Shh! In British Library Reading Rooms, Flirting and Even Giggling

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In its old, mustily glorious quarters in the British Museum, the British Library’s main reading room was as exclusive as it was glamorous, a club rich with tradition whose distinguished alumni included Karl Marx, Virginia Woolf, W. B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw.

But in 1998 the library moved to a modern red-brick building on Euston Road, and four years ago it liberalized its admission policy. It opened its new reading rooms not only to writers and academics who depend on material from its singular collection, but also to “anyone who has a relevant research need,” a spokeswoman said.

Which is all fine. But “anyone” includes college undergraduates, and the problem with them, at least in the eyes of the older researchers, is that they tend to behave like the teenagers that many of them are.

They hog the seats.

They gather into clumps of chattering hormonal aimlessness.

They flirt, look one another up in Facebook and make complicated social plans about who will meet whom later in the cafeteria.

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