• author
    • Julie Parker

    • January 6, 2013 in Columnists

    Endangered silence

    “SHUT UP!!” I screamed at the perpetrators.

    Well, not out loud, but, seriously.  What happened to the hushed reverence inside libraries? I swore I’d never say this, but, “when I was young …” raised voices were met with a collective “shhhhh!” or a one-on-one chastisement from the librarian.

    My internet service provider was “experiencing some difficulty,” so I headed down to one of the small community libraries to use its Wi-Fi, and pick up a couple of books for leisurely reading.

    I discovered the library has become a hangout for teens and moms, who stand around speaking in voices usually reserved for shopping mall or grocery store run-ins. And, of course, cell phones were ringing and kids were crying, so focus and concentration were not options. When advised of the situation, the librarian just shrugged, responding with an outside voice, “There’s nothing to be done about it.”

    “It was a dark and stormy night …”
    Paul Clifford
    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

    As if those distractions weren’t intense enough, I witnessed a man being led away by law enforcement when it was discovered he had been transferring porn sites onto his laptop, or vice versa.

    What would Benjamin Franklin think? Franklin is widely acknowledged for promoting the idea of the “social” or “subscription” library (even though its members required stock purchases).

    Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree.”
    Terry Pratchett

    In 1854, Boston is credited for opening the first public library, which is ironic considering how many artistic creations have been “banned in Boston.”

    I would love to visit the New York Public Library. When it opened in 1911, it was the largest marble building in the United States. It contains four research libraries. The main research library (Fifth Avenue) has been used in movies and television shows. With the two stately, carved sentry lions out front, and grand main reading room, how could you not?  There are seventy-five miles of open shelves. Holy moly. Tourists can buy a library card – for $100.  You can damn well believe there is a respectful hush inside that library.

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …”
    A Tale of Two Cities
    Charles Dickens

    On the plus side, libraries are keeping up with technology, providing Wi-Fi, internet terminals, and ebooks. On the down side, it seems to be attracting an element which lacks social skills.

    He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”
    Rafael Sabatini

    The absolute best library can only be visited imaginatively: the Great Library, where the Cheshire Cat reigns as librarian extraordinaire.  There are 26 floors – one for each letter of the alphabet.  All published fiction is stored there (unpublished/unfinished manuscripts are stored in the Well of Lost Plots).

    It is a feature in Jasper Fford’s fabulous Thursday Next series of novels; a world where you can jump into books. Isn’t that a lovely concept? I would skydive into the library of Marian, Madam Librarian, where silence is commanded.

    Here’s my hope that we all find our Shangri-la.”
    Lost Horizon
    James Hilton

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