Why Is It So Loud In Here?

Posted on July 24, 2012. Filed under: Library Woes | Tags: , |

As a woman is leaving today, she wants to know how she can make a complaint. I gave her one of our forms to give to my branch manager. She fills it out and leaves it with me. I see that she’s complaining about the noise level, saying that kids were running around and being loud, and their parents were letting them. I’m always a torn when it comes to this issue. How do we balance the needs of people who need the quiet to study and the needs of children who we want to see the library as a fun place to be?

It’s an outdated view that libraries are quiet places. In an age when libraries are trying so hard to be more than just book repositories so that they can stay relevant, there are going to be sacrifices, and the noise level is one of them. We’re a small branch, and we’ve done everything we can to close off the children’s section, but yes, when there are even 20 kids in there, picking out books and movies, playing with our early literacy activities, putting on puppet shows, it’s going to get loud. We try very hard to keep the noise contained to that area, and we try to be diligent about talking to parents when their children are particularly boisterous in other parts of the library. I have to say, though, with everything we have to do and all of the people who need help, the noise level is not always a priority, especially when we’re not hearing any complaints. The last thing we want to do is make kids feel unwelcome. After all, they’re our biggest users.

I feel like I’m saying that people who need quiet to do their work need to get over it and use headphones, but I really am sympathetic. I need quiet too if I have to concentrate on something. The fact is, there are some things we can’t change about our branch. I knew from the beginning that putting the study rooms so close to the children’s area would be a bad idea, but there was nowhere else to put them. Other libraries might have a better layout, especially if they have multiple floors, but we don’t have that luxury. What we do have are times when very few kids are in the library, and you can always count on hearing a pin drop. I always recommend these times to people who need the quiet to work.

Maybe it’s because I’m used to the noise, but now when I go into a very quiet library, I always feel like it must be a depressing place to be.

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