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Monday, 7 October 2013

The Noise Library

By Ashika Pramlal

Shhh… how often have I said that to students to lower the noise level! So, like most Librarians I am “guilty as charged” of having done this several times in the Library.
Why are Libraries so loud?
Traditionally Libraries have been known as areas of silence. However, there has been a universal shift to the “new noisy library.” What’s interesting is that there appears to be an outcry from many people who believe that Libraries have let the issue of noise and disruption get out of control. UKZN Libraries are no exception to the rule. Across all our Campus sites we face the same problem and have to deal with complaints that the Library has become far too rowdy. Some contributing factors include:
  • Cellphones – this appears to be an essential item and almost everyone has one. The constant ringing and chatting on cellphones has become uncontrollable. Despite all the signage and constant warnings to students it is a “no win situation” for UKZN Libraries.
  • LAN – UKZN Libraries have LANs that are very popular and have become noisy as there is no staff to man these areas.
  • Technology –  the advent of Wi Fi, computers and laptops have changed the landscape of Libraries. This has resulted in the increase of noise levels as people sit around computers and laptops discussing and chatting, and communicating on facebook and twitter. This phenomena has become increasingly popular at UKZN Libraries.

Academic vs public Libraries

It appears that noise is largely dependent on the type of Library and the community it serves. Academic Libraries provide a space for studying, research and other scholarly activities and caters for the needs of the academic community. It provides a space for those wishing to work alone yet not in isolation. In many cases there are quiet floors for study and other floors for conversation. Unfortunately, this has changed as many academic Libraries throughout the world face the dilemma of having many more noisy levels than quiet levels.
Public Libraries on the other hand tend to be more noisy due to various factors. They tend to be smaller and be on a single floor. They cater for a diverse community which includes children, teenagers and older people. Both children and teenagers can get noisy and this filters into the rest of the Library and. in many cases, is unavoidable - creating a “noisy Library.”
Due to the many complaints Libraries have tried to curb the noise problem by introducing some of the following measures :
  • Silent study areas – many Libraries have created silent areas to cater for the needs of those who wish to study. UKZN has certain floors in the Library where there is a degree of silence.
  • Discussion rooms – Libraries have encouraged the usage of such rooms to help with the noise issue. UKZN libraries has discussion rooms where groups of students can work together on projects.
  • Security – an effective method of controlling noise is to have security personnel patrol each level in the library on a regular basis. Security is also essential when one needs to control unruly and difficult patrons. UKZN Libraries do not have adequate security at present to meet these needs.
  • Study cubicles –  at UKZN Libraries these rooms are allocated to postgraduate students for research and a quiet place to study.
UKZN Library staff are trying their best to contain the problem of noise. However, worldwide it appears that Libraries are being transformed into noisy social spaces. 

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