CellZones: Futuristic Capsules Land in the Library!

**Updated 2/19

Taking the campus by storm, the news of the Davis Family Library’s latest acquisition of two CellZone booths has been spreading like wildfire across social media. So of course, hearing the news, I did the next most logical thing and went with one of my best friends to test them out and take pictures.

Cellzone booth on the upper level of Davis family Library (Photo by Yiling Zhang)

The good: Really cool idea, and I like the harkening back to the era of phonebooths. Very futuristic time-capsule type feeling, but practical with a cell-phone charging station inside (cords for various kinds of phones included). There is even an air purification system inside!

The bad: Not actually fully soundproof. According to our very scientific study (of entering, making a phone-call and having the other see if they could still hear us at various distances outside while one was in the booth talking) we’ve determined that while the sound is dampened, if you’re in the immediate area, you can definitely still hear the chatting. Go a few carrells back and you’re fine, but most likely annoying to the people directly around it.

The remaining questions: Where did these come from, why are they here, and will they be staying for good? (Update 2/19: We have some answers! Thank to all our commenters, especially Joseph Watson (Preservation & Processing Manager and LIS Facilities Coordinator for the added info!):

Why: Watson explained the dual purpose of these booths in the comments below, and his LIS Blogpost:

1) To Help With Disruptive Cell Phones Use in the Library: “For years we’ve had complaints about people having cell phone conversations adjacent to study areas.  Other academic libraries like ours have successfully used cell phone booths like these to solve that problem,” Watson wrote on the blog.  LIS corresponded with UMass- Amherst and “were told that the booth had been very well received there and was heavily used by students,” he explained via email.  Other schools such as Harvard Business School, University of Baltimore, and Bentley University use them as well. Even cooler? “There are two installed in the “situation room” in the basement of the Whitehouse.  We’re told they were positively reviewed by the likes of Vice President Cheney and Sec. of State Rice,” Watson shared.

2) To Benefit Staff Work/Life Balance: Watson explained there are “about thirty staff members working in shared offices in Davis Family Library and these folks don’t have a private place for phone calls to their doctor, baby sitter, etc.   Part of the reason we acquired the cell phone booths was to enhance the work/life balance of these staff members.”

Where: While it does seem these are in the library for good, the permanent locations for the booths are still to be determined. Joseph Watson explained via email, “if there is a general feeling that the current placement of the booths is not ideal, we will find a better spot for them.  We need to strike a balance between them being too high profile and being easily found so they are convenient.” As he wrote on the blog, if you have suggestions on the booth’s placement, feel free to email him (jwatson@middlebury.edu).

$$: According to previous coverage of ‘CellZone’ products, it seems each unit costs between $2,400$-3,500, though  Watson explained the library acquired them at a “deeply discounted price.” Due to an agreement with the company, the library is unable to share the exact price.

As Watson concluded his post,  “We purchased them at a deeply discounted price and we hope they’re worth it.  Only time will tell. ” What do you think? Are you a fan of the Cellzones now at Midd?

Cellzone booth in the Basement of the Davis Family Library (Photo by Brittany Gendron)

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15 thoughts on “CellZones: Futuristic Capsules Land in the Library!

  1. Alright well this is one of the more bizarre financial investments this school has made. My two cents: for that price, those booths better be freaking time-turners. Or Tardises. Now I’m just being nerdy, but the point still stands- seems like a strange use of college funds.

  2. I work in LIS and part of my job is to coordinate facility concerns in Davis Library. I’m glad you’ve noticed the booths and think, overall, they’re a good idea. We purchased them in response to two needs; a place for students to make phone calls without having to go out into the weather; and a place for staff who work in shared offices in Davis Library to be able to make private phone calls without having to go out into the weather. There are about thirty staff members who couldn’t have a private conversation at their desk with their doctor, baby sitter, etc. The Cell Zones seemed like a good way to provide such a space for them, enhancing their “work/life balance”. And yes, people making calls in study areas has been a common complaint for years, and other academic libraries like ours have successfully used cell zones to solve that problem.
    The really good news is, we got them at a deeply discounted price. Will everyone thing they’re worth it? Hard to say, but LIS Administration thought it was worth trying to improve the ability of folks to use their phones without going out into the winter cold. We may be hard wiring them with land line phones too.
    Oh, and we’re going to do a blog post of our own explaining all this, but we’re not sure the booths will be permanently located where they are now, so we wanted to wait until we tried the locations and worked with them a bit before announcing them broadly. You beat us to the punch!

  3. I work in the library and there have been many times when I have heard a student having a cell phone conversation in the stairwells. People don’t realize that these conversations are not private at all- in fact, the stairwells seem to magnify the sounds so they echo all over the library. Obviously many students do not simply “go outside”. The Cell Zones will provide a much needed private space for phone conversations for everyone.

    • I want to echo what Ginny said. Speaking of ‘echo’ – that’s what you get in the stairwell! And the rest rooms! Seriously, folks, please don’t make cell phone calls in the stairways or the restrooms in the Library. Please.If for no other reason than that we can hear everything you say. Please. Thank you!

  4. Where did the idea of a cell phone booth come from? The idea got started when a colleague needed to make confidential work related phone calls, and was unable to do so from our shared office. It was during the finals period last December, and she could not find any other private spot in the library, as all the study rooms, private offices, even semi-private spaces were occupied. An email just arrived inviting applications for the
    Work/Life Mini Grants
    from the Sloan Foundation, and we applied for funding for one phone booth.

    Because of a real need for a location in the library from which private phone calls could be made both by students and by staff, the Dean of LIS Mike Roy offered to provide additional funding for the purchase a phone booth if needed. However, our application was declined by the ACE/Sloan Advisory Committee and other projects received the funding.

    When we found that the CellZone maker was selling the booths at deeply discounted prices, the LIS administration made the decision to purchase two of them. They were delivered to the library on Valentine’s Day!

    Many thanks to Mike Roy for making this happen!

  5. Money well spent. It just asks for 2 dollars from each student per year. Then the college can recoup the original investment in 4 years. Good deal: In more than one occasions, I was willing to pay 5 bucks just to let that noisy phone chatter shut up!

  6. they are an architectural travesty, a corruption of architectural space and a tremendous act of disrespect towards the designers of the building

    • Dear W,
      I take your point that we need to be sensitive to the aesthetics of our building when we introduce new elements to support new needs. That said, I hope you recognize that the present placement is not the permanent placement, and also that buildings exist to serve our needs, and sometimes our needs interfere with some grand aesthetic program. We mean no disrespect to the architects. I am certain that they would have included something in the original design had cell phone coverage on campus been such that they could have anticipated such a situation as we presently face. There is a lesson here in how one balances form and function, the old and the new, the grand vision and the day-to-day practicalities of keeping a building vibrant and functional.

      — mike

  7. Hi Guys,
    I recommend you have your contributions proof-read by others before posting them. Quite a bit of really awkward English up there.

  8. Thanks to everyone for their comments — specifically Joseph and Marlena for more of the context from the Library perspective! Looking forward to seeing the post and feedback received from the larger Campus Community regarding this (which maybe some of these comments will help with).

    To Anonymous, I thank you for your constructive criticism. In my opinion, as a blog writer I feel that sharing a story in an informal, conversation-like, quick way is generally more important than having perfect mechanics. Especially when it’s something like this that everyone was talking about, and I felt deserved a centralized discussion where people could comment (as I am happy to see is happening). I do appreciate, however, the loss that may be incurred when putting time and informality before editing and I thank you for bringing that to our attention.

    • Hi Brittany,

      I wonder if you would be willing to update the body of the post and strike out the price conjecture you included, since based on Joseph’s and Marlena’s responses, we know that the price listed there is not what the College paid for the booths? Having inaccurate price information in the article may skew the response and make the cost of the booths seem more extravagant than it actually was, and while the correct information is included in the comments, it seems like correcting the body of the post could help avoid further confusion.

      Many thanks for considering this adjustment!

      -Jess Isler, LIS Librarian

    • To Jess, of course! I would be more than happy to and will be updating as we have more information. However, while the rate is reduced, there has yet to be an indication of how much. Once I have the number (email to Joseph on the way)… this post will reflect that.

    • Regarding the exact price that was paid for the booths– I’m sorry to say that we have an agreement with the vendor that prevents us from publically sharing the discounted price. Naturally they do not want to annoy other recent customers who may have paid more, and they do not want the sale price to us to become the new norm.

  9. I was looking at one of these in the Library today and noticed there was no charger for an iPhone….seemed odd as iPhones are one of the most popular cell phones…

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