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Shhhhh! Kick out noisy Town House students

By Catherine F Poole Jan 24, 2020
The new town house has a lot of great things with it. Photo: Isabella Ruffatti

Students have called for library staff to get tougher after being left frustrated  at the noise levels in the new Town House library.
The £50m new building has been warmly welcomed by community members who have flocked to look around and make use of the six-storey modernistic build.

But library users have blasted the open plan design along with poor policing – possibly exacerbated by the open floor plan – claiming it to be “impossible” to work in the silent study area due to noise travelling through building.

They want action taken – including ultimately kicking out the noisiest people.

Third-year forensic psychology student Megan Neale said: “I am trying to work on my dissertation, but I am constantly distracted by the noise coming from the staircase and other floors. I cannot focus unless it’s late at night, and most people have gone home.”

Library staff have responded to noise complaints and said they would continue to patrol the silent study space after students’ demand for better management.

Neale added: “I think because the silent study isn’t very silent, students think it’s okay to chat amongst themselves. So the library staff need to police the floor better and perhaps, introduce consequences for disruptive students.

“I also think that the design of the building should have been considered better to separate the silent study from the communal spaces.”

Students have said that they have struggled to concentrate because of the noise from the coffee machines in the rooftop cafe, the lifts and students stomping up the central staircase.

A Kingston University spokesperson said: “Managing noise levels forms an important part of the work of staff across all our libraries, who continually monitor the spaces and address issues.”

Some students have suggested that the university should add soft-furnishings such as carpet to absorb excess sound in the library.

The Town House is open to the general public until 9pm, so members of the community who bring their children are also adding to the noise levels.

Vice chancellor Professor Steven Spier said: “I’m delighted that with Town House, everyone who visits, studies in, and works at Kingston University now has access to a beautiful and inviting space in which to learn, socialise and just be.”

Second-year fashion design student Ray Sullivan said: “The silent study in the old Penrhyn Road library was so quiet and well-policed. The loudest noise would have been me eating popcorn.

“It’s great that the new Town House is spacious and so open-planned, but I think it is impossible to have a silent study.”

The River conducted a noise test to examine the sound levels on different floors of the library.

At its loudest, the silent study area was equivalent to a hairdryer peaking at 72.5 decibels (dB).

However, the average reading on the fourth floor, taken on three different occasions was 56 dB, which is the same volume as a standard conversation.

Third-year criminology student Charlene Anthony said: “The library staff need to monitor the floor more frequently than they do to reduce conversation because it’s already loud due to the open-plan structure. It’s like a social space rather than a library. It’s never quiet.

“There was never an issue with noise in the old silent study in Penrhyn Road because it was always silent. No one talked, and if they did, the library staff would intervene.”

The Town House includes multiple cafes which may encourage some people to use the library as a social space, rather than a place to study.

In the week that the flagship building opened, flash mobs were performed on the ground floor by dance students disturbing library-users by blaring loud music.

However, not all students are bothered by the noise.

Graphics student Spencer Wang said: “I think the noise in the silent study is fine because I sit far away from the staircase in the middle of the floor, but I can see how it can be loud, especially as you can hear every step on the wooden flooring on the staircase.”

The six-storey Town House opened its doors to students and the public on January 6 and cost £50m to build.

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