Benbrook Library / Musings

Cataloging Cell Phone Users


As has been discussed previously in this space, cell phones are a way of life. They go everywhere we go, including, for better or worse, the library. While the library’s official wish for cell phone calls is that they politely be taken outside, we certainly allow some leeway. Luckily, inconsiderate cell phone usage isn’t much of a problem here at BPL, so I have no angry rants to spew at you. However, because it’s fairly interesting to observe how different people handle the inevitable mixing of a noise-producing device with a traditionally noise-averse environment, I do have a breakdown of the types of library cell phone users, as I see them:

-Old School Self-Shushers – These people are hardcore upholders of the ways of the proverbial silent library of yore. They must have been shushed by one too many librarians in their youth, because noise in the library seems to almost physically pain them. I recently observed a patron in the library who exemplified the behavior of this group. She was using the catalog computer when her cell phone suddenly rang. With a mix of embarrassment and what seemed to be anger at the inconsiderate person who dared to call her during her library visit, she sprung up and literally ran out the front door. That goes beyond respect…that’s mad respect. Perhaps too much.

-Respectful Library Mice – The members of this group, to the absolute horror of the members of the previous group, answer their cell phones in the library, but they do so with the utmost consideration for their environment. They speak in a hushed, often highly brisk manner, as if their phones will explode if they don’t hang up quickly enough (avoiding the noise from a potential explosion is a much bigger motivator for them than escaping damage to their phone or person). Their phone business is conducted with barely audible peeps and squeaks, and not many at that. This seems like the ideal level of respect.

-Roving Noise Factories – The members of this group, while well-meaning, are usually fairly disruptive. They seem to be under the mistaken impression that moving five feet in any direction after answering their phones makes them magically imperceptible to the human senses. Or they have misplaced faith in the noise-absorbing properties of books. Whatever their logic, despite their apparent efforts to not disturb their fellow library patrons, the end result is they go from being loud in their original location to being equally loud in a slightly different location. Some of these rovers take their conversations to the restroom, which significantly decreases the noise factor in the rest of the library, but significantly ups the awkwardness factor in the restroom.

-Oblivious Megaphone Mouths – This group possesses the negative qualities of the Noise Factories while exhibiting absolutely none of the redeeming qualities of the Shushers and the Mice. Library cell phone policies were created in direct response to these people, a development of which they are tragically unaware. They answer their phones at the computers, in the stacks, in the reading area, and everywhere in between and proceed to speak at full volume which, confoundingly, is louder than they would speak to somebody seated directly next to them. No amount of dagger-y stares or annoyed sighs from other patrons can silence them; only intervention from library staff can crush the commotion. May you never encounter them during your library visits.

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