You are in a silent zone

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There is not, and never will be, any way in which libraries can be cool. Every American high school TV show has conditioned us susceptible Brits, in our vulnerable youth, to believe that teachers are lame, hanging out under the bleachers is rad, and setting foot inside a library is social suicide.

And that’s okay. I don’t want to look hip whilst writing an essay on medieval literature, and I certainly don’t want to incorporate it with ‘chilling’. Unfortunately the status quo at our very own university library is being threatened by the ambiguous purpose of the Harry Fairhurst building.

When it comes to library etiquette, I am the surly old librarian who flaps laminated ‘Shh’ signs in the cool kids’ faces. (Metaphorically, of course. For now.) I often willingly utilise my death stare when someone in the silent area is laughing at a Youtube video of a cat stuck in a jumper. Or on the phone. Or hacking up phlegm.

It is the beauty of clearly sign-posted library areas; they permit visible and/or audible disapproval when someone breaks the rules. Plus, one becomes empowered by united anger with those equally pissed off around you. Eye rolls can be exchanged, heavy sighs are unified. The satisfaction gained when someone is forced to leave by means of silent passive aggression is immense. It’s pretty much the only reason I even go to the library.

And then the Harry Fairhurst appeared. I will put to one side the fact that the space seems to have been arranged by the interior designers of Big Brother, and that beanbags belong in nurseries and 70’s shag pads. In fact, to begin with, I was a big fan.

Though I enjoy being the dictator of silence, when I actually need to work I have often received looks for mouth breathing and loud typing in the library. The Harry Fairhurst seemed less about judgement, and more about swivel chairs and vending machines, and there’s the bonus of the lack of cement mixers always 10 ft away. With the promise of spinning, chocolate and unpolluted air, I guess it seemed kind of ‘cool’. And this, of course, was its downfall.

It’s not the level of noise that has been gradually ascending ever since the place opened that gets me. It’s the banal tedium of conversation that creates the atmosphere of a sixth form common room. I don’t want to listen to people compare sun bed prices, or discuss how ‘cocktails are totally better in Dusk’. The Courtyard is basically designed for this level of obnoxious, loud conversation, and if anything it makes for brilliant entertainment whilst I’m having lunch.

But whilst I’m actually trying to do something productive with my life, I would appreciate some sort of effort, or at least quiet procrastination, from those around me, not a live re-enactment of a Made in Chelsea episode.

Unfortunately the university has let me, the willing enforcer of their rules, down. The failure to specify the expected noise level in the Harry Fairhurst means that I must, ironically, be silent in my despair. This disconcerts me more than anything – am I even justified in being angry? Though it is blindingly obvious that the building is not an internet cafe, those that continue to terrorise it with their ridiculousness are not technically in the wrong.

All I ask for, for the sake of my own sanity, is a little sign that says ‘Quiet conversation about things that aren’t hideously vacuous. Absolutely no laughing.’ Until the Harry Fairhurst ceases to be the super cool hub of kicking back and chatting bollocks, I think I’ll stick to harassing people with coughs in the library.



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