Paradoxically, while I’m working at becoming a more tolerant, patient and inclusive human being, I find myself challenged almost daily by what I tend to see as anti-social and selfish behaviour. I recognise that this is brought into focus in part by the fact that my two local libraries represent my main way of reaching the outside world – since I do not have home internet access. But it still upsets me greatly.
Yesterday I was inwardly fuming at the racket caused in my local library by a variety of users – young and old. I did a quick search and found a number of articles examining this fairly recent phenomenon including one at The Travellin’ Librarian.
In the past I’ve discussed the matter with a local library manager who defended the noise with the assertion that part of their brief was to “engage the community”. He didn’t enlarge upon exactly what he meant by this and I have to say that it came across as some kind of “buzz” speak.
I firmly but politely countered that there were already community centres, youth clubs etc where these principles could be exercised. I explained that I felt that this policy risked making the place unwelcoming for those that wished to engage in private study and/or reflection; activities that were central to library-use historically and which tended to be less well-suited to those aforementioned community resources.
I was told that my feedback would be passed on…
I’ve since noticed that some of the staff will challenge groups of noisy kids but others will not. To date I’ve not witnessed any staff challenges to the small number of guys who are near permanent fixtures, speaking loudly into their phones as if the place was their own private office.
From what I’ve read online, this isn’t solely a UK issue:
- The Lost ‘Library Voice’
- Booklover goes the way of shushing staff as community hubs take hold
- Libraries for Librarians, not Readers
- Quiet, Please!
It is a matter of no little irony that right next door to the library where I am fortunate enough to take part in some (currently free) adult educational activities is… a community centre.
And yet many of the guys from the community seem to prefer to come to the seats at the front of the larger of my two nearby libraries throughout opening hours and conduct their conversations in tones that often resound through the ground floor of the building.
In a further irony – at least to my eyes/ears – the women are usually hard at work at the desks and/or at the computers making as little noise as do I and other more traditionally-minded library users.