Why libraries need to be louder to stay open…

It was not only my first taste of freedom but it also opened up a world of magic and mystery, drama and dreams bigger and brighter than anything I had known before.

Photo by Matthew Petroff via Flickr.
Photo by Matthew Petroff via Flickr.

I was able to attend a boarding school by the sea where my friends and I enjoyed midnight feasts and lacrosse*, I visited a land that travelled through space on the back on a giant turtle where Death rides a pale horse called Binky and you better not call the librarian a monkey and I escaped to a new faraway land at the top of the tree where rabbits enjoyed cake.

When I think of my local library, the only place my mum allowed me to walk by myself when I was young, I still get a warm feeling. But it has more to do with the books I was allowed to bring home than the experience of visiting the building itself.  All I did was quietly roam the shelves and the only time I spoke was probably to thank the librarian when she checked out my books – and even then it was in the hushed tones expected.

Freya’s experience is going to be very different to mine because, while she will hopefully still foster a love of books that will let her mind soar, she won’t see a library as a place of silence and strict rules but as a place of noise and fun.

As often as possible we attend Bounce and Rhyme which is packed full of children running around and adults singing. I admit it is somewhat chaotic and naturally noisy but she seems to love it. We, like many others, stay afterwards so she can bring me books from the shelves in the children’s section which we “read” together.

I personally not only feel that it is lovely for her but also necessary if we are going to encourage the next generation to carry on making use of libraries – especially when it’s so easy now just to download what we want (imagine what it will be like in 10 years, you’ll probably just swipe a screen and a book will go straight into your brain).

Photo by Earthworm via Flickr.
Photo by Earthworm via Flickr.

However, the Daily Mail cites a story from Public Libraries News suggesting that “public librarians, perhaps in the reaction to the stereotypical ‘shush’ image have sometimes gone out their way to be louder and more energetic and, in doing so, have alienated some of its clientele and core audience.”

While I can appreciate that if you’re trying to read having to put up with a bunch of noisy parents and children is probably not ideal, it is one day a week in our library and I really feel if we want them to remain open then we need to maximise their appeal to as many people as possible – which probably wouldn’t be parents of young children if you had to shush them all the time.

The mail story quotes the following: “According to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s recent survey, the number of people using libraries declined by six per cent and book lending by 8.6 per cent last year.”

Even more reason, then, to get them interested at a young age so that numbers don’t decline any further.

What do you think? Should we go back to the way things were and insist on quiet? Also, just for fun, who can name the books/authors I was talking about above? 

* For years I thought lacrosse was a made up game.

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