Possibly the most significant change I have noticed around Virginia Tech's campus this year is the difference in atmosphere of Newman Library. Last year when coming to the library to work, I consistently chose the third or fifth floor because of its designation as "quiet." Though the occasional table of loud whisperers or friends giggling over Facebook interrupted the peaceful work environment of these areas, I generally had very little problem concentrating because of noise.
However, since the beginning of this school year, the tone of the library overall has become drastically more casual. Though the second and fourth floors have always been designated talking floors, they are noticeably louder as of late, and perhaps because of this reason, so are what should be the "silent" floors.
In particular, the third floor is rarely quiet altogether. Instead, group projects have become a regular occurrence on this floor, especially taking place in the midst of a large group of tables, where inevitably many individuals are attempting to work in silence. Additionally, it appears to be acceptable etiquette now to leave cell phones on ring, and answer calls at a normal volume without attempting to leave the work area. Though the fifth floor in general is significantly quieter than this, it is permanently crowded, and I have never been able to easily get a table. Since it is now the only actual quiet floor, however, its congestion is not at all surprising.
The alterations in the setup of Newman this year may be to blame for the current situation. When the entrance to the library was located on the first floor, students rarely worked on that floor, but had to choose from one of the other four. In addition, the quiet floors were farther above the entrance. Now that the second floor is both the entrance and a working floor, it is inevitably louder, and students probably find it easiest to get away from this by simply going up one floor.
While in previous years this would have put them on a talking floor, it now places them on a quiet floor, which may be the cause of the disregard for the noise policy. Also, though the first floor is currently open, it is unfurnished and rarely used, giving the impression there are only four floors on which to work, rather than five. In this case, half of the library being quiet must have become less realistic than the previous minority of floors.
Regardless of these possible explanations, the third floor of the library remains a designated quiet floor, and it is therefore simply inconsiderate to ignore such a policy, however unregulated it may be. If meeting with a group or partner, or doing work that necessitates talking or noise, in respect of your fellow peers, please choose the second or fourth floor, which are for precisely those uses.
If you do choose the third or fifth floor for individual studying, avoid being rude by keeping conversation to a minimum. Further, when you do feel the need to speak, politely attempt a whisper. For example, when running into a friend unexpectedly, one should not feel uncomfortable greeting him because the location happens to be a quiet floor of the library, but if an extensive conversation is necessary, it makes sense to speak more quietly than usual. Finally, if it is necessary to answer your phone while studying in the library, if on a quiet floor please at least attempt to walk into a stairwell or toward the bookshelves.
In each of these instances, it is not the fact that noise occurs that is impolite; some amount of noise is inevitable, and when this noise is minimal, it is rarely disruptive. It is instead the complete lack of effort to keep the noise level to a minimum that makes the actions rude. With finals approaching, this problem is bound to intensify without significant alterations in habit. So next time you use the library, be aware of the rules of each floor and adjust your noise level accordingly. Your classmates will thank you.