In the past few years, St. Thomas More has experienced a few major changes: new food in the cafeteria, a great new addition to our school being built and the ability to use cell phones and electronic devices in the hallways, to name a few. However, one of the best and worst changes, in my opinion, is the noise level in the library.
I`m sure everyone knows what I`m referring to; the level of chatter in the library rivals the noise in the cafeteria. Both are just as crowded during third and fourth periods. Long gone are the days when even the slightest utterance could earn you a stern “shush.” This is a result of a government mandate which has changed the purpose of the library from just silent studying to a spot where groups can converse and collaborate.
“As of a few years ago, the new mandate for libraries was to make them very much a collaborative experience,” explained Mr. Luvisa, the school’s head librarian. According to Mr. Luvisa, the library is supposed to be "...a hub of the school where kids can go for a little bit of socializing, a little bit of work on the computer and school work, obviously. Because of that, we allow for them to come in and work in groups, chit-chat and talk. We’ve gotten away from that silent library and allowed kids to come in and collaborate.”
This change was very well-received by students when it was first put into practice. They were free to chat as they worked on homework or projects, which was great when sitting at a table with your friends. But the level of noise in the library has become a problem.
“It’s very loud. It’s louder than it should be for a normal library. I think people just use the library as a hangout spot now more than somewhere to actually sit down and do their work and it’s irritating,” said Karyn Mukiri, a grade 12 STM student.
This sentiment is mirrored by many other STM students, myself included. During prime lunch hours, the library is so loud people can barely hear themselves think. Homework is nearly impossible to complete and space is limited if one doesn’t claim a table as soon as the bell rings. It almost seems to have become a second cafeteria.
Of course, the library isn’t always that loud. During second period, the library is exactly how it should be; a low and tolerable hum of chatter and plenty of room at tables or computers to do work, throughout the period. The volume only seems to increase during third and fourth period, which makes sense considering those are the lunch hours for most of the school’s population.
Though I could not find an exact number of students, it is easy to see that third and fourth lunch is highly populated and for good reason. Second lunch is reserved for senior students only, so the rest of the school must be lumped together on third and fourth. The cafeteria is packed at all times during these periods. If you take longer than five minutes to get from your second or third period class to the cafeteria, you’re probably not going to get a table. The same can be said for the library in these periods but it is evident that many of the library’s patrons aren’t there to study.
Groups of students flock to the library simply to talk without bothering to attempt schoolwork, which leads me to believe that the library is just being used as a place to house the overflow from the cafeteria. Those who don’t manage to get a table in the cafeteria have no other place to go other than outside as the forum and hallways are off-limits for most of the period. This overcrowding, in my opinion, is a huge factor in the noisiness.
And this noise is quite annoying.
It was and is a great idea to allow students to have conversations while working in the library. It simply isn’t realistic to assume that people can work silently on homework when sitting with others. But students have gone too far; they are abusing this new-found privilege. Students who are actually trying to do school work are suffering because of the distracting commotion.
“In the library, group tables tend to get quite noisy, and it’s distracting for those who prefer quieter settings,” said frequent library patron Fiona Gordon.
But as much as I dislike this noise, I don’t really see any way around it. Mrs. Schiestel, a teacher at STM, explains it well: “Although the library should be a place where students can work quietly, there has to be some level of interaction for group work and such, Students need a place in our school to collaborate, especially on a lunch hour. So, noise is going to be a part of that. Students can go to the study carrels if they want more of a quiet space. But otherwise, as long as the noise is reasonable there has to be a certain level of noise.”
There isn’t really a way to combat the ever-increasing noise, but if you’re going to be visiting the library in the future, please keep your voice down.