Among the spaces in Rush Rhees Library, some, such as the Messinger Periodical Reading Room (PRR), are more secluded, while others, such as the Rush Rhees Reference Area, are more conducive to group work. Still others — like the Welles-Brown Room — are suited for a more casual studying environment. What remains unclear, however, is which spaces are intended for which types of study.
While it is generally accepted that certain areas are better for quiet study and that in others talking is tolerated, there is no definitive consensus on these matters. Students who are in need of a silent space to work are left to fend for themselves against their louder peers, and those working on group projects risk disturbing their fellow library patrons.
Carlson Library has specifically designated spaces for quiet study on the first and third floors, while group study space is available on the second. There are a number of signs posted alerting students and other visitors of this fact, which makes the message clear and allows anyone to choose an appropriate place to study that will suit his or her needs.
Rush Rhees could benefit from a similar classification system. Currently, the noise levels are self-governed. For instance, when walking into the Great Hall, it is immediately evident that the space is intended for quiet study based on the atmosphere. However, posting official designations, as in Carlson, would create better delineations between studying environments in Rush Rhees.
There is currently a comprehensive list on the UR library system’s website that outlines which study spaces are known as being well-suited for reading, relaxing, doing research, using a laptop, collaborating and making calls on a cell phone. While this list could help someone looking for a good spot to work, not all students are aware of it. Additionally, since the list is only posted online, students entering any given area in the library do not have any obvious indication of a particular room’s status. Moreover, the list only makes suggestions; it does not outline any official rules.
If different areas in Rush Rhees had signs officially designating quiet study spaces and spaces for group work — as there are in Carlson — the library could be used more effectively, thereby improving the space overall.