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February 26, 2013 - 10:28pm

Sophia's Study-A-Blog: Studying in solitude


During my time in Germany, I’ve found that one of the greatest differences is the library culture. Germany is extremely strict; We aren’t allowed to bring any food inside the library, only water, which must be in clear bottles. This is in huge contrast to the U.S., where I’m used to bringing whole meals and big cups of coffee to consume while I study. But I wouldn’t say this is just an inconvenience, it has its upsides as well. For example, this policy gives students an excuse to go outside and take coffee breaks.

When I study with my roommate, coffee breaks are the only time I see him. We never sit together because he likes the “computer free zone” of the library since computer noises distract him. Such zones are smaller, but about as densely filled as the “computer-present zone.” I don’t think these zones exist in American libraries and honestly they confused me at first. Why would someone want to avoid using a computer?

As illustrated by the last example, German libraries are silent. At Michigan, we have the quiet Graduate Library, as well as the louder UGLi. In German libraries, there are also two sound setting – quiet, and deathly silent. You won’t see any welcome distractions in the German libraries like coffee shops or the therapy dogs we have at Michigan during finals. In fact, when I studied at what I thought was a quiet library, my roommate complained that it was too loud. And if the silence in the “deathly silent” library isn’t enough for you, you can always buy earplugs from a vending machine for a euro.

Anyways, though the library situation has taken some getting used to, it’s something that I will definitely miss when I return home. It’s just so German, or at the very least, un-American. It makes me reconsider American library culture as well. I can easily imagine a German talking to friends or parents back home and saying “these Americans bring dogs and sandwiches into the library. It’s so strange.”

Sophia Kotov can be reached at