"I had a disappointing interaction with a library staff member earlier this week. I am recovering from a chest cold and still have a lingering cough - not something I can help, and something I am treating in every way possible. While working on one of the library computers, I was approached and informed that I was "making a ruckus" and was the cause of complaints (due to coughing). While I understand the library is generally a quiet place to study, it is not silent -- students have conversations, speak on cell phones, eat lunch, etc. As I understand it, there are study rooms or free earplugs available for any student who wishes for a noiseless study experience. I can appreciate that isn't exactly ideal to have a student coughing in the library and believe me, I would have been at home if it were possible. Missing classes and labs the week before finals begin is not an option that a student can generally afford to choose. If I were making noise that was in any way voluntary I would understand why I was approached, but it was very much not voluntary and I am disappointed that I was made to feel unwelcome. I am not looking for an apology, but rather for staff members to be mindful of situations like mine in the future -- especially as finals and the cold season approach."
Thank you for letting us know about your library experience. Library employees are trying to manage and respond to the needs of all library clients. Finding the right balance between meeting the needs of individuals while respecting the needs of others is often a challenge. We acknowledge that recovery from illness, along with preparing for exams, are significant stressors for students and we all need to be a bit more conscientious of our actions during those times.
Although there are no signs indicating such, a number of University Library locations are known as quiet libraries (particularly Law, Science, and Health Sciences. For the most part this is self-regulated and respected by those using the library.) Prolonged coughing in those library spaces is often considered as disruptive as doing so would be at a movie theatre, during a religious ceremony, or at a formal presentation. Group study rooms are available in the library for booking when circumstances necessitate extensive and lively conversations or activities that might disrupt others. We also lend out laptops that can be used anywhere on campus.
While your coughing was not intentional, it was disrupting the students elsewhere in the library who were also trying to complete coursework and study for exams. The staff member who spoke to you was acting on complaints from other students in the library. As library employees, we need to be sensitive to individual situations and in our approaches to resolving issues. This is something that the library will continue working on.