Library Quiet Spaces

Image is CC-BY from Amanda Hirsch.

Students need space to concentrate and to work. For graduate students, a distraction-free place to read, think, and work is even more important than it is for undergraduates. The researcher’s hunt for a “peaceful corner of their world, even inside of one’s own home, can often prove an ordeal” (Massis, 2012). It can be especially difficult to find a “peaceful corner” in the hustle and bustle of New York City, even at the Graduate Center.

While the entire Graduate Center Library is designed (and expected by users) to be a peaceful, relatively distraction-free space to accomplish prolonged and focused thinking, the GC library provides a couple of additional super quiet spots: the Dissertation Reading Room (1st floor) and now, at the behest of the Doctoral Students’ Council Executive Committee, the northeast corner of the library’s 2nd floor.

Dissertation Reading Room

Dissertation reading Room Pic Actual

The Dissertation Reading Room, on the 1st floor of the library, is insulated by paneled walls and heavy, sliding pocket doors. In this beautiful room with high ceilings, scrolling metalwork, and rows of dissertations, inhabitants are (hopefully) inspired to keep project goals in focus. When it is not in use by administrative and faculty offices for occasional interviews and events (announced by sign in advance), the dissertation room is intended for silent, intense individual study. Users are expected to refrain from talking, typing on laptops/devices, and engaging in other kinds of audible device use (nothing that goes click, clack, beep, or buzz!).

As with all GC Library space, the super quiet spaces will be peer-monitored. Instead of calling for security or librarian enforcers in the case of a perceived offense, quiet study space users are empowered to ask others directly to stop using devices and to check any distracting noise they’re making.

Northeast Corner of the 2nd Floor

Dissertation reading Room Pic

The northeast corner of the 2nd floor of the library (along 35th St.) is lightly trafficked and well suited to focused study. The DSC Executive Committee asked the library to re-designate this area to be free of laptops, keyboards, and audible devices. Though a range of devices are frequently found there now, we will post this area as a quiet study zone, empowering users to request others not to use devices in this area. If you need to make noise, please choose another location to work.

Librarians will re-visit these policies occasionally with the DSC to assess effectiveness.

Work Cited: Massis, B. E. (2012). In the library: quiet space endures. New Library World, 113(7/8), 396–399. Accessed November 6, 2014 at

About the Author

Prof. Polly Thistlethwaite is CUNY's Interim University Dean for Library Services.