We’ve got a pretty noisy library at MPOW. At least, the part that I live in is pretty lively (when there are students around, which there aren’t right now, which is why I’m waxing nostalgic about noise). I don’t know who came up with the idea, but a couple of years ago they instituted noise levels on each floor and then furnished the floors according to the noise level.
Before continuing, you should know that our library is built into a hill, so people enter on the fourth floor and then work their way down to the first floor. This is lots of fun to explain to new students or lost parents. It reminds me of explaining the differences between catalogs and databases. It makes sense, but not much sense. In our defense, it makes a lot more sense than going into negative numbers, or sub-sub-lower-levels. Oh, and lest you think that these are basement levels, because we’re built into a hill every level has windows.
Anyway, on the fourth floor there are open spaces, grouped chairs and tables, all sorts of computers, printers, microform reader/printer/scanner/thingamies, circulation, reference and IT service (we call it the Research/IT desk), a huge smart board, couches, and lots and lots of noise.
On the third floor there are microform readers, a couple computer labs, our instruction room, some couches, tables, chairs, and study rooms. People talk, but not very loudly. The loudest noises are usually me teaching in the instruction room (my voice tends to carry when I’m teaching…) or the electric compact shelving beeping as students manipulate it or try to trap their friends in it.
Then you get down to the first floor… As far as I know, there is only one area of comfy couch/chair seating. The rest of it is wooden. The seating is fitting of the floor’s quiet level indicator: “Monastery Quiet.” People have to want to study there, and study hard. Whenever a reference question takes me down there (usually to government documents), explanations get difficult because it’s almost physically impossible to make a sound down there. As soon as you enter the first floor, an invisible hand seems to clamp onto your throat. If a noise does manage make it’s way past your lips, students, pale from lack of sun (and food, remember no food allowed), glare at you in the certain conviction that they will fail their comps because you just interrupted their thought processes.
So that’s the story of our noise levels. It’s pretty self-enforced, which is great. But the best part is that there’s always someplace to which you can refer students who either want more or less noise in their study-life.