Is this blogger just a grump, or are libraries really too noisy?
I’ve spent loads of time in libraries, working, talking, reading, listening to Lieder, wandering the fiction stacks. As a 16-year-old I managed a youth theater camp at a local library. I got fired from my workstudy job at the music library. And I found lunch break respite at a quiet little Philly library where a sign on the door reads “No Cellphones.” Some of these libraries were noisier than others; most of what was happening at Crane Music Library in the early 2000’s was loud gossiping at the front desk and in the computer lab. (No, gossiping isn’t what got me fired.) But I’ve certainly been in my share of hushed library environments where the idea of calling across the room to greet a friend would have seemed as preposterous as actually approaching a reference librarian for help.
Peace and Quiet?
Shrugging off past library member experiences and donning the librarian cloak (one day I hope to be a super librarian, too), I find myself asking: Why in the world would a library need to be a quiet place? I understand the need for rooms or nooks for quiet study and reading, but most libraries today are happening places. Community members come to most types of libraries for different reasons, and not all of these require quiet.
Sure, come to study in one of the designated quiet rooms, but also come to meet your neighbors. Talk about what you’ve read, set up a play date for your kids who are making friends over in the gaming area, tweet about what a great time you’re having, and while you’re at it have a cup of coffee, pull out your Nook, put up your feet and stay awhile.
One of my favorite places to read and surf the internet is in my local coffeeshop. I can drink coffee just the way I like it at home and save a good dollar per cup. So why do I like going to places like Mello Velo cafe and Chapterhouse? The community. The buzz (and I’m not talking about coffee). I like to eavesdrop on what everyone else is saying. I like getting interrupted mid-paragraph to lean my ear toward someone talking about the run-in she just had with her crazy landlord or her favorite restaurant. Think of it as the real-world analog for the TweetDeck notification sound, Gen Y folk.
I’m in favor of libraries that have made an effort to grow toward community center. Anyone seen an inspiring example they can share with me?