Quiet Study My Ass, Silence isn’t Golden in the Library

Last week when I had some down time between classes, I went to the library to study. I headed to the back of the library where a large whiteboard in front of a group of large round tables and couches reads, “QUIET study area, NO cell phone use.”

“Perfect,” I thought to myself, silencing my phone.

Immediately upon taking a seat however, I realized just how far from perfect — or even quiet — it really was. People talking on cell phones, people listening to music way too loudly, people studying in groups (which by their very nature are nothing close to quiet).

No studying was accomplished that day.

I was so irritated that I just had to tell someone, but all anyone could say was, “quiet study isn’t actually quiet,” as if I should have known better. My question is: why the hell not?
Really, there are two predominant reasons. The first is simple: absolutely no one enforces the rule of silence. The second reason has to do with why no one enforces the first rule.

Students don’t come to study quietly; they come to study together and socialize and the majority rules. The quiet study area is perfect for it. It’s big and uncrowded, large tables and couches are abundant, plus the lighting is great and there are outlets everywhere. On top of all that, copy machines and resource materials are easily accessible. It’s like it was designed for group study, and there is nowhere else on campus so ideal.

They should really just call it the group study area already. But then where would people study quietly?

What I discovered after scouring the library for a quiet cranny is that there are already two different truly quiet study areas hidden in the library!

The first is called The Sanctuary. Along the far right wall of the library I found two separate staircases, that lead only upward, with signs above them reading, “Welcome all who seek contemplation. The Sanctuary, our quiet study area.”

The Sanctuary had its pros and cons though. Pro: absolute silence. Con: if I so much as sniffled the death glares I recieved led me to believe I would suffer a terrible death by over-sharpened-pencil at the hands of a No Noise Nazi. The Sanctuary takes their quiet very seriously.

The second, more intermediate, quiet study area I found was tucked away behind the magazine section of the library. It was nothing more than several rows of single person desks with blinders on them. No one wished me bodily harm when I opened a bag of chips, but no one was talking either. It was the perfect balance.

If the library simply renamed their so-called “quiet study” as group study, students with nowhere to go could study together without disrupting any solo-studiers. Beyond that, putting up two simple signs pointing the way to The Sanctuary and the quiet desks would leave so many more students happy, quiet, and ready for their next class.


Thanks to Ms Oziel for noting there are situational definitions of "quiet" within the Howard Library. Most of the wonderful silences have gone out of our world, but it's still a virtue inside these four walls -- in some places, more virtuous than others. Because we serve more than one patron with more than one notion of quiet, we strive to offer a variety of options. The author masterfully illustrated several of these choices in the above article. There are more. Ask any member of our staff to learn about them. You may even find that quiet isn't the Library's best resource -- top 5 for sure, but far from our best. Visit us to find out more, and thanks in your interest in improving library services.

Chris Matz
Library Director
Shoreline Community College

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