Students buy, sell library seats

By Zhang Wen Source:Global Times Published: 2012-9-25 22:20:04

As the school year opened this month, students returned to campus, friends, classes, and the familiar yet despised task of competing for limited seats in campus study areas, which some students are now buying and selling openly.

Recently, a college student in Ji'nan, Shandong Province, posted a notice in front of his school's library. It reads "Wanted: a person to help occupy a seat in a quiet study room at the library. Payment: 400 yuan ($63.50) per month," the Ji'nan-based Shandong Business Daily reported.

Many students seeking a space to study on campus face limited choices every day.

"Each morning I have to get up at 5:40 to line up in front of the library. I'm exhausted when I finally get a seat at 6:30," one college student complained on Weibo, China's Twitter-like site.

While some university libraries do not allow students to leave their belongings in study areas overnight, others have lax rules, resulting in many students camping out in the same spot for months, leaving a sweatshirt, books, or a water bottle to hold their spot.

"If I don't have a seat, I don't have a place to study. If I get a seat, I may become one of those people who leave their things on desks all day without using the space," a student surnamed Li, who goes to China University of Mining and Technology in Beijing, told the Global Times.

Some students go to great lengths to stake out their territory, posting signs reading "Voltage," "Wet paint," "Stay away: influenza," or "Seat with pins and needles" on desks and chairs in university libraries.

The practice of "renting" seats has become more common in recent years due to the dearth of study space on many campuses.

"My seat in the library is available for rent over summer vacation. Contact me if you want to take it," a student posted on the online forum of University of Ji'nan.

The problem of sufficient study spaces on campuses throughout China has also led to private enterprises offering spots in quiet rooms.

"We have five rooms ready to rent. Each seat costs 100 yuan per month. Students can study here from Monday to Friday, and drinking water is provided," a man surnamed Huang who advertised on, a popular classified site in China, told the Global Times.

Creative agreements

While some universities have put regulations into place to prevent their study facilities from being turned into a commodity, others struggle to control this problem.

In 2010, Wuhan University of Technology Huaxia College began requiring students to show ID to get seats in library study areas. Students vying for one of the 494 seats in the room reserved for those preparing for the national post-graduate entrance examination have to provide additional personal information. This year, the school's library instituted stricter policies, requiring students to sign a letter of agreement, specifying length of use and conduct, before being allowed to use this study room.

Peng Hanli, the school's library curator, told the Global Times that students are allowed to keep their seats as long as they are not absent for more than a week. Students who do not comply may lose their spot in the study room.

"We do this to make sure that all the candidates for the national post-graduate examination can study continuously, and to get full use of the seats," he said. When challenged over the library's decision to allow students to keep a seat they hadn't used in days, Peng provided several reasons.

"It would require more staff to clear out the many belongings left in the study rooms every day," he explained. "Also, students will likely cause trouble if they find things have gone missing. What's more, disrupting their study space like that may reduce their dedication."

This solution for the seat crunch has been appreciated by many of the school's senior students.

"We don't have to worry anymore about there being no seats available. The new policies have been really helpful," Huang Rui, a senior student, told the Global Times.

Issue of supply and demand

Cheng Siming, a news commentator commonly featured in online media outlets in China, such as Sina, and, said that the root cause of the monopolization of seats is the imbalance of supply and demand.

"Most universities don't have enough study facilities, so students are forced to find other solutions," Cheng told the Global Times. "The only way to address this problem is for schools to invest in more study areas for students."

Cheng said that universities must meet students' needs if they want to end this practice of long-term seat-saving.

He also pointed out that the growing trend of campus study areas being turned into commodities can only have a negative effect on students.

"Once public seats become privatized resources, students hoping to access study rooms, which are already in short supply, will see an even more desperate situation," Cheng told the Global Times.

"If universities don't improve their oversight of campus study facilities, the practice of buying and selling seats will never end."

Posted in: Society

blog comments powered by Disqus