The Books of My Numberless Dreams

I’ve abandoned it all right

Posted on: August 3, 2007

Last week Matt at Variety of Words blogged about his unfortunate experience at his local library. It’s a shame I hadn’t caught it then because I would have posted about it sooner and fully supported his sentiments. (It would matter so much, of course.) My local “library” has more or less turned into a community centre that happens to have books on the stacks. To my conservative, intolerant eye once a library needs a quiet room something has gone terribly wrong. (It should be the other way around — group rooms for people who need to speak at reasonable volumes.)

It’s clear to me that the local librarians see things differently. When I try to do my work at any study carrel it is them as often as anyone else who are speaking with what I like to call “cafeteria voices”, as if the government periodicals are 20 feet away from whatever location they happen to be in. Cell phone abuse is rampant regardless of age. Lessons are held right by the study carrels. (When I lived in Jamaica my tutor and I had lessons at the parish library but it was at group tables and we whispered as softly as possible; it’s not hard.) One has to do a smell check before going anywhere near them anyway, and hope that one’s neighbours are giggly teenagers instead of certain regulars who use the place as a home-away-from-home complete with dozens of grocery bags filled with three meals and assorted newspapers (?).

Quiet reading room? The park benches outside. (Seriously those spots are at any given time quieter than inside the library.) Keep in mind that the situation I describe is not during summer but early spring — the last time I went there before giving up and making the longer walk to campus.

Many persons are simply thrilled that the place is being used. I can’t ignore the benefits that the users are obviously reaping from the library, what with the high computer use and the growing ESL and Chinese books section. There’s still a book club and things have not deteriorated to the point that the place is hosting band practice (yet). Napping homeless people don’t bother me much — they’re quiet. And you can’t beat the offer of free books. I would sign a petition for it to get more government funding, or give a donation, just don’t ask me to go there.

It’s only made it clearer to me that whatever town I reside in must have a university, where the concept of what a library is has not disappeared. If you’re not student or faculty you have to pay for membership, but one can always pick up the books from the happening community spot and go to campus to read undisturbed. Mine has an excellent fiction collection and access to two other university libraries. And Starbucks, maligned as it is, never kicks out customers if they aren’t sitting with a frappuccino.

9 Responses to "I’ve abandoned it all right"

Interesting post. My college library drove me insane sometimes; there were ‘quiet areas’ all over the library, but people just ignored some of them. I found that it depended on the time that I was in the library. Maybe your library is similar? Or if your library has a basement, you could try there! At my college one, the basement had great chairs and was super quiet.

I haven’t been to my new public library, but my old one was just delicious. It was cool, a little dark, quiet, peaceful. I’m afraid to see what the new one is like! The one on base is tiny, but the only noise is people typing on the computer. And the librarian teaching kids how to shelve; somehow, I can deal with that noise!

I tend to just read at home. I’m too picky about pillows/drinks/clothes/sounds to really relax in public places for more than about an hour. If I want to get out of the house, I go to B&N (about 5-7 minutes away), grab a chai, and sit in the comfy chairs.

Oh my university library is fine. Most of them anyway. There’s the science library that is notoriously loud but the rest are reasonably quiet; and I find students are still able to be quelled by a “please keep it down, you’re in a library after all” while entitled adults and giggly teenagers are immune. You’re right though “the basement” of one of the two major libraries is always very quiet. I wonder what it is about those levels…?

I can deal with people typing and kids being taught how to shelve too. If only those were the issues.

My bedroom’s pretty hot during the summer and there is major construction being done on my street so right now so my house isn’t the most conducive place for quiet reading. Still, I have my different states and when I get into “scholarly” mode I often like to sit and work away in a good library. (The uni library has a little cafe section too so one can get coffee and some food items.) When I’m in cafe mode, then it’s off to one of the local places or the Chapters that has a Starbucks.

My local library is big, and has a lot going on in it but I don’t think it’s loud. And cell phones? Eep! I wouldn’t set foot in there without turning mine off. What are people thinking?

My favorite place to read is my cozy, comfy, chair in my bedroom that rocks and reclines, a cup of tea, and the phone on mute (quite is a must). I love the library, but I’d rather read in my own home. Our local college library is not real “inviting”. When it is spring or fall and our weather is pleasant the front porch swing is also a very great place to read!

Chris it’s funny that the patrons at my local cafe are better about the cell phones than at the library.

missdaisy no porch swings at my place but if I do ever settle somewhere permanently I shall have to see about having one.

I haven’t been to a University library since I graduated but it was where I did a lot of my studying when I was in school. I wish there was a university library nearby as it was always a quiet place. And there were so many places to hide that even if someone was being noisy you could always find a spot that was quiet. Looking back I really miss being able to use that library!

Imani, whatever University library you go to, make sure it isn’t the undergraduate library of the school I went to (unfortunately, this university shall go unnamed). That library was always so noisy that it was called Club UL (or some such silliness). Silly, maybe, but accurate. I’d never seen so many people NOT studying. I went there once, stayed for ten maybe five minutes and promptly left.

Fortunately, there were several other campus libraries which didn’t allow for such craziness. I’ve never figured out why they allow that kind of behavior (ringing cell phones, large groups talking loudly) at all.

Matt yes that’s what I love about mine too…all of the nooks and crannies!

Peyton that sounds disappointingly similar to the science/tech library on our campus. More of a communal hub bub than anything resembling a library — it too had to build quiet rooms.

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