Answered By: Juliana Morley
Last Updated: Jun 14, 2017     Views: 46

Thoughts from the Dean - Noise in the Library

The issue of noise in the Library comes up from time to time, so let me share a few thoughts on this topic.

First, Libraries in general have changed a great deal in the past 25 years. Most of our products are offered digitally today and can be accessed from a computer worldwide. This changes the way we use our physical Library space since you no longer have to be in our building to use our resources. I see the Library as the central hub of our campus. Think of it as Biola's living room. Much like the living room in many homes, our Library provides a haven from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. It is usually a quiet and orderly place where we are at our very best for honored guests. But, like most living rooms, we also entertain friends here, watch a movie or make music from time to time, and share convivial conversation with family and friends over light refreshment. Since our Library (living room) is rather large, we are able to accommodate several of these functions at one time. Our Heritage Cafe, Lobby, Reading Room, and outdoor Terrace are good examples of different types of spaces where differing noise levels can be expected. On occasion, this dynamic and convivial environment can create some challenges for those who may have different expectations from the Library. Here are some strategies for meeting those occasional challenges.


You can expect to find a safe and quiet space to study somewhere in our Biola Library. Note I said somewhere. Among the 95,000 square feet in our Library, there are spaces that tend to be more quiet than others. Usually, the lower level of the Library has the most quiet areas. Also be aware that, due to the acoustics of the building, spaces near the central circle on each floor are more noisy because sound tends to echo in these areas. The Upper Level central corridor is probably the noisiest area in the Library. Much of this comes from the design of the building itself rather than noisy patrons. Groups of people talking at a reasonable conversational level in this area will be amplified by the large central cylinder that creates the skylight. In addition, on occasion you may find that you are located in a space where a planned event or activity in that part of the Library (usually the Reading Room) will create a distraction. If you are not interested in attending the event, this may require you to move to a more quiet location. Some of our patrons prefer to tune out distractions by listening to music on their headphones. If you do not have headphones the Circulation Desk on the middle level can check out a set to you free of charge.


One complaint I hear comes when a patron or patrons make(s) noise that distracts others from their study. There are definite ways to deal with this effectively. Here is a list of the best steps to handle this situation. 

  1. Politely ask the person or persons who are disturbing you to please keep his or her voice down. This is probably the most effective step you can take. It is impossible for Library staff to be omniscient and omnipresent and know when and where someone is making noise at all times. Most of our patrons are friendly and respectful and will comply when nicely asked to lower their voices.
  2. If you are uncomfortable doing #1 above, or if it fails to achieve the desired result, speak with a Library staff, preferably the Reference Services Assistant (RSA), to ask the noise-maker to keep his or her voice down. You can use the “Chat With Us” feature on our Library webpage to contact a Reference Services Assistant immediately.
  3. If step #2 fails to achieve the desired result, ask the RSA to contact Campus Safety to send an officer to address the problem.
  4. If Campus Security has been called, you may wish to move to a different location until the situation is remedied. 

Some patrons feel the Library Student Assistant, such as those who you see taking the population count, should address the noise problems, however, these people are focused on what they are doing and may not be aware of a disturbance that may have taken place before he or she arrived in the area. Also, the volume level of talking may not seem problematic to the Library Student Assistant, or even others in the area. Some people are more sensitive to noise than others. If it is bothersome to you then it is appropriate that you speak up, either to the noise maker directly or to Library staff immediately. Speaking to the people causing the problem right away is key here since we really cannot take any specific action after the parties causing the problem have left the building. Posting signs has proven ineffective since people do not read signs generally and, for the most part, those that do read them are usually not the ones causing disturbances in the first place. That is why speaking to the noise maker directly has proven the most effective method to address the problem.

I hope some of these suggestions prove useful.

In His Service,

Gregg S. Geary, Ph.D.
Dean of the Library

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