The Cell Phone Police

Don’t miss Dominican GSLIS Alum Leah White’s article in LJ:

http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6652439.html

So what do the survey results tell us? “A good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t stop a face-to-face conversation between patrons, then you have no justification for stopping a technology-mediated conversation,” observed one library worker. “If you would stop a face-to-face conversation (e.g., in a Quiet Zone), then naturally cell phones would fall under the same policy.”

Library users voiced strikingly similar opinions. Users agreed that cell phone conversations should be kept to a minimum and should be conducted respectfully. Most respondents said they understood the need to monitor cell phone use in libraries but opposed banning their use outright. “Certainly, if I can use my phone to access the catalog, why ban its use altogether?” one library user noted. “It’s more of a conduct or ‘disruptive behavior’ issue than anything.”

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4 thoughts on “The Cell Phone Police”

  1. Missing from the entire cell phone or no conversation is patron on patron threat/violence. We have two cell phone zones (in addition to the bathrooms, which people insist on using for chatting. If their friends and colleagues don’t mind listening to flush! in the middle of a conversation, who am I to interrupt?!). This is partly for the simple protection of the callers. We have patrons who loath! despise! other patrons talking on cells ..one has even accosted people, wrote a column in local paper threatening violence. Also, if cell calls were as quiet as F2F might not be a problem .. but (poor connections?) cell callers usually yell, while F2F-ers whisper.

  2. Hi Sara,

    One thing I found interesting was that the library users were more likely to point out the face to face conversations, especially ones by librarians at the Reference Desk, are usually louder than their cell phone conversation.

    Ofc there are exceptions to this rule. But I think taking the point of view of all users, not just the ones who threaten violence in a newspaper, is important.

    Thanks for reading and your opinions!

    -Leah

  3. Leah, anecdotally I’ve found that to be true as well; the few times I’ve received noise complaints they have always been in-person conversations. Students asked for a no cell phones policy a few years ago, and it makes sense on the upper floors where people are trying to study and loud talking and noise are discouraged.

    What I’m finding on the first floor with the computers, though, is that it doesn’t really work. Students are always calling each other about assignments and group projects, and it doesn’t seem feasible to make them get up and leave to consult with someone about something they’re looking at on the computer screen. Mandating that conversations be for school-related reasons only seems both dangerous and a waste of time: who wants to police the content of college students’ phone conversations? Not me!

    I do wish we could encourage a culture of silencing phones in the library, though. Ringtones can be incredibly disruptive, especially late in the evening when it’s quiet.

  4. As a librarian, I HATE loud cell phone rings and loud conversations, and we do have a policy of no cell phone use at our library. However, I have gotten to the point where, if I see someone talking quietly at the far end of an aisle that no one is around, I (surprise, surprise) LET IT GO! I am tired of “policing” people who ARE being considerate and talking no louder than they would be if a person was standing right next to them. I rarely ever tell teens they shouldn’t be on their phones in the Teen Area b/c I know that’s their lifeline. I’m far more offended when parents feed their children oranges and then get their sticky fingers all over the picture books. Another “behavior” issue for another time, I supppose…

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