Off The Shelf: Finding quiet spaces in the libraries


Mark Luetkehoelter, Librarian


The image of the shushing librarian has been around for almost as long as libraries have. In fact, the English collective noun for a group of librarians is a “shush of librarians.”

First things first, it’s safe to say that most librarians don’t really enjoy shushing. If you were to poll librarians, we’d probably list that as one of our least favorite things to do. So why do we still do it?

It’s true that the way libraries are used has greatly evolved over the last decade, with a definite shift toward being more collaborative and active. Along with that shift has come a noticeable increase in noise, although that increase has been construed as a positive sign that libraries are being used.

However, there is research that shows that the library as a provider of quiet space is still something wanted by many users.

The most recent Pew Research Internet & American Life Project Library Service Survey shows that high on the list of things Americans of all ages and ethnicities want out of their libraries is a quiet place for study or contemplation.

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article titled “In libraries, quiet makes a comeback” highlights that in addition to collaborative spaces, college students still desire quiet spaces. Recent student and facility surveys done at Madison College indicate some quiet study spaces are wanted.

We’re coming to a time in the semester where papers end up being due and tests are getting more intense, so you find yourselves looking for a quiet space.

In addition to a collaborative space, the Madison College Libraries still try to provide quiet spaces for students. The Truax Library has become a quiet zone toward the back of the library which includes a quiet study room and plenty of individual study carrels. In general, the Truax Library tries to maintain a relative state of quiet compared to the more active Truax Student Achievement Center.

Similarly, the DTEC Library tries to maintain a quiet atmosphere, while just a few doors down the hall the DTEC Student Achievement Center is used collaboratively.

The Truax Library, as well as the libraries at regional campuses, offer group study rooms that can be reserved to help separate collaborative and individual study a little more.

All of the libraries also have headphones that can be checked out to help you separate yourself a little more from distractions.

Of course, the library staff will also help you try to maintain some quiet by walking around and politely shushing occasionally (even if we don’t really like doing it).