Sharing chairs in the UB

Last week, student party SOG handed out cards that students could use to share they study spots at the University library. The UB thought it was a good idea.
By Peter Keizer and Jasper Wesselink / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The UB hates it when students try to claim a spot by putting their things down, only to then spend hours hanging out in the hallways or the cafeteria. A short break is no problem, but anyone taking up a spot for too long gets punished. Student party SOG came up with an elegant solution last week.

‘Be fair, share your chair’, read the cards that the party’s members handed out to UB visitors. ‘Students often spend the entire day in the library. But anyone who wants to take a break or go for a workout loses their spot. You can use this card to reserve your spot and let other students know they can have it in the meantime’, says SOG faction chair Evan Clark.

The party initially ordered 300 cards, but an additional 200 has to be printed. ‘It’s been an overwhelming success. We’re going to be handing out these cards more often, and we want the UB to start using them as well’, says Clark. It is not a perfect system. It is entirely dependent on the students’ goodwill. ‘It’s about empathy’, says Clark. ‘And it’s a way to make a more efficient use of the room in the UB.’


Student Celeste Herwig (19) likes the idea, although she is not entirely sure it will work. ‘I wonder if people will enjoy only being able to sit somewhere for two hours while the other person is away, especially during exam time.’ Marthe Grotenhuis (25), who studies international relations and organisation, also thinks it is a good initiative. ‘But a lot of people want to keep their spots to themselves. They only take a short break and then come back.’

UB director Marjolein Nieboer discussed the idea with SOG on Friday. ‘We really appreciate the student factions brainstorming on how to find a suitable solution to people claiming spots. Apparently the ‘share your chair’ concept is working in the library in Utrecht’, she says.


The ‘Share your chair’ idea is not entirely original, though. Last year, communications agency Pan Art came up with the concept for the UB at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. ‘We came up with it, together with the UB in Rotterdam’, says Marcel Panhuis, director of art & account at the agency.

‘Due to renovations, they only had a limited numbers of spots for students available. So we came up with something that allowed students to see if a spot was open, and how long it would be open. We wanted to make sure that everything was being done fairly without the library employees having to police everyone.’

SOG copied Pan Art’s entire campaign, including the card’s design. ‘We saw that it was being used in Rotterdam and Utrecht and wanted to introduce it here. We heard about it when we were talking to students from the Erasmus University’, says Clark.

Panhuis is surprised to hear his campaign has been copied, but does not think it is an issue. ‘It’s a compliment, really. And the concept belongs to the Erasmus University. They differ from a strict commercial client, who would immediately turn it into a problem.’

Parking card

But in Rotterdam, the campaign has already undergone a change. In reality, very few students actually filled out the card. ‘So we’ve changed the design to resemble a parking card. You can turn the wheel to show how long you’ll be gone. If you’re going out to lunch, for example, you select that option. Students walking into the UB can quickly scan the empty spots, and the cards’ colours will tell them which ones are available. Green is free, orange means temporarily free, and red means taken. It’s a great concept. We’re optimistic about it.’

The parking cards will be implemented in late May in Rotterdam when the UB there is available again. A day later, the UB in Groningen will officially be opened. There is no news on whether the parking cards will be used there as well.


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