Tips and Tricks for Co-working in a Library

Adam hard at work at the Bigelow Free Public Library in Clinton, Massachusetts

Adam hard at work at the Bigelow Free Public Library in Clinton, Massachusetts

Having worked in libraries for a while now, and having worked in so many, there are a few tips we want to share. If you work alone, many of these might not apply to you but if you work with others or have meetings and phone calls, these should be considered:

  • The library can be your office - increasingly, libraries recognize that people are there to get work done. As a result, many have super nice study/meeting rooms,  laptops, desktops, printers/copiers - and even typewriters! The benefits of being in a library include access to primary source materials, databases and online resources. And there are perks, too, with some even having coffee available for a nominal fee.

  • Keep office hours - working independently can make staying on task a challenge. Treat the library as an office and carve out specific times for specific tasks, take a lunch break, get back to work and then call it a day. The library can help you establish a routine that’s might be harder to follow at home or in a coffee shop.

  • Choose the right library - the closest one isn’t always the best for co-working. Great case in point, the Wellesley Fells branch. Why? Because it’s designed for kids and parents. Working there - even on your own - just doesn’t make sense. Main branch libraries all have spaces for solo workers. If you’re going to actively collaborate with others, or make phone calls, choose one that has study rooms - good to reserve in advance if that is allowed.

  • Use your inside voice - the old days of libraries being silent sanctuaries are a thing of the past. In fact, many are unapologetically “loudbraries.” That doesn’t mean you need to add to the din. If you can’t reserve a private study room keep your voice down. You don’t need to whisper, but please don’t boom.

  • Use your phone sparingly (if at all) - unless you have a study room, you shouldn’t use your phone in the library. Yes, everyone does from time-to-time, but keep conversations brief and hushed. If you need to take a call, step outside or find an isolated (and empty) part of the building.

  • Remember that public libraries are public - it seems obvious, but maybe it isn’t? If you need to discuss private or sensitive matters, book a study room or do it elsewhere. A great example of what NOT to do was the man arguing with his insurance company over medical treatment. He may have been in a less-used portion of the library, but it was still a disruption. Likewise, if you’re meeting with your accountant, you may want to use a study room.

  • Be a positive presence - wow, what does that even mean? Simple, libraries are awesome places full of friendly people, kids, families, etc. When you are in a library, don’t be swearing like a sailor, shouting at people, being all negative. Take the time to say hello to the librarians, respect other patrons, etc.

  • You are not the only patron - respect time limits and other rules set forth by the library. If study rooms can be booked for two hours, don’t get all indignant if someone gives you hairy eyeball when you go over.

  • Clean up after yourself - simple etiquette here people. If you spill, clean it up, if you have papers spread all over the place, take them or toss them, don’t just leave them. As they say in the hotel business, “Housekeeping is everyone’s job.”

  • Consider contributing - every library needs funds, if you’re a regular patron why not make a small donation to the Friends of your local library?


These are just a few ideas - we welcome your thoughts about libraries as co-working spaces. Let us know what you think!