Shushing the Ringtones

What should libraries do about cellular telephones? Last month a California public library made splashy headlines by setting fines for up to $1,000 against repeated cell phone users. Other libraries are even planning to block signals by using a signal jammer. Are such procedures necessary to handle cell phone abuse in libraries?

Many library "User Responsibilities" policies already cover rules against creating disturbances. A device-specific rule (are walkie-talkies okay?) without exceptions (would you tell the copier repair team or the gas leak inspector to hang up?) or clarifications (many libraries say "turn off phones" when in fact "set ringers to vibrate" would be acceptable) seems overkill. Banning or assessing fines against chronically rude policy violators, however, seems quite justified.

Cell signal detectors and jammers (or even building materials that block signals) are finding a market (among churches, finer restaurants and theaters, and possibly hotels), although the latter are illegal in the United States. Yes, cell phones are annoying and can create road hazards, but banning or blocking these signals can cost lives. It's that simple. How would you feel if your doctor's phone or pager was set to vibrate but was blocked by a library during an emergency? Moreover, in the days of library coffee shops, group study rooms, information commons areas and other communal spaces in libraries, are these measures warranted?


I've already expressed my opinion of cell-phones (negative), but I think it's important to maintain the decorum and atmosphere people expect and should have in a library. Enforcement might be a bit sticky, but after receiving a $100 or $200 fine, patrons might get the message..."go home and take your **** cell-phone with you." Fines (well below $1K) are an excellent way to make extra income for the library.

I have no problem fining people or jamming their signals because their cell phones create disturbance in the library. Most of the time, it's not their talking that's annoying, it's the ringers. People are trying hard to find information and study and work and suddenly they have their concentration broken by Ricky Martin or Christina Aguilera belting out the fact their phone is ringing.

Though usually the problem goes away after they answer it, there's those chosen few who insist that their cell phone has a faulty microphone. It must have a faulty microphone because they answer it thus: HEY! YEAH! YEAH! NO, I'M AT THE LIBRARY!. One day we had someone come in, leave their backpack and cellular on a table, go of in search of their books, and they never heard their cell phone ring- 3 times.

And please, the argument about doctors and emergencies and the like is flawed. Ten years ago cell phones were still a novelty and few even among doctors. What did they do then? They had pagers. I suggest that a small beeping device is far less intrusive on library patrons. I have no problem with pagers, as long as they keep beeping and don't start acquiring their own ringtones. After all, people are used to hearing beeping sounds in libraries since most all of our equipment beeps. I carry a cell phone at work, and I have it set to beep once when someone calls. I can tell the difference between my cell phone beep and a barcode scanner's beep, but most everyone else can't. However if the library tomorrow said "Absolutely no cell phones!" I'd turn the sucker off, leave it on my desk, and be just as happy as I am now. Anyone who really needs to reach me knows to call the library.

As for emergencies, if someone needs to call 911 there's phones all over the place. As a matter of fact, given most cell phones reception problems when inside a building, I'd prefer that someone used a landline to call 911. At least the conversation won't go something like this:

Operator: 911. What's your emer-brgggggz-cy?

Me: Hi, I work at the library and... Hello? Are you still there?

Operator: I'm szzzzzggggggg.. ory sir, you're breakghhhhzzzz u...

Can ya hear me now?

"Today, more people have cell phones than fixed telephone lines, both in the United States and internationally. There are more than one billion cell phone users worldwide, and as one wireless industry analyst recently told Slate, “some time between 2010 and 2020, everyone who wants and can afford a cell phone will have one.� Americans spend, on average, about seven hours a month talking on their cell phones. Wireless phones have become such an important part of our everyday lives that in July, the country’s major wireless industry organization featured the following “quick poll� on its website: “If you were stranded on a desert island and could have one thing with you, what would it be?� The choices: “Matches/Lighter,� “Food/Water,� “Another Person,� “Wireless Phone.� The World Health Organization has even launched an “International EMF Project� to study the possible health effects of the electromagnetic fields created by wireless technologies." Our cellphones ourselves

"go home and take your **** cell-phone with you."I'm having that printed on the next library cards we have made!But I still am opposed to fines, especially fines as income.

Maybe I missed it, but why are you opposed to fines? If the police can give me a $75 ticket for driving around one block (seriously!) without a seatbelt, then why not introduce fines for inappropriate behavior? I'm curious as to your reasons.

As for using my quote on your library cards, I give permission gratis for use (no copyright!).

I agree wholeheartedly. Fines that won't bankrupt the patron seems like an excellent starting point. However I think that mobile phone users who insist on using their gizmos when driving should be fined before annoying library patrons are.

What is even more infuriating is when drivers talk on their mobile phones when driving and there is a passenger. Let he passenger play receptionist and pass messages. Put your damn hands on the wheel.

Hey Birdie,Well, library fines bother me because I do believe that even small fines can deter people fromn using the library. I had a patrom once ask if he could pay for his printouts with a food stamp.In that situation, would you let your kids check out books? Let's say 3 kids, 5 books each, 10 cents a day overdue = $1.50 a day. If you are living close to the edge (and some of my best patrons really are), you don't want to take that risk.Which brings up an issue about fines in general. That $75 fine probably hurt, but it didn't kill you. For Rich Executive, it wouldn't hurt. For patron on food stamps, it would be a severe hardship.I can't imagine a fining structure that would give the same level of punishement to all the offenders.

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