Ditch Starbucks and work at the library

Update: An interesting counterpoint here.

James Shelley wrote up his love of the public library:

“I love my local public library. I have full access to all the content here. None of this ‘Limited Preview’ stuff or accessible-for-members-only notices…The highly educated, the people who will eat supper at a soup kitchen, the recent immigrant — and everyone else, all of us — are here. And everyone seems to feel at home.”

I share his enthusiasm and consider the library a fantastic place to get work done. With that in mind, here’s a reprint of an article I wrote a few years ago on another blog: Forget Starbucks and work at the library.

Many web workers and freelancers like to get out of the house once in a while and set up shop at Starbucks, Borders or the local coffee shop. I did this, too, until I realized that there’s a much better – and cheaper – option just down the road. My library. Here’s why I love it so.

No distractions

Starbucks is erupting with distractions. The first is the music. I like to listen to music when I work, but it’s got to be instrumental. If a song has lyrics, I’ll pay attention to them. Don’t get me wrong, the music at these places is great, but not while I’m concentrating. On the other hand, the library is as quiet as…well, a library.

There’s also several conversations within earshot, other people clacking away on their keyboards…one time a woman asked me to troubleshoot her connectivity issues. Sorry, lady, but I’m trying to work here.


The library is free. Places like Starbucks and Borders charge for Wi-Fi access, not to mention the drinks and food. I don’t know about you, but I can’t sit in a coffee shop without ordering something. And then something else. And something else. If you’re doing life-sustaining work as you sit there, you’re eating and drinking some of your own profits.

Room to spread out

The coffee houses in my neighborhood have these tiny, round tables that seem barely larger than my MacBook Pro. Forget trying to add a mouse, a drink and some papers. The library offers huge, flat tables that beg, “Come, dump out all your stuff!”

Phone calls

I know what you’re going to say. “But I can make phone calls in the coffee shop. Not the library.” It’s true that cell phones are not allowed in most libraries. I’ve got to stand in the entrance way to use mine. However, it has been my experience that the coffee shop is so noisy, I end up going outside to take a call. So there’s really no difference.

I know that it’s the hip thing to be seen writing in public, but the library is the best place to do it. Give it a try.