Balancing the needs of students in the community college library space

As I write this, I’m sitting at the main service desk in my library. I can see all of the computers in the library from my viewpoint. We’re a small library on a small campus – but each of my 22 computers is in use.

Here’s what the students I can see are doing. There are students working in pairs, talking and discussing what they’re doing. There are students working independently on their classwork. There is a small group of students having a great time at the computers in the corner.

With all of this comes noise. Lots of noise.

In the rear of the library we have study carrels and tables. Many students are currently using these – they are attempting to use the library as a reprieve from the chaos elsewhere on campus and at their homes – yet I wonder how it’s working for them. Do they notice the noise? Is it bothersome?

How can we balance the needs of these varying groups of students in our very small libraries? We have no funding (or space) to build additional study rooms – we already have a small conference room (with no computers) and a very tiny “quiet” study room (that’s adjacent to my very noisy library instruction classroom).

It’s exciting to see so much activity in the library – but as a person that needs quiet to study, I cannot see how many of the students in the back are managing to get their work done.

How do you manage the different needs of different students in your library?

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5 thoughts on “Balancing the needs of students in the community college library space

  1. This post is going to make me sound like a mean-old librarian but I swear I’m not! I also work at a small college library (seats about 65 students). Two floors, one of which is a mezzanine, so noise travels far and fast. We completed a student survey in Spring 2014 and an overwhelming majority of student responses voted to keep the library QUIET. (We do allow whispering.) Yes, we go around shushing people, which I hate. I try to do it with kindness and good humor. As I tell our students, there are many, many places on campus to hold small meetings, study in groups, or hang out with friends and chat, but there is only one silent space with a calm and quiet atmosphere–the library. And we have to keep it that way. Although it’s a pain, we persevere, because our library is crowded! Our students are seeking out a tranquil place to study, even if they don’t want to admit it!! I’m loud, myself, and I get tired of whispering all day at work, but the students seem to really use and appreciate the silent space so we’re going to keep it that way.

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  2. I am currently retired but working part time at the library where I used to work.
    Your library sounds a lot like mine. Small with no real area for separate quiet study. When it got loud in our library, I would go around to the students who were studying quietly and ask them if the noise bothered them. More times than not I was told “no”. Many of the students were studying with music playing in their ears. When I did get complaints, it was from older students. When your space is small, there is really no place for students wanting quiet to go. You just try to let the noisy students know that some students want quiet and hope they go along.
    Our problem is now being resolved because we got additional space from an adjoining office to provide a separate study room for those who want quiet.
    Marilyn Carney

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  3. We also have a small building that was poorly designed as far as noise considerations go, so this definitely sounds familiar! Students are usually very good about self-policing their noise, and we tried to place the group work tables where the sound doesn’t carry so well, but every so often there’s a complaint about noise (usually after the fact, when we can’t do anything about it, argh–and, as a previous commenter said, it’s usually from older students). The quietest options are to use a study room (if available), use headphones and/or use a carrel on the second floor where the shelves dampen some of the noise. Which isn’t the greatest, but it’s the best we can do with the space as it was designed.

    But now I’m thinking I should poll the students on whether the noise level is generally okay for them… though we already know they want it as quiet as possible around exam time. 🙂

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  4. I also have a very tiny library (seats around 40) but most students at my campus want a place where they can study in groups. Because of the library’s size, it automatically becomes a quiet zone. I often see students studying in chairs in the mezzanine (it looks very uncomfortable) so I want to think of ways to convince them to come into the library.

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  5. Thanks for the great replies! Oddly enough on the day after this was posted, I had two older students complain about the noise level in the library. I was really surprised when they complained because it was one of the quieter times in the library… It seems like we need to do a poll of the students here too!

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