—By Fariha Tamboli—

The bell rings, the clock strikes, it’s 10:50—the beginning of lunch.  You have to finish and print out that essay that’s due for your English class, so you sprint to the library as fast as you can. Who cares about actually eating during lunch?  All you have to do is finish your assignment…before they get there.  You don’t want them to be in the library while you frantically type the essay that determines your grade for English, which then affects your GPA, which literally decides whether or not you will ever get the chance to go to college.  But they are the people who distract you.

They are the rowdy horde of people who come to library not to study but to socialize.

Each day during lunch, North’s library is packed with more than 250 students, according to North librarian Michael Courtney.  But only a fraction of them are actually there to study.  Most of them seem to be passionately exercising their vocal chords.  The students who truly need to work cannot do so at all.

The commotion caused by the hustling and bustling of teens with oversized backpacks, the constant chatter among peers, the nonstop ringing of phones—all this contributes to the excessive chaos in the library.  The noise levels in the media center are going through the roof, hindering students’ ability to concentrate on schoolwork.  Moreover, the cacophony of voices is unhealthy to the human ear.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (better known as the CDC) has conducted research to show that noise levels above 85 decibels are considered dangerous and can cause harmful conditions such as hearing loss.  In North, the noise level in the library during lunch ranges from 62.2 decibels to 86.4 decibels, according to the test I performed with a decibel meter app.

The noise pollution becomes uncontrollable during lunch.

“The biggest issue is staffing.  I cannot be three places at one time and look over all 300 students in the library,” Courtney said.  “I lock the door, which is about the only thing I can do because I am all here by myself.  All I can do is hope that other students are respectful enough to quiet down.”  Indeed, Courtney does his best to maintain a controlled environment for studying.

With more adult supervision in the library during lunch, the noise levels could be easily regulated. Students could study in peaceful serenity.  By requiring proctors to monitor the library during lunch, the school would make lunchtime more productive.  In a room reserved especially for those who do want to evade the noise of the social world, teenage mingling has boomed.  Limiting the population of the library to around 100 people, on a first-come-first-serve basis, will help to limit the absurd amount of people gathering in a cramped space.

The atmosphere in the library during lunch is not much different than that of the hallway outside. Surprisingly, not many students see this as an issue—for them, the library is just an extension of the school lunch area.
But for others, the library is a quiet sanctuary reserved for learning, not some noisy forum for teenage gossip.

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