Interesting interaction with a student this morning. Still puzzling through whether I was a jerk or this was a kindness.
Working with a student who came in at 8:30 to finish last night’s ref consultation about her research paper. We’re just getting into the substance of our collective research AHA! when a man approaches the desk.
He says, “Excuse me, I appreciate that you’re…enthusiastic about whatever you’re doing..but can you please be quiet now?”
I respond, “Actually, no, but we do have quiet study zones on the second floor. I’d be happy to help you locate a table there and ensure that it stays quiet — you know at least until the construction crew arrives in about an hour to start banging on things. We’re in the midst of a remodel.”
He says he knows that and that it’s absolutely irrelevant to his request. I explain, in relatively sparing language, that the library as an entirely quiet space is an outdated modality (at MPOW) and that we welcome appropriate collaboration-related noise. We also do our best to protect defined quite zones (wall in the silence, not the noise, essentially).
I conclude that I think the best way forward is for us to both agree to moderate things – student and I will moderate our voices a bit and he can perhaps moderate his expectations of the library. Together we can find a place to respect and support everyone’s needs.
His response? “Are you staff here?” (you know where that’s usually leading) I explain that I am indeed faculty here and that it’s my job to have these dialogs with students, here at the reference desk. I reiterate my hope that we can work together on this because it’s our best way to respect one another’s goals and keep things moving. He says, “I guess that’s your way.”
He returned to his seat, where he continued working for a while. Last I looked he was no longer there, wondering if that’s because he left at a natural point for him or whether he left because he was upset. Truly, I don’t want students to leave for any reason. I’m also not going to refuse to help other students based on dated expectations.
How are you helping your stakeholders to come to terms with collaborative space noise? Is yours a library that defaults to the silent model? If so, are you anticipating things remaining silent?
Further, how do you deal with the idea that you yourself are a stakeholder in the space as well? From my perspective, my stake may not be more important than my patrons’ but it’s certainly equally valid. I cannot support them without a bit of noise.