I Can’t Hear You (I’m in a Library)

I cannot quite recall exactly how old I was when my mother first took me to the library. It must have been during a time in my life when a tenacious coyote chasing an evasive roadrunner kept me entertained for hours. Actually, it still does. I DO remember that it was a library in Columbus, GA that, in my very young eyes, was like walking into the Library of Congress. A myriad of tomes that seemed to reach into Heaven held volumes of knowledge on more subjects than my elementary aged mind could conceive. I also remember one cardinal rule my mother imparted upon me from my first day in the library: One has to be VERY quiet in the library so that others in the library can peacefully (wait for it) read. I always respected this rule because I really enjoyed going to the library with my mother. I also did not want my mother to tan my hide. I didn’t know exactly want it meant to have a tanned hide but I knew it was REALLY bad.
Even now, as a middle aged man, I respect that adage in the library that silence is golden. However, in today’s libraries, it appears that many people are either unaware of the value of silence or upset by the current gold standard. People in libraries today speak as if they are addressing one another while sitting at the Indy 500. This fact would be partially tolerable if such behavior was committed primarily by small children. Unfortunately, most patrons guilty of such behavior are teenagers and even adults old enough to HAVE teenagers. A place which was once a place of quiet decorum has now become a den of din. We are moving into a world where respect for a library environment is becoming passé. We are rearing children who think the Dewey Decimal System was created by the nephew of Donald Duck.
Some of this may be driven by innovations in technology. I remember when a library’s card catalog was kept on CARDS. I am not referring to virtual cards or electronic cards. I am referring to 3” x 5” cards kept in a filing cabinet that anyone could peruse and find a book. Nowadays, any given library branch’s catalog is available via the World Wide Web. My “library card” dangles from my keychain. Fines and hold fees can be paid with a debit card. This in and of itself is not a bad thing. I am a software quality tester. I have worked in jobs that developed the very type of software most libraries utilize. However, one cannot help but wonder if such immediately available service and information has perpetuated the very rudeness for which the average public library has fallen victim.
Today, as I sat in the library surfing the Internet, I was very dismayed by a woman’s loudness in the library. This woman’s voice could be heard throughout the library. I thought that perhaps this woman was a helicopter pilot and was trying to assimilate to a quieter environment. Sadly, I discovered that this woman was the librarian. It made me want to scream. Alas, I knew if I did, my mother would tan my hide.

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