Gelman Library – a place jokingly referred to as “Club Gelman” – is one of the hottest social spots on campus, but a student committee is trying to stop the noise from becoming a distraction to those who are not there to socialize.
The Gelman Library Student Advisory Board met last week to brainstorm ways to combat what they see as one of the biggest ongoing problems in the library: student noise.
The six-student committee, which meets twice a semester to discuss issues within the library such as library furniture and room temperatures, met Thursday. The group focused on noise during the library’s peak hours, which is expected to increase as midterm exams approach.
The committee members said that whether it is student conversation, laptop use in the quiet areas, cell phones or food and drink disturbances, many complaints have been filed because of the noise in the library. Graduate student Nathan Havey, a member of the board, suggested that students on the board act as role models for others.
“Unfortunately, the students themselves are to blame for the biggest problem in the library: other students,” he said at the meeting. “The inconsiderate behavior of some GW students who insist on using their cell phones in places where they are clearly prohibited taxes the ability of everyone else to do their work. We need to encourage considerate behavior, and that can best be accomplished by starting with ourselves.”
Board members said the signs that currently surround the library differentiating areas for complete silence from laptop areas and group study rooms have proved to be insufficient for preserving a scholarly environment.
In order to promote compliance with designated quiet areas, committee member Joel Meister, a junior, suggested separating the floors based on the expected level of quietness instead of having both conversation and non-conversation areas next to each other.
“If the floors were separated, I think students would have a different mindset,” he said at the meeting. “Currently, the conversation that they were holding in the discussion areas gets carried into the hallways and then usually inadvertently into the silent sections where people are trying to study.”
However, with a desire to create and sustain a welcoming and friendly library environment, the board members said they were hesitant to enforce stricter rules and heighten the severity of repercussions for violations. Though some board members suggested placing holds and other such restrictions on students’ files as punishment, library staff who attended the meeting said that it is not necessary to go to such an extreme.
“We are uncomfortable with severe punishment and tracking because we try to be amicable and help all different students with their various research needs,” Associate University Librarian for Public Services Gale Etschmaier said. She added that with the mix of undergraduate, graduate and doctorate students using the library, it serves multiple functions and to start to restrict student privileges would hinder the academic environment.
Etschmaier added that the extent to which the noise issue is a problem varies throughout the semester, but tends to be of greatest concern during finals, when stress and tension is high. She said that it is during this time especially that the library becomes extremely crowded, and she thinks that a lack of space is the driving force behind the dilemma.
“We simply do not have enough space to accommodate our growing population,” she said.
Accommodating a large student body with various needs and preserving a friendly and community centered atmosphere is no easy feat, the students said.
“As students, we must show that the George Washington University takes its academics seriously, and we can’t let things fall apart. The library is a very important academic resource,” committee member junior Garni Gharekhanian said. “The primary purpose of college is learning, and though it is great to have fun, we must never forget that.”