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Shhhhh: Silence is Golden

I enjoy going to the local library. My branch has a special LGBT collection that represents the neighborhood’s demographic and relevant. What used to be comfort and shared silence in an institution of knowledge is no more. Burst in shortly after the library opens is a bevy of SUVs strollers in which sit little human beings that make all kind of noises. The kids, some are toddlers, have barely developed speech, let alone the ability to read. With their nannies chasing after them, these kids roam around the library, screaming to the extent that the sound waves undulate across the building to reach the reading room. I understand the library’s need to integrate the interests of community and foster an atmosphere of an converging ground. The nursery rhyme session is going overboard because some of the behaviors (or the lack of discipline on the part of parents and nannies) breach the library’s code of conduct made known to generations of readers. Silence is golden. Silence is prerequisite to a pleasant library experience in an atmosphere conducive to study, reading and appropriate use of materials and services. I even refrain the use of cellphone within the library lest to breach the silence. Maybe the times are really changing that these values are no longer appreciated. I remember being told when I was a first grader that I should make every effort to preserve that enormous, almost staid, silence that prevailed the library as soon as I walked through the threshold. Gone is time when the purpose of library was primarily on books, as more patrons come to the library to use computers to access the internet (don’t get me started about racy and pornographic materials some of the users are accessing). I still believe that certain ground rules are timeless and therefore should be enforced regardless of the advent of time. How would kids know the proper manner to behave if they are not educated? On a few occasions I even sighted consumption of snacks on the premise. Library is not your living room.

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14 Responses

  1. Well said. This happens all the time at our library. While I don’t mind the presence of those unable to read, my pet peeve is the proliferation of toys that have crept into the library in recent years. (I probably sound like a curmudgeon for saying this.) But in our children’s section, there is a toy/play area that gets so freakin’ loud – so much so that my daughter often asks to leave the children’s room and go sit and read in the “grown-up section” because of the racket.

    • I wish people who are not there to read to respect the condition and environment that is conducive to reading. In some branches the toy/play area is on a different level from the reading room. In my branch, it’s practically across the floor.

  2. I hate noise in the library too. My library has a “noisy” study area that is closed off with a door from the rest of the library. If people want to be noisy they go in there. That keeps the rest of the library for those of us that want peace and quiet!

    • You would think that a door should act as sound-proof partition. How the designer decided to put the toy/play area right in the middle of the library is completely beyond me.

  3. Hear hear! When I went to our local library the other day there was a child in the children’s section screaming and throwing kiddie chairs and bits of jigsaw around, his temper tantrum reverberating through the whole place. His mother just cooed at him adoringly and left him to it. I’d have been dragged out in shame if I’d have done something like that as a child (which I wouldn’t anyway!). I’m all for children enjoying the library and using what it has to offer, and activities being held to get kids interested in reading, but not at a decibel level where it drives all the other patrons to breaking point!

    • I’m all for children to learn the proper etiquette at the library, to nourish a love for reading. I think parents should take the responsibility to keep the children’s behavior in check, as a form of educating the young minds. Today a kid discovered the security alarm and constantly ran through the door with unchecked library books to set off the alarm. The mother did nothing to curb him until I went up to address the issue.

  4. I even get annoyed when there’s too much noise in the Barnes & Noble! LOL

    • I think noisy people are everywhere. You would think people know the appropriate manner for bookstores, but they would talk on the phones as if they’re in their living room.

  5. My three year old has a library card and treasures it. He reads aloud, at home, but is silent at the library. Even the children’s section in the several libraries around us are silent. We have very strict library monitors/volunteers. I was once nearly banned for life after forgetting to turn my phone OFF instead, forgetting it on vibrate…in the stacks…not even in the study area. Don’t mess with Dekalb County libraries…

    • I bet your child must follow the footstep of a respectful mother, who steers him toward a love of reading and a readerly etiquette. :) The public library should emulate academic library’s example by zapping phone signals.

  6. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that times are changing.

    Our university library implemented “talk zones” and “cell phone zones” where talking, texting and meeting in loud groups is allowed. I hate it, because these spaces are not confined by walls. It’s out in the open, how can you prevent the sound from carrying? You can’t so it makes for a loud experience.

    Our county library here by me, is being taken over by the city, and it’s obvious from the surveys they are circulating, the “silence” is not what they are going for. The focus seems to be on community and teen spaces where they can interact and socialize. The Central library downtown, does this with a room for this purpose. Our library may do this, but I don’t know yet how they plan to handle it.

    I never understand why libraries put the children’s section right smack in the middle of a room. Kids will be kids and telling them to be quiet makes them louder but give them a space where they can get excited about the books, without disrupting the rest of the room.

  7. At Cal library cell phone signals are zapped in the stacks and study areas. One can only access to the phone at the lobby and circulation area. I think that works fairly well. If patrons have to take calls, they have to step outside lest to disturb the quiet environment. Public library is a different story since the main purpose is not studying but more of a community converging ground.

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