To Shush or not to Shush – the Results

A big thanks to all of you who responded to my recent blog post and survey on whether school libraries should be a quiet place for study during exam times.  It was reassuring to read your many comments and discover that I’m not alone in being conflicted about which way to go on this issue and how to achieve the results I want once the decision is made.

If you haven’t done so already, can I suggest you take a look at some of the responses on the original post.  They sum things up nicely.  Generally some of the main points to come through were: that balance was difficult to achieve and then maintain; if possible have a separate area for those studying; need to make accommodations for group study where some chat and discussion is necessary.  My favourite response was the librarian who responded: “Well, it depends on the time, on the day, and on how much sleep I’ve had the night before!” Classic!

I know some of you expressed an interest in the poll results so here they are:

As you can see, of the 141 responses, 61% of you thought that yes, school libraries should be a quiet place for study during exam times, which is a solid majority but not an overwhelming, resounding yes.  There was certainly a lot of grey area, with many of you as conflicted as me when considering not only what’s best and juggling that with what the students want, but also how to achieve this goal without coming across like the wicked witch of the west on a bad day!

After my musing on this issue I opted for giving posters another try.  This is what we have plastered all over the walls and doors of our library

Has it worked?  Too soon to call I think, but I’m not sure it’s made any tangible difference.  However, neither have we had anyone complain or comment on the noise levels (which to my mind, or should I say ears, has been bordering on excessive at times!).  I’ve been deliberately taking a much more relaxed approach to this issue this year and my sub-conscious is obviously stressing about it as I’ve been experiencing some bizarre dreams around classes and control in the library in the past week!  Believe me, this is not common.  I don’t usually dream about my library so the two sides to Senga are continuing their warfare where they can.

But what about next year?  I have decided to take a much more proactive and evidence-based approach to what will no doubt still be an issue at the beginning of term four 2013.  Here are my three steps to hopeful success:

  1. Run a survey for the Year 12’s and 13’s early in Term 1 to gauge how their experience of using the library was for this exam season.  I’ll then see how this matches up with our anecdotal evidence and what we saw happening during this time to develop a tentative plan
  2. Immediately after school exams in Term 3 we will conduct a second survey of all senior students about their intended use of the library during NCEA exams and what their expectations for using this space would be
  3. Early in Term 4 we will publicise and market how students can use the library during exams to the whole school through assemblies, newsletters, roll call notices and posters.  Our intention would be to repeat the survey from Term 1 2013 in Term 1 2014 to measure any difference in responses based on our attempts to satisfy our customers (i.e. our students AND our staff who still use the space for teaching junior classes)

Fingers crossed this will help us to achieve the right mix for our school community here at Hargest and leave me feeling as sane and serene as possible come November 2013!

9 thoughts on “To Shush or not to Shush – the Results

    1. Thanks for that Desna. I have a wonderful collaborator here at school that makes everything pretty. I think this one’s a little specific to Hargest for anyone else to want to use it. I might have to look at a sideline business!! LOL 🙂


  1. From what I have seen at a North Shore Public Library there is a definite increase in students coming to study at this time of year and other groups [some look tertiary] coming to collaborate. Luckily the place is big enough to have 2 more or less separate areas so one has devolved into a chattier area and one into dead silence. During the year the study area is dominated by International students who have nowhere else to study – and some socialise too. Generally they respond well if they are reprimanded about noise levels [this is rare.] In another public library there are no areas for groups to work together – just individual carrells – so the issue hasn’t arisen to the same extent. I see the local high school has opened their library on Saturday mornings which is a great service.
    The way I see it is that high schoolers still need to be taught what is appropriate behaviour in a public area or school library and exam time is no exception. It may help if there is some peer role modelling or peer reinforcement going on as well as the librarian taking action. I have had my fair share of inappropriate running, squawking, and moaning about tidying up and doing library duties today so figure it is the younger version of the same dilemma [and the usual end of year slacking off.]


  2. At Waitakere Central Library, we have the unique combination of Unitec students trying to study for their tertiary exams, NCEA & Cambridge students trying to study for their high school exams, and junior school students & the general public wanting to use the library. With our library being on two floors, we’ve managed to maintain a fairly quiet study area on our upstairs level. I’ve found that it does require the librarian to be firm at times, but it’s nearly always possible to do this in a friendly, ‘you’re welcome in the library’ way.


    1. It’s so great to get those examples of how students are using the public library space for their study as well. It seems that everyone has to find their own way with this issue based on their particular customers, needs and space available. I think our problem here is that there is a little bit of the “familiarity breeds contempt” issue where our students are just so comfortable and used to being here and used to us that our quiet wee words with them don’t always have the desired effect. Thanks for sharing your perspective.


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