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Quiet in the Library

Is a library supposed to be a quiet place? I’m sure there are as many arguments against the library being a “quiet place” as I can come up with in support of the library being a quiet place and there are several forums online where this is debated.  I was surprised (showing my age) that there is a show on MTV called the “Silent Library.”  While I won’t debate this point I will point out a few changes in recent years.

Most library research is now initiated via computer and information is printed via a printer.  The clicking keyboards and motorized printers certainly add to the noise in a library.  Books and journals are now in eFormat and are accessed via the Internet using a myriad of devices.  Nearly everyone on the planet has an Android, Blackberry, iPhone or cell phone and they’re not afraid to use them.  Apple users please don’t be offended as I placed them in alphabetical order.  I exaggerate here but you get my point.  Use of these devices certainly adds to the noise level in the library.  Also either the work, the students or both are more collaborative than in past years.  Maybe its social networking but students tend to be in groups more often.

While I won’t directly say whether or not libraries “should” be quiet, I will speak to students’ right to a quiet study environment.  We all learn and study in different ways, some of us need quiet to avoid distractions, others of us need additional stimuli like music in order to work more productively.  There are areas of the library where noise is permitted, (the first floor) and areas that are designated as quiet areas (the second and third floors).  The library with the help of Public Safety tries very hard to keep the noise down in the quiet areas of the library and we will continue do this.  But I must say that this is really a patron and more so a student issue.  Students should respect other students’ right to study in a quiet environment.  At almost every academic library I’ve visited and the closest one I can cite is Daniel Library at the Citadel, students will give you “the look” if you talk above a whisper.  In most of the libraries I’ve visited, students have no problem asking you to keep it down, they’re trying to study.  The environment is quiet when you walk in and the quiet is maintained. Students actively participate in preserving and exercising their right to study and learn in a quiet atmosphere.

Unfortunately, our library seems to be different.  Students will often sit at a table in a quiet area and proceed to talk.  When asked to hold their voices down, students feel as if they are being harassed as one response noted on the library survey. Students will take a phone call to the hallway or the restroom but then proceed to talk openly with others in the quiet areas. Well what do we do, what can we do?

First let me say that “we want students to be here!”  This is your library. There is limited seating on the first floor where talking is permitted; however, if the library were twice it’s current size it still wouldn’t be able to seat half of the entire student body at one time.  So, we need to learn how to respect the rights of others as we coexist as well as we learn how to defend our own rights.  Most of our students ask for the library to be a quiet place for scholarly pursuits and they deserve this.

Next, students should feel comfortable “kindly” asking others to refrain from talking in quiet areas of the library.  Again this is your space and these are your fellow students.  If a student doesn’t feel comfortable asking others to refrain from talking, students can report the problem to any of the service desks in the library, email Circulation or the Research Desk, call 843.953.8000 or 843.953.8001 or chat with a librarian using the Ask Us feature.  Please be sure to give an accurate description of the area you are in so that we may correctly address the situation.  I don’t like asking students to refrain from talking as much as they don’t like me asking them to refrain but I have no problem doing so to protect the quiet study environment.  I also suggest asking student organizations to help.  Tell your fraternity, sorority, club, group, SGA, committee members and friends to help preserve the academic atmosphere in the library. This library belongs to all of us, let’s work together so that it helps and benefits all of us.

Thanks.