August 22, 2004 | Written by: Benjamin Markham

Acoustic Comfort in Libraries

There is a wide range of acoustical quality among library spaces. The general public may assume that a good library is a “quiet” library, when in fact objectively low background sound levels in open library spaces often lead to subjectively uncomfortable acoustics. To better define the issues, it is useful to identify objective acoustic measures that correlate with students’ and administrators’ subjective responses to libraries. Based on the results of surveys conducted by consultants at Acentech Incorporated, the author proposes that a “comfortable acoustic environment” in a library is an environment that provides freedom from distraction; that is, casual conversation and other noises in the library do not distract users reading or studying in the library. “Freedom from distraction” can be quantified and measured in terms of Articulation Index (AI) or other metrics based on signal-to-noise ratio. In highly reverberant library spaces, Speech Transmission Index (STI) may be more correlative to subjective impression of acoustic comfort. In order to provide a comfortable environment acoustically, a library must have 1) appropriate levels of background sound, 2) a physical barrier between noise-producing and noise-sensitive sections, and 3) sufficient sound absorbing material in the space. Measured quantitative metrics support these conclusions. A preliminary version of this paper was presented at the 146th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Austin, Texas.

Connect

Locations

Boston / HQ

33 Moulton Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

617 499 8000

Los Angeles Office

601 South Figueroa Street #4050
Los Angeles, CA 90017

213 330 4237

Philadelphia Office

8 Interplex Drive, Suite 218
Trevose, PA 19053

215 245 8244

Charlottesville Office

2150 Wise St #4875
Charlottesville, VA 22905

434 218 0759

NYC Office

250 West Broadway, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10013

617 499 8001

Acentech is an employee-owned company, majority-owned by its employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).