Reading Environments at Dartmouth

Something that most people can control rather easily is their reading environment. A poor physical setting can make reading far more difficult than it has to be, and yet a little planning can get around most of the harmful elements you may find. It is a question of motivation. We usually can do what we really want to do! 

Environmental Factors and Reading

  • Lighting. Often it is helpful to do your reading- the bulk of it, at least- in the same place. Check the lighting there. Is it adequate? You should be able to see the page without strain. Does the light create a glare, or are you in the habit of reading in the direct sunlight? Either extreme-too much light or too little- can cause strain and fatigue, and lower your reading efficiency.
  • Ventilation. Stuffy rooms put you to sleep. You should have plenty of fresh air (but not a draft) and the temperature should be fairly cool.
  • Reading Position. Your position should be neither too comfortable nor too uncomfortable. The first condition puts you right back to sleep again. In fact, some people "read themselves to sleep" in bed every night- which is fine if sleep, rather than reading, is what you're after. An uncomfortable position can create a strain, however subtle, which results in fatigue.
  • Focal Distance. Hold your book at an angle and keep it about 18 inches from your eyes. Remember: Long arms are not a substitute for corrective lenses. If you need glasses, wear them while you read. Persistent fatigue while studying or reading might be Nature's way of telling you that glasses are needed. Have an optometrist check your close-range vision.
  • Distractions. Most important, what about distractions you can see and hear? No matter what you think, tests show that you can only pay attention to one thing at a time. If you sit near a door or window, every movement will claim your attention. If you have a radio or record player going, your concentration may continually wander from book to sound. And reading with the television going combines the worst of all possible distractions.
    • Give yourself every break. If you are going to read, prepare things so you can read unhindered. If there is something more important, put the book aside. There are times to read and there are times when reading must give way to other considerations

Great places to study or read at Dartmouth

Comfortable Places

  • Sanborn Library is located on the first floor of Sanborn House, which is next to Baker and features alcoves, armchairs, and an elegant atmosphere. Sanborn is one of the most quiet study, comfortable study spots on campus.
  • Top of the Hop features plenty of light, cushy chairs, and a beautiful view of the Green. The Top of the Hop has big glass windows that look out onto Dartmouth's campus. Unless groups are meeting to study together, the Top of the Hop is usually quiet and fairly empty.
  • One Wheelock, formerly known as Lone Pine Tavern, is conveniently located in the basement of Collis, on the other side of Collis Market. While it is sometimes crowded with people studying, it is usually fairly quiet. An added bonus – it serves free coffee, tea, and hot chocolate!

Places with Fewer Distractions

  • The Baker Stacks are famous for their austerity. Once you've braved the hike to the top floor, you won't be tempted to run any errands, so you can get right to work.
  • The Berry Stacks are a new version of an old favorite. The Berry stacks offer the same seclusion as the Baker stacks but with laptop friendly carrels and better lighting. There are many tables, too, if you don't like the seclusion of your own cubicle. Be warned though – the first floor is sometimes slightly noisier because of the people passing through and talking, so you might need to trek to the third or fourth floor for some quality studying.
  • The Current Periodicals Room is tucked away through the back of the News Room on the first floor of Baker-Berry. Tables in private alcoves give a sense of privacy, while the big comfy chairs on the first floor are a great place to do some reading. Large windows provide lots of sunlight.
  • Fairchild Tower is a place that is not often occupied except by a few science majors. Full wall windows, a quiet environment, and many tables lend a good studying atmosphere.
  • Feldberg Tower, near residents of the River Cluster, provides a motivational environment due to the presence of business-like Tuck and Thayer graduate students. There are silent study areas on the second floor; carrels and large tables are also available.
  • Rauner Special Collections Library holds the college archives. Rauner is not well known, so it is often quiet. Special care is taken to keep the library at a cool temperature to preserve fragile books, which makes this a great place to study during the summer. Rauner's hours, however, are somewhat limited, so be sure to check the website before you go.
  • The Reserve Corridor (Orozco Mural Room) is where textbooks and readings on reserve are kept. Students may read their course reserves within a two-hour limit. There are many large open tables upon which to spread out your books and laptop. Although popular in the summer as it is air-conditioned, the Reserves may be drafty in the winter. The walls of the room feature a beautiful, elaborate mural that surrounds you while you study.
  • The Tower Room is always silent and there are usually empty chairs. It is also one of the most beautiful rooms on campus and looks straight over the Green. However, avoid the Tower Room if you are feeling sleepy because the warmth and still air may lull you to sleep.

Social Places / Places to Study with a Group

  • Novack Café is located on the ground level of Berry and is a great place for those late nights. Open 24/7, Novack gives students access to public computers and plenty of open tables to study by yourself or with friends. The café itself is open until 2 AM Monday through Thursday, and sells plenty of caffeinated beverages and snacks.
  • Collis is often where you study for half an hour between class and lunch, or when you don't want to go anywhere distant. There is a constant stream of people passing through, including large tour groups, so don't expect quiet. Collis Café, however, provides plenty of yummy baked goods and healthy meals. You can also grab some sushi or other snacks for some late night studying at Late Night Collis.
  • Classrooms are the best place to study with a group of people. You can take advantage of the blackboard and there are plenty of seats for everyone. Some places to go for open classrooms include Dartmouth study rooms. These rooms are great for a private place for group work where you can talk without disturbing anyone and still be in the center of the library. A word of warning – you'll have to reserve one in advance.

Late Night Study Places

  • The 1902 Room is the best place to go if you don't work well in the social atmosphere of Novack but are not ready to abandon the library at midnight. Open 24 hours (with an ID), the long tables and bright lighting make this a good spot for a potential all-nighter.