Students are encouraged to take phone calls in areas marked by signs.
By MARK BLISS
Loud chatter from Southeast Missouri State University students conversing on their cell phones has been an increasing nuisance to staff and other students in the school's Kent Library. As a result the library, with the blessing of student government leaders, has designated areas in the building where students can carry on phone conversations without bothering other students who are studying or reading books.
Red signs in the designated areas went up Thursday. "This hall is cell phone friendly" read signs posted near the library director's office. The sign includes a drawing of a hand holding a cell phone.
Areas near stairwells on the south side of the building also have been designated for cell phone use.
University officials haven't banned the use of cell phones in other areas of the library, but they are encouraging students to use the designated chat areas rather than create a nuisance.
Across the country, some libraries have banned cell phone use. But Kent Library director Dr. Sarah Cron hasn't embraced the idea. "I hate signs that say 'No this' or 'No that,'" she said.
The library has a new coffee bar with tables and chairs where students often congregate. More than coffee is brewed there. It's also a place for conversation.
Cron said people talk louder on cell phones than they do during face-to-face conversations.
"We want to make it inviting and accommodating," she said of the library.
At the same time, Cron said, the library is a study area and phone calls can be a nuisance in such a setting.
Officials at public libraries in Cape Girardeau and Jackson said they've had no major problems with people talking on cell phones.
Both the Cape Girardeau Public Library and the Riverside Regional Library already have signs that ask library users to step outside if they want to talk on their cell phones. "Once in a while we have to remind someone that cell phone use should be done outside," said Nancy Howland, Riverside library director.
Student leaders approached Cron about the nuisance this fall. Working together, they came up with the idea of designating cell phone conversation areas in the library.
Adam Hanna, student government president at Southeast, said student leaders oppose a ban on cell phone use in the library. "We are not looking to make the library silent, but we want it to be a quiet place to work," he said.
The university has been remodeling the library's interior. When that work is finished, Hanna said the fourth or top floor could become a "quiet floor" where students can study with the fewest distractions.
Hanna said he's experienced the nuisance of students chatting endlessly on their cell phones. "Sometimes it is embarrassing, quite frankly," he said.
Signs and designated chat areas are a start. But Hanna said the library staff needs to encourage students to move to the designated areas when they see them having lengthy conversations on cell phones.
Cron said the library may turn some former small study rooms into "phone booths" where students can carry on conversations without distracting others.
Annanina Glover of Cape Girardeau, a senior at Southeast, likes the idea of designated chat areas. But she said the university needs to do more to inform students about the policy.
Standing at the coffee bar Friday afternoon, Glover said she wasn't aware of the signs until they were pointed out to her.
She said the university needs to erect signs where students congregate on the library's main floor to direct students to the designated chat areas. Otherwise, she said, most students won't even know about the new policy.
"There could definitely be some better communication," she said.
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