Shhhh…It’s the Library…

Via John Schumacher on Twitter comers this opinion piece from Oregon Live:

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/03/shhh_its_a_library_not_the_cor.html

Ellen Hansen writes about her love of quiet and the lack of it in her library: (emphasis is mine)

No, my full wrath is reserved for library-quiet abusers. When did the library turn into the local coffee shop? One man comes into our library and sets up as if it’s his own, private office space. That’s fine, if you’re reading, writing or even typing on your computer nonstop. But his work entails talking on the phone nonstop, for hours on end.

Others conduct education tutorials or hours-long business collaborations or gadget-comparing conferences at nearby tables. Even if not full-throated, the constant drone of nonstop voices rubs nerves raw.

Another fellow comes in, sits down at the table behind me, pins his ears back and tucks into a tub of cottage cheese, smacking his way through a tall can of pineapple slices as a side dish. He then slurps a half-gallon of orange juice to complete the performance. As choral accompaniment in this flu season, a symphony of sniffs and snorts, coughs and throat-clearings chimes in all around me.

A teacher walks through giving a gaggle of fifth-graders a library tour in full recess-volume voice … two friends carry on an excited and loud conversation in the stacks about a favorite author’s recent tome … a grandfatherly fellow peruses magazines and shouts into his cell phone, “Where are you now? Still in the fiction section? No, I’m over in magazines.”

In fact, the periodicals section is often the loudest section of the library, despite two prominently displayed signs which read: “Quiet Reading Area, No [picture of a cell phone].” One woman plops herself down daily on one of the upholstered chairs, chattering away into her cell phone. When a fellow library patron finally points to the sign not 10 feet from the chatterbox’s head, the woman nods, and keeps on talking.

Maybe it’s my jetlag today, but it concerns me that Hansen has monitored these behaviors for “hours on end” to list out the offenses library patrons commit. No shushing librarians come to her rescue during these hours. I wonder what another patron might say about all the activity? That the library feels “alive?”

I hope a representative of her library responds with some thoughts about library use. I wonder if the building is of such size that mixing a quiet area and more general use spaces is difficult. Maybe the library is in transition now. Any readers have the rest of the story?

Take a look at the full piece and the comments. I’ll be sharing this with my Intro to LIS class – maybe an exercise where we write a response.

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