Friday, March 24, 2006

cell phones in the library 1

There's this library with a NO cell phone policy. But it does allow laptops, Pocket PCs, etc.

Presumably patrons could skype on their laptops – would that count as phone use? And they can talk to each other, across the tables – so why not to other students in other rooms or in other cities?

Some librarians might say “but they’re not using their phones for academic purposes…” Well, how do you know that? You can’t police their conversations. It’s kinda like a student looking at a J.Crew catalog on library computers – is it academic use? Well, it is if they're looking at online pricing trends for a marketing class.

The point is that patrons ought to be relatively quiet in the library. If they can use a laptop or a cell phone quietly, then they ought to be able to use that technology because it can help them with research. Patrons: Cell phones on SILENT or at least on MEETING mode, please. Set it to VIBRATE, or get out of the library… And don’t shout your conversation in any medium.

Mobile phones aren’t going away. In fact, they’re becoming ever more prevalent and ever more useful. The line between ‘computers’ and ‘phones’ has long since been crossed. The line between tools like the Blackberry and the Pocket PC on one hand, and the ordinary cell phone on the other has way been crossed. Mobile phones now have web browser capabilities, file transfer ability, e-mail, simple word processors, cameras, and other applications. You might say that the cell phone is the poor man’s laptop computer.

I don’t think we should deny patrons their information tools, whether laptops or cell phones. Given, we don’t want cell phones constantly ringing. We also don’t want mp3s blasting out of a thinkpad. But we do want students to use the tools at hand to help them record and organize information, and to create quality content with whatever tools they have at hand. Let's not be so elitist as to allow a $2000 laptop and dissalow a cellphone when both are used for similar purposes and to the same ends, thanks.


Starrlett said...

I think your ideas are right on target. At my library, we've instituted a "no cell-phone" period policy; primarily, I think, because it's easier to say "no" across the board than to qualify it with, "just be quieter, please." But not all librarians police it equally, and I myself don't mind seeing a student speak quietly on one or check their voicemail, which is completely silent. However, I've heard from some at the library that even voicemail or text-ing should be discouraged, because we can't police all library floors, and therefore shouldn't encourage cellphone use at all.

Like all policies, it's never an easy thing to solve. :) But again, I like your take on it--phones are information tools, too.

Woody Evans said...

One day, thinks I, banning of "cell phones" will seem like trying to ban pencils...