or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Overhearing Cell Phone Conversations, And The Annoyance Therein

   June 5th, 2013

Cell Phone SignA little while ago I saw an interesting post on Lifehacker about why hearing a cell phone conversation is so annoying. I'd heard this theory before, and agree with it - at least, in my own anecdotal experience, overhearing a cell phone call is way more distracting than overhearing two people having a conversation.

I'd even add one more element to their list: phone calls are more distracting than a conversation because of the pauses. When two people are having a conversation, since one or the other is constantly talking, it becomes sort of a constant background noise (which is easy for me to block out, say, while reading on a train). But overhearing just one half of a phone call, an irregular sequence of noise-pause-noise-pause, is impossible for me to filter out because each time the person starts talking again is a new distraction.

Anyway, for all these reasons, cell phones in a quiet space like a library are always going to be a problem - even in a not-necessarily-quiet library like mine. Until we can get a good white noise generator* that would drowned it out, perhaps what we really need are dedicated spaces for people to have cell phone conversations.

So, thanks to Stephanie for pointing out the cell phone phone booth:

Cell Zone Cell Phone Booth

I did a little digging and found that these are available from Salemi Industries - but according to a write up from 2006(!), they cost $2,400 to $3,500.

I'm sure a few of these would help, but if we're talking that kind of money, I'd still prefer a fountain.


*All my requests for a fountain in front of the Reference Desk have so far been denied.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “Overhearing Cell Phone Conversations, And The Annoyance Therein”

  1. Deborah Says:

    We have a sound booth at the public library in my community (not this particular brand) and it gets used quite frequently by tourists who are looking for a place they can have Skype conversations, or cell phone conversations while simultaneously on a computer with free wifi. I do think people should just step into the lobby most of the time, but the booth does serve it’s purpose and it’s easier to install than a fountain.

  2. Jami Says:

    There is a benefit to this over a fountain. The constant sound of running water from the other will make people have to pee a lot. Not so with a booth.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Deborah & @Jami: I know, I know… another concern I have is the extra humidity and moisture from the fountain probably wouldn’t be a great thing for all the books and computers in the library. A guy can still dream, but I am glad to hear that the booths do work well.