Strikes and solidarity: where are my alternative study spaces?

October 2019 saw the UCU (University and Colleges Union), conducting ballots in favour of strike action and action short of a strike such as boycotts, regarding pay and working conditions as well as pension schemes (Edinburgh University). Edinburgh University staff voted 83 percent in favour of strike action, and 91 percent in favour of short of strike action. Consequently, the UCU has asked members to take part in following industrial action over 8 days, as of yet these dates are: 25th-29th of November and the 2nd-4th of December.

With these strikes coming up, many university buildings will be picket lined, meaning that crossing the entrances will go against the intentions of the strike. But what if you want to maintain solidarity whilst still working towards the ever looming deadlines and exam revision? If you do choose not to cross the picket line, there are many other alternative study spaces across the city that can sometimes provide a new and inspiring atmosphere or definitely provide the quiet and calm environment that the main library often falls short of!

Here are 10 of the best if you wish to keep solidarity with the strike or are just looking for some new study place inspiration outside of University:

1) The National library of Scotland
Situated a five minute walk from central campus and holding a copy of every copyrighted book published in the UK, you won’t be short of inspiration or reading materials here. As a student you can sign up online for reading room access as well as a special collections or map reading room. There are also public study spaces and computers too, all housed in one very impressive and historic building.

2) Black Medicine coffee shop
Merely a three minute stroll from Potterow, Black Medicine is one of my personal favourite study spots. If you work better with a background hum or chatter and sometimes a little music then this may be for you. WiFi can be variable but generally good and there’s even a worm eating fish to be distracted by. Clad in wood with plenty of downstairs seating and tables, this chic coffee shop provides a busy but cosy atmosphere – they even give free marshmallows with hot chocolate sometimes or vouchers and deals with the university. The coffee shop serves hot and cold food, very good soup and a range of drinks, but queues can be a little long at lunch time and remember a keep cup as they are very eco-friendly and charge a lot for disposables.

3) Napier Library
If you happen to be lucky enough to live in Morningside, just around from the Starbucks near Tesco is Napier University with a small library. This is also close to Bruntsfield and offers a perfect solution to working close to home, but not studying in your room. There is nothing to prevent you entering and a small but quiet study environment is provided which is useful to know about. Likewise, students from other Edinburgh universities can also come to use Edinburgh University study spaces on permission without a university specific student card.

4) Scottish poetry library
This is a less common study space in this city, but despite its rarity, it offers a modern, recently revamped
building in Edinburgh’s old town. There is even a terrace if you want to catch a few rays of winter sunshine. It is fairly hidden and less well known so it is likely that you will be able to grab a morning study space. Perfect for those who like some peace whilst studying and are not so fond of the coffee shop buzz.

5) Central Library
This was actually the first public library building to open in the city with elaborate and beautiful light décor. It is open access with free WiFi, different rooms and a variety book collections. You can take long tables with groups and come here even after the strikes are over and the main library study pods are all full. There are also smaller individual tables too, meaning this space guarantees to provide a space for all of your studying needs.

6) National museum of Scotland
The Balcony café here is just off central campus and a perfect place to people watch whilst studying in a chatty environment. There is plenty of natural light from the high ceilings with a wide variety of drinks and snacks. You can also pop into the museum if you need to survey artefacts, take a break or get some inspiration.

7) The elephant house
Who wouldn’t want to study where J.K Rowling began to write Harry Potter? Take inspiration from the very walls and air of this coffee shop only a five minute walk from Potterow. It can get quite crowded in the day but watching tourists take selfies at the shop-front may provide a welcome break from revision. It is quieter in the evenings and has a fairly large area at the back with single tables where you can draw from the literary inspiration and cozy atmosphere.

8) Brew Lab
A trendy coffee shop to form your best work in an exposed brick, industrial-chic environment. They specialise in single-origin filter and espresso coffee with some very good food. A must have to get the creative juices flowing and not being too far from your usual university study spots with the added bonus of the background coffee shop vibe. Good WiFi too.

9) Levels
Although still technically a university building, not all students know about this large café complex. Near St. Leonards Land buildings, Levels should be out of the main reach of the strike picket lines and is a very modern, well-lit and bustling café with group and single tables. You can grab any sort of food from a light snack to a home-cooked hot meal with free water infused with orange and plenty of space.

10) August 21
Situated on Causewayside, down from the university this may be a good bet for students living nearer the South Clerk area. This coffee shop has very friendly staff and some lovely coffee plus they don’t seem to mind too lunch if you bring your own discreet packed lunch. A nice and fairly quiet atmosphere to study in, but if you go on August 21st there are no special deals surprisingly.

So if you want to show your solidarity by avoiding the on-campus picket lines, there are lots of other cosy, welcoming and revision-friendly spots dotted around the city. If you’re someone who simply can’t work from home, there are still lots of study spaces out there!

Image Credit: Pexels

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The Student Newspaper 2016