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Noise is the greatest irritation

Noise is the greatest irritation

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

Survey on behaviour in the University Library

MAASTRICHT. More than half of the one hundred students questioned find the noise made by others in the Maastricht University Library, troublesome. Unnecessarily keeping seats in the workspaces reserved, is the greatest annoyance for approximately a quarter. What would they like to see happen? Silence and concentration. The library is valued as a meeting place.

Observant held a survey among library users prior to the exams in December. The subject was fellow students’ behaviour in the university library. What is nice and what is not, and do students call others to account for their behaviour? In the latest UM Student Monitor, in which students assess facilities, complaints were made about there being too few study spaces, but behaviour is a real thorn in some people’s side too. A law student writes: “Always busy and filled with people who reserve spaces for friends or who leave a writing pad on a table reserving it for the whole day.” On the other side of the Maas, a psychology student states: “Too loud, as if someone is deliberately trying to take up as much ‘space’ as possible, while the continuous echo of the buzzing hangs around.”

Observant approached students in the library on the Grote Looiersstraat and in Randwyck. What did that show? Students don’t only visit the library just before exams; the majority of the one hundred students questioned go to the University Library at least once a week. Almost half of the respondents are irritated by fellow visitors’ behaviour during one out of three visits. Eight per cent – mainly students visiting the Grote Looiersstraat – indicated that they become extremely annoyed during every visit.

The survey showed that noisy fellow students are by far the greatest problem (57 per cent). Ingrid Wijk, director of the University Library: “At the inner-city location, we have introduced a colour system for every room, based on a suggestion from students. Red means silence. Orange means working, but talking is allowed (but no telephone calls). Green indicates a group setting with tables where discussions may take place. Three weeks before the exams, we change the colours and the focus is more on self-study and so more quietness.”

Unnecessarily keeping workspaces reserved irritates approximately a quarter. An irritation that is twice as common in the city centre. Wijk refers to the so-called break discs (that can be used to indicate when you left and when you will be back) that are used in Randwyck. They have been abolished in the city centre, “because some people abused them and there was a fuss if someone came back late and his study space was taken.” Fifteen respondents (fourteen of whom were questioned in the inner city), having been asked ‘which house rules would you like to introduce and how would you do that,‘ answered that they would like personnel to be stricter, both about noise and about reserving behaviour. More than a third would like stricter rules. “Unfortunately, we cannot legally enforce the rules more strictly than we do,” replies Wijk. “We are not allowed to just remove someone’s belongings and keep them somewhere safe. Then we are liable for the consequences. And what if someone says that there were more items than what we removed? I think that the solution lies with the students themselves.” The same applies to the third most often mentioned source of irritation: rubbish left lying around (7 per cent). Wijk feels that this is a joint responsibility of the students and the University Library.

How do students deal with their irritation? More than half call others to account for their behaviour. Thirty-six per cent, most of whom study in Randwyck, would rather say nothing. Wijk is surprised about this: “With the PBL system and the skills that they learn here, you would like to think that students could address others about their behaviour.” And what if they themselves are addressed by others? Less than thirty students say that they have on occasion been spoken to about their behaviour (in almost all incidences for noise disturbance). They usually don’t mind and even feel it was justified. A little less than half blows off steam with a fellow student (who hasn’t caused the disturbance). A mere four students appealed to library staff.

Lastly, Wijk mentions a behavioural experiment with ‘bath towel behaviour’ that a master’s student of Psychology carried out in the inner-city library last Autumn. “She selected a few rooms and posted texts on the wall that would make students aware of their behaviour. Something like: ‘It’s bad behaviour to reserve a work space but not to work there’.” According to Wijk, this was a useful experiment, but it showed that “these types of interventions no longer work after four days. Everyone reverted to the former pattern.”

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