Stouffville Library: The Slippery Slope from "Beautiful Silence" to "Chat Room"Patrick Lannigan, July, 2011
Phone: 905-642-7323 x230
Summer 2011 Hours: Mon-Thu: 10am to 8:30pm, Fri-Sat: 10am to 4pm, Sun: Closed
Before I drove my son to the Lebovic Center for a swim I packed up my MacBook and some Objective-C books to do a little brain work at the Stouffville Library (located within the Lebovic Center).
Turns out that there was a group of special needs kids at the library that day. They were having fun and making happy noises as they walked the isles. So I pretty much wrote off any chance of serious study. No problem. I would just browse the aisles of books in the nonfiction section until my son was finished swimming.
Then this group of happy kids left. (oh if I could bottle up that energy)
So now I could get down to some serious study.
So I unzipped my computer bag, brought out the laptop, and cracked open the Objective-C tutorial I was working on. That's when things got interesting.
To my right, at the next "study" table, there was a young lady taking advantage of the free WiFi at the Stouffville Library to have a conversation with her friends over Skype. (She was wearing a headphone/microphone). And by no means was this girl whispering or being discrete. It was a full volume conversation.
So I spoke to this young girl. And told her this was no place to be doing that. And she moved a few tables down—but she was still yakking to her friends over Skype.
Her distance made her voice less voluminous, but it was still irritating.
Whatever. I'll just deal with the irratation over the next hour or so.
Then, behind me I hear two forty-something women having a lively conversation. Talking like they were at a party. So I shushed them. (I asked them to speak in their "library voices").
Being a little confused by all the noise I thought I'd speak to the librarian to get her take. Her reaction? She just shrugged her shoulders like this was the new norm.
Pardon me? Am I that "out of touch"?
Shame on me for trying to "sush" anyone. It seems the Stouffville Library is OK with cellphone conversations, Skype conversations, and talking as loud as you would at a Starbucks. It's all good. Everything's cool.
Wow. Do I have to mourn those libraries of yesteryear? Those libraries that welcomed deep thought and concentration? Those libraries that mandated silence.
I remember going to the library when I was younger. Walking into the library you knew you were there for a purpose. Study this. Explore that. And, in the case of my method for learning software, focus hard enough to burn some new neural pathways and strive for those "aha" moments.
I have such great memories of the libraries of my youth. In grade school, high school, and later at college when I used to frequent the Toronto Reference Library in Rosedale. These places were, in a way, silent sanctuaries. Holy places that worshipped learning. Are those days gone?
As much as I was disappointed in the librarian's shrug I have to admit she was very nice. She read the frustration on my face and showed me to a study room. And it was great. There was a beautiful silence. Good stuff.
Am I mollified?
I'm scratching my head. I'm puzzled. I know libraries are trying to stay relevant. They're struggling to attract youngsters, oldsters, etc. There's so much content online these days that the need for the library has waned. As an example, it was a sad day a few years ago when I donated my Encyclopedia Britannica to a good cause. But, having not opened them for five years (because I had Wikipedia and other online sources), I couldn't justify keeping them any longer when we were moving to Stouffville.
I also understand that the Stouffville Library is struggling for funding. Hell, I even signed a petition a few weeks ago to help raise that funding. My recent revelation about the environment at the Stouffville Library gives me pause for thought, however. It feels like we’re pandering. Like we're loosening up the rules to make it all fun and social-like in an effort to attract more people. I don't know. Learning and discovery should be joyous enough. We shouldn't have to add Skype, cell phone conversations, and party voices.
Stouffville Library: Contact Information
Stouffville Library 30 Burkholder Street Stouffville, ON L4A 4K1 Telephone: 905-642-7323 x230 Children's Librarian: Ext 228 Adult Librarian: Ext 224 CEO: Ext 223 Circulation: Ext 225 Information: Ext 230
Email Patrick Lannigan at lannigan at gmail dot com for more information
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