What Your Library Playlist Says About You

When almost every mode of procrastination has been stripped away, where can the humble library user turn? When Facebook's once-fertile furrows have been ploughed and harvested until they're barren; when desks have been tidied, shined, and polished; and when Netflix has automatically played so many episodes of Dexter that it thinks you've taken flight, there remains that everlasting stalwart of multitasking joy: the library playlist.

Back in 2005 — several hundred internet years ago — the San Francisco Chronicle had to explain that, "Playlists are groups of songs a person can tailor to his or her own tastes or moods for playback on an MP3 player or computer. Those tunes are picked from the larger library of music that a person can store on a portable player or computer." Oh, how far we've come! We're not going to wade into a debate over whether listening to music improves productivity. (It sometimes feels like it does: "I'll just fire up Spotify, whack on some tunes and get right to it!") We shall, however, explore what your choice of library soundtrack reveals about you.

1. The Contemplator: Classical Music With Epic Strings and Rousing Orchestras

Turn on the gas lamps, dust off the tombs, and launch your gramophone screen saver: this pupil sees a potential piece of art in all their work. Writing an essay isn't simply an assignment. It's a noble pursuit. For this student, late-night essay crises are always the result of slaving away during the daylight hours, and never due to the lure of "fun."

2. The Indie De-Stresser: Soothing Piano, Acoustic Guitar, and Incredibly Sad Vocals

This occasionally twee and always earnest student prefers covers of good songs that have been improved by draining out all the happiness. Their hipster melancholy playlist is full of synth samples and dreamy soundscapes that rarely pick up the beat. Algebra has never been so moving.

3. The Optimist: Motivational, Feel-Good Hits From Motown and Musicals

These students choose anything and everything that makes them smile. Their personalities involve an enticing mix of bursting energy and crippling self-doubt. Their playlist includes guilty pleasures such as "Love On Top", and maybe "You Can't Stop The Beat" (though my personal go-to is "Ladies Choice"). Occasionally, they'll take the pace down with Etta James' "At Last" (potentially covered by Beyoncé), before swiftly returning to the (500) Days of Summer soundtrack.

4. The Practical Thinker: 'Far From Over' by Frank Stallone, On Repeat.

Copy, paste, copy, paste, copy, paste. That was me before I worked out that iTunes has a built-in repeat function. "Far From Over" is the ultimate motivational song. A friend of a friend (me) had a group of friends (my friends) who sometimes (always) would end up in the library at 4 a.m. trying to finish an essay before a 10 a.m. tutorial. When you're the only ones left in the library, the time is ripe to rip out your headphones and blast the searing riffs of this beauty as loud as your little MacBook speakers will allow. It's also great for a four-minute-long flash cleaning.

5. The Lost Academic: White noise, Tuvan Throat Singing, and 'Sounds Of The Sea III: The Emperor's Deep'

Stay away from this person. Throat singing may have been a moving experience at Glastonbury, but listening to it while writing an essay on Shakespeare's tragedies should make you feel distinctly panicked.

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James Carroll

James graduated in 2012. He most recently completed an internship in New York at the Clinton Global Initiative. He currently lives in London and works for a literary agency.

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