To shush or not to shush …. that is the question?

Today is the first day of our secondary schools here in New Zealand being senior-less after the antics and hi-jinks of yesterday’s final day of classes for our Year 11-13 students. Of course, those of us in the school library know that we’re really not senior-less at all. In fact, here at Hargest anyway, we find that they make their way here in droves every day. Ostensibly they’re here to study for their NCEA exams, but often it’s for various other reasons, some of them with a strongly social agenda indeed.

Now, I’m no party-pooper but invariably this is the time of the year where the two sides of my personality do battle. The Senga on my left shoulder says:

“They’re all good. It doesn’t matter if there’s lots of excited chatter, frivolity and laughter out there. The library is a social space and should be able to be used as such.” while the Senga on my right shoulder is frowning and shaking her head:

“What about the serious students who have come here to actually study? Don’t they have a right to some peace and quiet? Should they have to combat the constant distraction of their more social peers discussing their plans for Friday night or what dress they’re wearing to the Year 13 leavers dinner?”

And of course, lets not forget the junior classes that are still booking in to work in the library.

So I’ve decided to let you, my fellow librarians, sway me in the direction you think I need to go.

To shush or not to shush …. that is the question. Or should it even be a question?

What do you do in your library? Please help me reconcile the two distinct and at-the-moment warring sides to my personality. Have your say on my little poll

And if you feel strongly enough, leave me a comment as well, explaining your position.

19 thoughts on “To shush or not to shush …. that is the question?

  1. Hi Senga
    I have voted on your poll and was wondering what to do this year – last year we put up silence signs (this is only during exams not al all during the year). Yesterday we were extremely noisy – yes the juniors were thick studying for exams but doing it in study groups and now this year I don’t know what to do!! I think I am going to have to say we are for individual study only if there are seniors here (only a couple today) and it is nice and sunny today for groups to venture outside. It makes you realise the benefits of having two working spaces if you can because there is no where else for those who want to study quietly to go and sometimes those who come in are escaping the noise at home from siblings etc.
    Be interested to see how your poll goes
    Colleen Shipley
    Marlborough Girls’ College


    1. We too have tried signage in the past but with no tangible benefit. Being in the fortunate situation of having multiple spaces, we have in previous years closed off our classroom space for senior study, only to find two years ago they all wanted to sit in the main body of the library! Last year we just didn’t bother! I’ll also be very interested to see how the poll goes, and I will share the results 🙂


  2. Allow the chatter to a certain point. When it gets loud and distracting then politely ask the culprits to tone it down or go outside into the lovely sunshine. It would also depend on what other classes are in at the time. At the end of the day they are adults now so need to be considerate of others. Just a life lesson.


  3. Normally our library is not a quiet one, however, at this time of the year, when some students have come to school for genuine study, I do reprimand students who have come to school purely to socialise and entertain themselves on the computers. so much depends on what else is going on in the library, so, I must admit to being inconsistent at times!


    1. Our library is also not a quiet one! I’m not convinced meaningful learning happens in silence and isolation and we encourage discussions and conversations around research and reading. The other thing I’m warring with myself over is that I know my preferred method of studying is for complete quiet, but we actually receive very few complaints. Those that don’t want the chatter seem to just fix their i-pods to their ears and shut it all out!


  4. Hi Senga
    Difficult even at the lower levels where some kids just want to read in the corner on a beanbag and others want to chat noisely. Finding a blance is hard. SO sometimes the noisy ones get asked why they are in the library and if it is just to keep warm and chat unless the tone it down they go out so the ones who are genuinley using the library can do so. The balance is really hard to find as everyone has a right.! Good luck with the poll.


    1. I couldn’t agree with you more about that continual balancing act we attempt in our roles in our school libraries (and you’re absolutely right – this is an issue for all schooling levels). I often think, if I wanted this much balancing, I’d’ve joined a circus!! LOL


  5. Some normally very quiet and sensible year 11’s were here today giggling and being loud and silly, including playing ‘truth or dare’ – “ask the librarian if they have any puberty books” – so I would shush them if others needed the space.


  6. I have exactly the same dilemma, Senga. I just hope that the weather is fine during exam time and we can send the noisy ones, including those testing each other out loud, outside to work! That way those who want quiet get some. For some reason, they think that once they are on study leave, none of the ordinary rules apply any longer!


    1. Unfortunately, we can’t rely on fine weather for that solution! And what is about being on study leave that makes them think that rules that have applied every year they’ve been at school suddenly become defunct!


  7. Hi Senga,
    it gets way too noisy in the non- silent parts of our library, too. This is the majority of the library. However, the noise is mainly due to nerves and I think that no matter how much we shushed we wouldn’t be very successful in maintaining quiet. We used to try more than we do now as it was a lost cause. We are tough about our silent study though. Often one of us sits in there to ensurequiet.

    Go well



  8. Hi Senga – so agree that there are two sides of this argument and its something we grapple with all year, not just during study. We have it quiet during study – if they want to socialise they can sit outside in the sunshine for a break and teachers are happy to make empty classrooms available to study groups. During the year to opt for a ‘working hubub’!!! It needs to vibrant and a little bit noisy but there are some who have come in to complete assignments and homework – a constant balancing act. Love your blog!


  9. Although I am conscious of not wanting to be seen by the kids as a party-pooper, I also think it it is relevant to ask ‘what other options are there?’ I figure there are more spaces around the school for those who want to talk than there are for those who want to read. In my primary school context I merely ‘shush’ students by asking them to use ‘an inside voice’ or some such.


  10. Hi Senga
    Right now we are a serious working space, so yes I shush. During the year I try to have some sense of balance, but now they need to find somewhere else to socialise.


  11. I will tolerate a bit of chatter, of course it depends if a class is in as well.. Work for 15 chill for 5. They have to be in uniform (sch rules) and in class not sitting outside where they can be seen by junniors and thus making life hard for other teachers. My ‘major’ is the playing on the internet, a lot are only here for that. They get on without me giving them the passwords too.


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