Library Etiquette 101: Silence Is Golden

Ashley Chang

Robert Frost once wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” My only wish is that they were soundproof.

Library etiquette is no new phenomenon. As children, our parents taught us to sit silently at weddings or church, museums and theaters. So why, as young adults, are some students in desperate need of a second course on manners?

Students find refuge in the library, an escape from chatter and noise from the outdoors as they cram for exams or polish research papers.

Then there are “the others”:those who rudely occupy valuable space to check their Facebook, feasting on chips and “$5-foot-longs,” turning the library into their own personal lounge.

Swerving through aisles in search of an available computer could be less maddening if the screens were not inhabited by music videos and games.

The library does not allow students to check e-mails or use Microsoft Word with computers located on the first floor, preventing many from doing legitimate work. Yet, there are no regulations regarding Web sites such as MySpace, which would rarely, if ever, be used for research.

Many are forced to locate upstairs where a limited amount of computers are provided. Lines inevitably form and people anxiously wait in hopes that one will become vacant before their class begins.

Meanwhile, discourteous peers continue to Tweet: “@library. Just taking up space.”
Social networking is more popular than ever, showing no signs of slowing down. For whatever reason, people feel the need to always stay connected, but there is a time and a place. The library is not one of them.
Obnoxious peers, who apparently cannot refrain from answering phone calls, should not disrupt those who are immersed in books, and who are focused and studious.

Your lives are not that interesting. Your neighbors could care less about what John said, or what Jane wore.

At times, study rooms seem to be the only place where peace and quiet can be found. Other times, music from next door can be heard so clearly you would think the walls were made of paper maché.

Librarians can be asked to quiet down a group, or students themselves can build enough nerves to approach those who have complete disregard for others. At any rate, either option is likely to be ineffective. Most are frequent offenders and have danced this dance many times.

Usually, once told to quiet down by a fellow student, the talkative bunch becomes defensive or out of spite, begins to speak louder. When a librarian confronts “the others,” they flash a smile and submit to orders, but the rude behavior resumes as soon as the librarian has gone back to his or her chair.

It is a game of stop-and-go, where librarians just stop by the disruptive people and go on their way, and students briefly stop their conversation and go on as usual.

What is difficult to comprehend is why, out of the so many places students have to “hang out” on campus, they choose to do so in the library. The library’s policy requests people to “speak softly, especially when using cell phones.” Wouldn’t it make more sense to ban it all together?

Speaking softly is relative. Just ask those who are forced to listen to the loud chatter.

Librarians are a valuable resource, made available to assist students in navigating periodicals and databases, not babysitting and playing “hall monitor.” Granted, an active attempt to implement the library’s policies seem to be almost non-existent, students must encompass personal responsibility.

As grown adults, Big Brother should not have to monitor Internet usage and our inside voices. Where some students practice common courtesy and make conscious decisions to be respectful to their peers, a selective few is sure to need a second course on library etiquette.