Back in the day, when us oldsters were kids, we would have a library session scheduled at school. Maybe once a week or once a month.. The teacher would march us into the little school library and we were instructed to keep our voices at a whisper. If you raised your voice, you would get a stern look and get a chance to write a paper on why it’s important to be quiet while in a library.
I like libraries. Not only are they a place where you can borrow a book…a video.. a cd or a dvd, they satisfy a need for civility. They are well organized. People go there to study and to learn. Sometimes things are a little out of whack in my day to day travels and a visit to a library is the perfect tonic.
Speaking of the perfect tonic, I like bars, too. Libraries and bars may seem to be polar opposites, but they both satisfy a need. Bars are noisy, where people are loose. Telling stupid jokes or bitching about the weather. I don’t go to a bar if I seek a quiet place. I don’t go to a library if I want to hear kids screaming.
Yet, that’s where we are today. Have you been to a library lately?
There are signs on the front door which remind people that libraries are ‘no cell phone’ zones.
There are also signs in Española which remind patrons that these are quiet places.
It doesn’t make a difference. People are sitting on computers, talking on their cell phones. Little anchor babies run around screaming. Teenagers hang around tables, shooting the bull and having some laughs.
Today we read a story from the Des Plaines Patch http://desplaines.patch.com/articles/battery-at-library-stolen-car-more-in-friday-blotter and hear about a man getting punched in the face because he had the audacity to ask another patron to stop yelling on his cell phone.
When did stuff start happening? What to do?
Part of these changes for the worse started with the advent of computers in libraries. People started frequenting libraries for the sole purpose of using the computer with zero interest in books. This is a totally different mentality. The kid at computer #1 is playing some video game online against the kid sitting at computer #4, while some out of work Joe is trying to work on his resume on pc #2 and some mom is updating her Facebook status on #3. Much of the chatter starts in the computer aisle.
Cell phones. Many people have no regard for the people around them when using cell phones in public. You can put a sign on the front door, but until you are able to make somebody’s cell phone explode at will, you can’t make them show any consideration for others. We can just attribute this to bad parenting.
Speaking of ineffective parents, let’s talk about the anchor babies running rampant around the library as though they were out on the playground. The librarian smiles at them not because the little kids are precious, but because the librarian doesn’t want to deal with conflict and enforce the rules. They have probably given up on saying ‘sssshhhhh’ and tell each other that "we don't get paid enough to be sheriffs."
What do we do to restore the decorum of the public library?