we’ve struggled with for years.

When we have asked students in the past what they think we should – e.g. should we remove belongings or do nothing? – opinion tends to be split.  For as many students there are like yourself who think we should carry out some kind of intervention, there are others who think it is their right to reserve a seat and that they are only doing it because they think the University hasn’t built a big enough library building.

During 2015/16 we ran our parking ticket campaign where we tried to monitor space (selected areas on different days) and on any desks that we thought had been hogged for more than an hour, we left a parking ticket.  It essentially was a marker to other students that they could occupy the desk.

Whilst this generated a lot of attention, it wasn’t effective in actually freeing up space.  There are two problems (which we did anticipate) – firstly, how can you be certain that the seat has been hogged for the time stipulated and secondly, students clearly didn’t want to occupy a ticketed space.  They want Library staff to physically remove belongings.

We have recently adopted a system of removing belongings in St Mary’s Library which has been successful so intend to do something similar next semester at Martyrs Kirk.  However, both of these are far smaller facilities so it’s easier to monitor the space and also more practical to remove items.  At St Mary’s, unattended belongings are put into boxes and left for returning students to collect at the other end of the reading room.

This is not practical to do at the Main Library and apart from anything else, we have very little space into which crates of student belongings could be placed.  However, we are still keen to move things forward and plan to look at this again next year.  It may be that the University invests in at-desk sensor technology which would actually show if a seat has been unoccupied (albeit hogged with belongings) for a certain period of time.  This information can be displayed online to students in real time and would complement our “How busy is the Library?” occupancy display.  If we could know with greater certainty that a seat has been left unattended for a certain amount of time, we could more easily intervene.

But this is a really tricky problem and one we have given a lot of thinking time to over the years, as have many other university libraries.  If you have specific, practical suggestions as to what you think we could do, please let me know.

Ewan McCubbin

Assistant Director (Public Services & Communications)

December 2017