Less Bark, More Bite: Restoring Silence to our Library

Clayton Lovell '19, Staff Writer

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As I sat at a wooden desk in the grand Wean Research Library, my eyes waltzed along the vast stretch of books. From Vonnegut to Faulkner to Nietzsche to Dostoevsky, my options were endless. Once I finally chose to crack open Player Piano, my mind was at piece. I could rest easy knowing that the only thing I would have to worry about for the next 45 minutes was enjoying Young Kurt’s laughable yet profoundly dark prose. I was in a state of complete serenity.

But not a page and a half in, I heard a noise that shattered that serenity with a crashing bang. A most intriguing sound it was, like the snap of multiple branches in a dark wood. I set down good Kurt and ambled on over to the railing on the second floor of the library. I was astonished to see a swarm of freshmen playing tag on the first floor. They raced from the Silent Study Room to the entrance room, tripping over the helpless, hard-working students. The repugnant rumble of these obnoxious freshmen filled my ears with an eardrum-snapping chorus of clunky Timberlands and Bean Boots. Their headache-inducing yelps at one another made me question whether I was in a library or a simian jungle. I absorbed those high-pitch, hormone-infused screeches that every underclassman can somehow produce when he’s stimulated or excited. They traveled up my spine and shook me to the core.

What was most incomprehensible about this situation was the fact that not one teacher in the room did anything to halt this chaotic outburst of hormonal energy. Where was any sense of control, order, or quiet? Is it the reserved, respectful student’s duty to restore law and order in the library?

Now, you may be thinking, isn’t this a big, selfish overreaction? Surely all the school grounds are commonplace. Everyone can be everywhere. Well, I admit to the extremities of my quibbles. But, to the point of commonplace, I see no wrong in my complaints. After all, this “commonplace” is a library. Have you ever met a librarian who says, “Shh. Please be loud. This is a library.”? A library’s inherent purpose is to be a place of study and reading (and one of refuge for the stressed-out student). Whether it is designated to be completely silent or not is left to the discretion of the librarian. In general, however, libraries are meant to be quiet. Let there be no quibble over that fact.

This leads me to my next issue with the Wean Research Library. The most confusing sign in the school is the one that says, “Silent Study Room.” From the first time I used that room during my freshman year I wondered about the significance of the obscure word “silent.” Obviously it meant something along the lines of “frantically trying to get work done while others attempt to deter you from this goal by creating absolute mayhem.” My definition seemed plainly simple and clear to me. I was satisfied, and for the rest of the year I pursued my goal of getting work done under the cloud of noise. Well, I bought myself a dictionary for my sophomore year, and I learned the true meaning of “silent.”

This word was quite the opposite of my previous definition. I trusted old Webster’s definition over my own, so I went on with this new significance. But now this room made no sense. How can a silent room contain so much noise? First of all, there is no door to this room. It’s wide open to the other non-silent “rooms.” Second of all, it’s not a room. Third of all, there are only three walls. Need I be more blatant?

During one of my frequent library visits, I moved around from “room” to “room” searching for one bit of sweet Silence in which to read Jefferson’s first inaugural address for history class. It was like playing hide and seek with no boundary limits. Silence was the hider; he ran off as I count down from 10, and kept running. I was the seeker, but how could I find elusive Silence when he could go anywhere? I was driven to the brink of insanity; I concluded that there was no silent place in the entire world, so Jefferson and I ran outside to the balcony.

At the balcony I found yet another noise, but this one was bearable. It was the noise of a 34-degree wind against my rosy cheeks, rustling my papers as I tried to read them. But I did not mind the cold. I had crossed the brink; I was in a completely different mental state. While in that new state, a new thought occurred to me. The library, a supposedly quiet institution, had spit out the quiet student, and it was now filled with only the boisterous one that it supposedly abhorred.

Now, I ask you, University School, to please fix the state of this backward institution that you call a research library. I urge you to take action so that the quiet student can rejoin Kurt at his old wooden desk.

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Less Bark, More Bite: Restoring Silence to our Library