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Shhh, this is a library: MacEwan’s library has been getting quieter thanks to noise reduction strategies

by | Apr 2, 2024 | Campus, News | 1 comment

The MacEwan library has gotten quieter in the last few weeks. Due to recent renovations in February, sound absorption panels were installed to help catch the noise and sound from travelling upwards to the quiet areas of the third floor. 

“We’re doing our best to mitigate the noise,” says Preethi Gorecki, the communications librarian at MacEwan, who says the library consistently receives complaints from students that the noise levels are unmanageable for those who prefer quiet study spaces. 

“Because of the way the building is, there isn’t a lot of good ways to stop the noise from floating upwards. So, we brought in some acoustic engineers who suggested that this (the panelling) was a good idea.”

The acoustic baffle structure was designed by Building Science Engineering Ltd., an Edmonton-based engineering consulting firm, and is composed of fibreglass fabric over hush acoustic panelling. The structure now hangs by the west staircase in MacEwan’s library. 

The installation is one part of an ongoing noise mitigation strategy developed by the university in response to student consultation and official monitoring by the staff to ensure the gentle enforcement of rules for specific areas. The right furniture for collaborative areas sits in the right place, such as the group work tables being as far away from the staircases as possible. Soon, individual placards with QR codes will appear in the quiet study areas, allowing students to report overly enthusiastic talkers in quiet zones  to a library staff member who will come up and gently suggest the students to use the collaborative areas downstairs without being disruptive to those around them.

These steps sit well with Spencer Kerrison, a second-year philosophy student who frequently studies at the long tables in the quiet area of the third floor and appreciates the different options MacEwan provides regarding ambient noise levels. “I’ve never had an issue, but I can tell that it’s louder over there [west side], so that’s why I don’t study there and maybe subconsciously go to where it’s quieter,” Kerrison says, and then notes that the “structure itself is pretty cool.”

All of this speaks to the broader challenges facing the world post-COVID. Research suggests that more people are increasingly becoming noise-sensitive as we come out of the pandemic. As we readjust to a new normal with pounding construction outside, consistently beeping cell phones, and loud talkers, aging buildings such as the MacEwan library, serve to amplify the rising decibels. MacEwan has also seen an increase in enrollment in recent years, and now must accommodate a larger student body with infrastructure that wasn’t designed for the present-day noise.

Darcy Hoogers, the recently elected vice-president academic, agrees and says that he’s happy MacEwan is taking the issue seriously. “The library functions as a primary atrium for students to congregate, move through, and study. It’s easy to forget the infrastructural considerations needed to accommodate all these functions.” 

Gorecki is quick to point out that she doesn’t want it to feel like students are being policed but notes the challenge they’re facing is the same one that libraries everywhere are currently facing concerning how patrons use them.

 “Libraries are evolving, right?” she says. “And students want a place to be collaborative, but they also want a quiet place to study, and it’s the same space, so how do you reconcile that?” Gorecki says the end goal is for every student to feel they have ownership of the space and so the noise reduction project is part of an ongoing project to ensure MacEwan students feel comfortable studying and using the library again. So much so that, as the recent soundproofing structure shows, they’re willing to commit the necessary funds and then reassess if the steps don’t seem to be working. We’re not sparing much expense on this,” she says, “because this is what students wanted.”

Photo by Liam Newbigging

David Falk

The Griff

1 Comment

  1. Earnest Fosselious

    “Because of the way the building is, there isn’t a lot of good ways to stop the noise from floating upwards.”

    Correct grammar would suggest:

    “… there AREN’T a lot of good ways …”


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