Super focused studying with StudyShare

By Guest Blogger

Eric Boekesteijn

How do you prevent students from getting distracted during studying and transform the library into a successful place for studying? Frank Verbeek from the Public Library of Amsterdam knows the solution.

The experiment
Ten o’clock in the morning. A room filled with tables, arranged in classroom fashion. Behind these tables are forty buzzing students. My desk is at the front. Behind it are a large clock and a blackboard with the rules. I explain those again. Talking: forbidden. Social media: forbidden. Entering late: forbidden. Leaving early: forbidden. Everything is forbidden, except studying. A different blackboard shows the study times. At 10.15: study, 11.00: break, 11.15: study, 12:00: break. And so on. It is time, the door closes. All eyes are on my hand, which overly dramatic moves to the bell on my desk. At exactly 10.15 it rings: ‘Ting.’ StudyShare is born!

The idea
The library is a popular place for studying. On a daily basis students are fighting an uneven battle against distraction, which lurks everywhere. At the end of the day they head home frustrated: another day wasted. StudyShare is the answer. StudyShare is the only ‘prison’ you walk into voluntarily. Once inside, you lose your freedom to be distracted, a freedom you need like a hole in your head. StudyShare is clear, simple and super structured.

In practice
Will it work? The first forty-five minutes feel a bit unfamiliar, but after that it all becomes clear. During study it is as quiet as a mouse. Each time after exactly forty-five minutes the bell rings, and it seems as if the students wake up from collective hypnosis: ‘What? Already?’ The talks during the obligatory breaks are about magic. Those forty-five minutes were… timeless! Elated, the students head home that afternoon. A boy jubilates: ‘Never in my life have I done as much as today!’
StudyShare, which I thought up in a flash, came in second at the annual Innovation Prize for staff of the Public Library of Amsterdam. For one week I could use an expensive room for free to turn it into a success. On just the fourth day, the experiment resulted in so many satisfied students and good publicity, that the manager decided to extend the experiment. ‘Frank, we have to continue this!’ he exclaimed after seeing the crammed room.

‘I am done’
Halfway through the second week, a student comes up to me. She had participated in nearly all sessions, every day from ten o’clock in the morning until eight o’clock in the evening. ‘Thank you so much’, she said, ‘you can give my spot to somebody else tomorrow’. ‘What do you mean?’ I asked. She explained: ‘I had to write my thesis, but I suffer from extreme procrastination. For months, I made hardly any progress. StudyShare came just in time. I have never worked as hard as in the last couple of days. My thesis is just about done’.

StudyShare expands
We have moved on three years. Thanks to experimenting and a lot of feedback from students, the formula has been further perfected. We have come up with an efficient system of ticketing that forces students to get out of bed early. They appreciate this. Incidentally, participation is free. Each time, we organize StudyShare during the period of exams, for about two weeks. The enthusiasm of the participants is our best publicity, but we also have a clever marketing campaign, a mailing list, and there is a Facebook group.

Fancy this in your library? Please contact us! We are happy to advise and tell you about things to keep in mind to make it a success. Also, you can visit our website: (Dutch) (English)
Frank Verbeek, OBA (Public Library of Amsterdam)