Thursday, December 04, 2008

Quote of the Week

The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history. - Carl T. Rowan

Considering that it seems most of my life has been beleaguered by our country being at war with someone, this quote reached out to me from the many quotes I pondered upon. In addition, the concept of intellectual freedom is one that has been explored in basically every course I've had in the PCC Library Technology Program. Without fail, from Circulation to Cataloging, it comes up again and again. One can try to run from such a concept but when our country whose democratic values have been founded upon the idea of having an informed society then it cannot be ignored.

Once again, the PCC Courier printed an editorial opinion lamenting over the noisiness found in the PCC Shatford Library. I felt once again they have misunderstood what the mission of the library strives for. Sure, there are some students who need quiet study areas. But others are learning through noisy group study. And if the library is indeed a temple of learning, who is to say it must be a quiet place all the time? I don't know of any actual church/temple that is always quiet. There is a time for quiet and a time for noise.

That is not to suggest that I don't believe that noise is not an issue at all in the PCC library at this time. But I do believe the PCC Courier failed to properly investigate what the Shatford Library is doing in coming up with solutions for this issue. One thing for sure is there is no easy answer. One may wonder why is there such a problem. Speaking with Mary Ann Laun, our Library Director, I found out there are a couple reasons why the library is so heavily populated and noisy at times. She stated that one reason is the library serves as an only open student lab for drop in use. Secondly, we are also a temporary "campus center" since there is no venue at this time until construction of the new one is finished. What was astonishing to find out from her is this: "This Fall semester, this library with 950 seats was serving 8500 students!"

Wow! That would definitely explain the incredible number of students served at the Circulation desk during the first few weeks of the semester. I remember days when it seemed you were lucky to catch a breath in between helping students at the desk. And all the shushing we would do as people would walk in. As things have calmed down, I find we still have to remind students to lower their voices but not as much.

Upon talking with fellow co-workers at the Circulation Desk, we were in agreement that the noisier patrons tend to be younger or older people. It didn't surprise me at all that the younger students would tend to be noisier due to my experience working at elemntary and high school libraries. Normally, when the school library is occupied by students it is indeed not quiet. As for older people, perhaps it could be due to talking louder due to hearing loss. I know I can relate to that myself as I sometimes talk louder than I realize due to my hearing loss.

Solutions in Motion
  • Announcements (which the students didn't like)
  • Campus cadets
  • New signage
  • Personal intervention service (if students come to the desk and complain)
  • Roving technicians

As one can see, it's been a trial and error process in trying to come up with resolutions that makes the majority of people satisfied. Please note that I said, the majority of people. In a perfect world, we'd be able to satisfy everyone but there are some that no matter what you do, you can't satisfy them.

On a good note though.....

Yesterday in LIB 103 Circulation class, our teacher and Access Librarian, Eric Hanson talked about this issue briefly. He talked about how there was one student who had e-mailed the library from his blackberry several times about the noise issue. What was gratifying to hear is that more recently the student e-mailed the library once again to say that he noticed the efforts the library has taken to make it an easier place to study quietly. So the efforts have not gone unnoticed at least by some!

Yes, we could tell someone to just come at a different time to study when the library is quieter like in the evening or on a Saturday. But perhaps that is not a viable solution for that student. I have to admit that I hear quite a few people asking if the library is open on Sunday but alas we aren't. I'm sure if we were open on Sunday, it would indeed be quiet then as well.

Mary Ann Laun also said that in planning the new building for the library based on what we know now, they would definitely have added way more study rooms. Hopefully, none of them would be right next to the lecture room in the library though. There's been many a lecture when the teacher has had to tell a noisy study group in the room right next door to keep it down. Even though we have study rooms, another issue is they aren't sound-proof. So that's another concern as well. It seems it never ends, doesn't it? But I believe that's part of what makes library work stay challenging.

The message I wished the PCC Courier could have relayed is this: We should all try to respect each other within the limited space in the PCC Shatford Library during this time as we reach our learning goals at hand.


Anonymous said...

Hi Evelyn,

A nicely written piece! This morning, for the first time, I had to raise my voice to crowds of people at the study tables and xerox machines in front of the Circulation Desk. It was the only way to address everyone who was being extremely loud. By being courteous with my words (but firm) the droves of people lowered their voices. I think they were somewhat shocked that I spoke so loudly to quiet them down!

Catherine Chambers said...

I admit I did not see the Courier piece, but I agree that noise is an issue, but I have noticed that the third floor is much quieter than it used to be and those who are talking loud, tend to have antenna up for library staff who are strolling by and lower their voices accordingly. For the amount of people in there, you guys do a really good job of keeping it live-able! :)