To Shush or Not to Shush

Is the 21st century library really supposed to be quiet? In 2004 I had the opportunity to visit the Czech Republic on a two and a half week trip with the University of North Carolina’s School of Information and Library Science. I was particularly struck by one public library we visited that had been acoustically designed to allow people to converse without disturbing other library patrons. I’m sorry to say I don’t remember where this library was – Prague or Plisn or one of several other metropolitan areas we visited.

Ever since that trip I’ve been invisioning my ideal library space as a place where students (I work in an academic setting, but I suppose public library patrons could be considered students of a sort too) choose to go, not just to use the computers or complete an assignment, but to learn and communicate and share. I would place one library staff desk right in the middle of the room to serve as circulation, reference, computer assistance and general information. Staff would all have computers with high-speed internet where they would be logged into services for chat, blogging, micro-blogging, etc., and they would have Bluetooth phones so they could answer questions on the go. Patrons, in turn, would have conversational seating areas, white boards with markers, and anything else they might need to facilitate group work. Books would not be separated into so many different areas (in my library we have separate sections for “popular books” and “multicultural books” as well as a reference section, a health reference section, and a ready reference section.

“Study rooms” would be used by individuals wishing to study in a quiet setting rather than by groups who we’ve pushed out of the common area for being too loud.

Alas, I’m just a low person on the ol’ totem pole. Maybe someday I’ll get to design a library from the ground up and make it into what I want. In the meantime I’ll keep sushing people…but only when my boss is around to complain if I don’t. 🙂

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