New Garver Room Library Policy Proves Difficult Adjustment for Students, Staff

A change of policy in the library’s Garver Room aims to provide a place for students to study in silence. But the implementation of the new policy has presented a challenge both for students, struggling to adjust to the change, and for the library staff, charged with enforcing the controversial policy. Until this year, the Garver Room was a location for “quiet study” – students were permitted to talk, but only in whispers. In a student survey taken last spring, however, many students said that they did not like to study in the library because it did not have a place quiet enough for serious studying. In response to this survey, the Dean of Students Office and the Deans’ Council recommended that the library change its Garver Room policy. Students are now required to be completely silent while in the Garver Room. Librarians and students alike have struggled to adjust to the change. “For the record, the librarians are unhappy too. We agree with the goal, but it’s not at all fun for the librarians to spend half their time asking students to be quiet,” said Director of the Library Elisabeth Tully. Ms. Tully added that she agrees with the goal of creating an environment where students can feel comfortable studying. “The librarians are trying to meet the needs of all students on campus. Librarians don’t enjoy having to constantly tell people to be quiet, but the overall atmosphere of the library should be a place of study. It seems, however, that there are different definitions of what that means,” said Michael Blake, the library’s Associate Director for Instructional Services. Some of these conflicting views were voiced in a Monday night meeting between the Student Advisory Committee and the faculty. “Many of the comments made by the group tonight were things like ‘Why can’t the basement be silent?’ or ‘Why can’t other academic buildings be silent?” said Mr. Blake. “These are good questions.” Claire Collery ’06, a member of the committee, said, “Garver Room is not inherently conducive to silent study. You are sitting at a table with five other people, three of whom are sitting right across from you. The room is entirely open so if somebody moves or stands up, the whole room knows about it. It is on the first floor, which is the noisiest floor of the library. The noise from the computer center flows right into the room, making an even louder disturbance.” The Garver Room was selected for silent study because administrators believed that it was the only area large enough to provide room for silent studying that could also be effectively monitored. The Student Advisory Committee proposed sending out a survey, similar to the one that was sent out last year, in order to get a better understanding of students’ feelings toward the library and the silent study policy in particular. If the results show a majority of students to be against the new policy, the silent study policy might be revised or abandoned. For now, the policy will remain in effect.