Sunday, July 02, 2006

Raves, Raps for Noise in Libraries

An article on the new library in Belmont, CA focuses on the increased noise level in libraries across the country:

As communities across the country eagerly raze their World War II-era libraries and replace them with modern counterparts, they're incorporating features like open children's areas, Wi-Fi access and islands of computers, along with teen zones and cafs.

Often accompanying these features is a steady hum of conversation, the sound of children calling out, audible sounds from earphones, and the tap-tap of computer keyboards.

But some, such as the person quoted here, see the end of silence as a tragic loss:

"Noise has increased in society everywhere, and I guess they just feel they're out of step," said Pera, a San Mateo resident, of those leading the cutting edge in library design. "They're trying to keep people's attention in a highly distractable age."

The first post on the Reflective Librarian a couple years ago (I'll have to repost it sometime) proclaimed that the Good Library is one that reflects its community, while the Bad Library is one that doesn't. (It follows that the Good Librarian is one that reflects the community as a whole as well.) By following the noise, libraries are mirroring trends in our society in general, so nothing wrong with that at all.

Another story discusses the new Greenboro District Library in Ottawa, Canada:

Ottawa's newest library is no quiet scholarly retreat, and that's just fine with the people who worked over the last decade to see it built. It is a busy, sometimes noisy place that resembles a big bookstore in the way it tries to connect readers to books.

But on the other hand, a private book club called the "Accompanied Library" was evicted by its tenant over too many noisy parties. This behavior seems strangely at odds with the Introduction posted on the library's Web site, which advertises itself as:

a quiet space for reading and working in busy downtown Manhattan.

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