We all know the story, you walk into a library, coffee shop, or archive to be productive. You sit down, put your work in front of you and get to it. Once you are 5 minutes into your task some cool kid decides to listen to his headphones at maximum volume. Perhaps you are two pages into a dense book and another cool kid decides that a quiet library is great place to make a phone call. Although library/archive etiquette is a topic for another post, this entry will provide an answer to the aforementioned issues.
I have been in search for the perfect pair of headphones since I started graduate school. This process will be very personal since it will depend on what you like and what you are looking for in headphones. I suggest you look for earphones that isolate sound, this will keep outside sound out, and not require you to blast your music (which could create noise for others and damage your hearing). I personally dislike over-the-ear headphones because in certain conditions they make my ears hot, and they are less discreet and less compact. I can toss a pair of in-ear headphones into my pocket or backpack and grab them when I need them.
Earphones are particularly important in archives. Archivists and security guards will definitely talk and sometimes even play music. Other investigators might also find the need to engage in conversations, not always quietly. Even if everyone is silent, there is always someone using a cellphone or point-and-shoot to take pictures and they forget (or neglect) to turn off the shutter sound. Instead of confronting anyone or being distracted by ambient noise, pop some earphones in and enjoy some of your favorite music or increase your concentration with white noise.
I have found a set of headphones that work very well for me. I’ve tried monster, bose (over ear and in ear), Street by 50 cent and a plethora of cheaper options. I found that the popular name brands are typically selling you the brand and lack a clean sound and comfortable fit. A couple years ago I came across thinksound ts02s and I fell in love. While they are expensive, they isolate sound very well and provide amazing sound. They are inconspicuous and last a long time if you take care of them. I typically use a cheap set of earbuds when I go jogging (in safe areas without traffic) in order to preserve my thinksounds. I’m a poor graduate student and can’t afford to drop money on these buds every month.
Wear whatever you want, but make sure you use something. When I have forgotten my earphones in the archive, I find myself getting frustrated and even annoyed with the noise. Just make sure that you don’t dance impromptu when one of your favorite songs comes on.