Recently, out of desperation, I started a habit of studying in a public library. Perpustakaan Raja Tun Uda in Shah Alam, to be exact. I heard so much good things about it, so I decided to check it out.

True enough, the opening hours are long, it opens everyday (except during public holidays). The lighting is just right, the air conditioner temperature is just right, even the height of the tables and chairs are just right. There are many types of seats we could choose from; the traditional table and chair, different types of couches and soft benches (like sofa but they are not).

The books? I can’t really comment, because I knew they wouldn’t have the books that I need for my exams, and I prefer my own books. But I could see what seems to be a great collection of Islamic reference books, which would probably be very useful for those pursuing tertiary level Islamic studies.

However, when I finally sat down to study (after exploring the library for the first time), I felt a little perplexed. I tried to study at first but the confusion continued to bug me, so I went to the librarian counter.

I asked him, “Is this floor supposed to be a place for discussion?”
He answered, “No.”

“Then why are those people making a lot of noise? Is it allowed here?” I asked him.
“No, they are supposed to keep quiet,” he replied. So I became more confused.
“Then why is nobody telling them that?”
“Miss, if you want them to keep quiet, we’d prefer visitors like you to advice the noisy ones,” he told me confidently.
“But that’s your job, right?” I wondered, did I miss anything here?
“Yes, but they won’t listen to us, you see. We could tell them to stop talking but they will start again after five minutes.”
So I said, “No. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to study. So could you please tell them to be silent?”
Luckily he said, “Yes, I will.”

He did, after a few minutes.

You see, what confused me at the first place was there were groups of students studying and discussing LOUDLY in the library. As I understand there are discussion rooms available in the library (which needs a small fee to be paid, which is less than RM8), but these students are discussing in the open floor! As a matter of fact, I knew they were medical students because I could hear what they were talking about.

The librarian was right. The groups of student stopped their discussion for a few minutes. After that they were back to talking loudly.

The week after that was worse. There were even more students, and I tried to tolerate the noise, but by afternoon it got too much. Again, I had to go to the librarian (this time a different person) and complained.

It seemed that this occurred EVERY weekend and he has given up reprimanding those students. He told me he does not know what else to do with them. He has even asked the security guard to tell those students off but nothing changed.

“Do you expect me to kick them out of the library, then?? It’s not very appropriate, is it?” he asked, exasperated.
I said, “Yes, if that is what you need to do to teach them the etiquettes! If these kids were overseas they would have been kicked out a long time ago!”

I almost made a scene, some the library visitors were staring at me, but I don’t care, because something needs to be done.

“Miss, why not I give you this one room, it is very quiet. If this place is too noisy for you,” he offered.
“What do you mean? Is there any chair or table I could sit in?” I was getting even more angry.
“Of course there is. It is a nice room, right opposite this space. Come, let me show you.”
“So you mean, I’m the one who want peace and quiet, I’m the one being kicked out???” This is too much.
“Just come and see the room first!” he said.
I told him, “Sir, this is not the point. I know I want quiet but these kids need to know RESPECT! I’m more bothered of their attitude than the noise itself!”

But I followed him to the room anyway, although I was frustrated that I could not get my point across.

Indeed it was a very nice, very quiet room. It was Selangor Info Hub, which apparently includes the Sultan’s collection. There was an even nicer seat, a nice table just for one person, slightly cooler and very very quiet. I was alone there. For the next two hours I was rather happy, but a small part of me still felt angry because just being in a quiet room was not the whole point.

* * *
One might say, what else would I want? I already had a nice, comfortable by myself, why should I worry about those (medical) students?

You see, my main point is those kids need to learn respect. They need to know and understand that the main library hall is a place where people go to get some peace and quiet, for them to be able to focus on their studies.

Not everyone is blessed with a quiet house. Mine is, in fact, very quiet, but there is a very comfortable bed which is not available in the library.

Just think about this.
We ran away from home for some good reason. As comfortable as the library is, it might not be as good as home.
Many of us work while studying, and most have kids at home.
Those who are full time student might not live in a house conducive enough to focus in their studying.
Some of us really prefer to study in peace and quiet; no talking, no music.
Like me, my house is peaceful but I have distractions, so the library is the best place to be.

Please respect our rights. If we wanted somewhere noisy, we would have just sat at any mamak stall and study. We could have ordered any snacks and eat them while studying.

If we weren’t desperate, we would not have gone all the way to the library. We needed to dress up (appropriately), drive, find a car park, walk all the way from the parking place, and leave our bags outside the hall (which actually annoyed me because not many of the lockers could function anymore).

If we did not need this peace and quiet, we probably wouldn’t have bothered coming.

Please show us some respect. Be quiet when you’re in the library. If you need to have a discussion, use the discussion rooms. They are available in every floor. If you don’t want to pay for the rooms, then discuss somewhere else, in one of your houses, perhaps.

I have never done any discussions in the college library when I was a student. It was always done in one of our houses.

So please. Show respect.

Be quiet when you are in the library.

* * *
Personally, I don’t think it is the librarian’s job to maintain the peace in the library.
As medical students (yes, most of the noisy kids were medical students!!!), they should have already understood the bulk of information that people need to digest. They should have already understood that the library is supposed to be a quiet place.

Hey, I thought it is COMMON SENSE???