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Where’s a Crotchety Old Librarian When You Need One?

Disapproving Librarian

No one dares to speak in her library.

Libraries are places to read. Work. Do research. And keep your mouth shut. Or, if you’re compelled to open it, speak in a whisper. That’s what I was taught. And got a sharp rebuke if I didn’t abide by it.

Today, entitled mothers and their entitled children evidently aren’t subject to such strictures. For them, libraries (and I’m not talking about separate children’s sections) are yet another public playspace to run, shout, shriek, whine, and otherwise terrorize shared reading areas. 

As one who escapes to such ostensibly quiet venues to write, I’m flabbergasted how loudly many parents, kids and even some librarians talk, laugh and carry on extended conversations, oblivious to people trying to concentrate on their work or reading materials. (Maybe I didn’t get the memo that declared the library will no longer be a sanctuary of respectful silence.) 

Lest I sound like a curmudgeon, let me assure you, I am not alone in shaking my head and rolling my eyes in disbelief. The boisterous behavior of a few can disrupt the peace and focus of entire rooms of library patrons. Largely, it’s the parents who deserve the blame. There is often zero awareness that the ruckus their offspring are creating might actually be disturbing to others. No appeals to “talk in our library voices”. No speaking sotto voce to set an example. No attempt to turn an unruly outburst into a teachable moment. (“See those nice people reading over there? Keep it up and they’re going to boot your obnoxious little butt out of here.”) I can only believe a generation of spoiled kids has grown up and is now passing the torch of inconsiderateness on to the next. 

Keeping the peace in a library shouldn’t require an armored division. One cantankerous old-school librarian who’s a stickler for rules is all it would take. Yet this apparently is not in the cards according to a pleasant but permissive young librarian I spoke with. “Today, we try to be service oriented and not offend anyone. You never know if the person is a library donor.” Hey, what about me? I’m a library donor. I don’t like being offended either. 

While we don’t need more dictators in the world, we do need more dictatorial librarians. Those who don’t quail before self-absorbed moms who believe their children are beyond reproach. Those who don’t fear a lawsuit for simply admonishing another’s child. Those who assert their authority to maintain order. And those who at least make an attempt to instruct parents that a library is a bastion of quietude and should not be treated as yet another annex of Disney World.

February 14, 2011 • Posted in: Uncategorized

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