Library "Ediquette"

Ok, inspired by the Barnes & Noble etiquette topic–here is my rant!
I think that people who spend their time in a public library talking, giggling, laughing, courting, smooching, meeting friends, and otherwise doing ANYTHING except reading, researching, selecting books, or other approved practices should be banned hereafter from the institution!
Librarians who chitchat with patrons in loud, penetrating, and annoying voices should have their mouths stapled shut!!!
IS there NO place left in this universe where quiet is appreciated???

The Vanquished Troll Thread.


Yer pal,

“other approved practices” covers a heckuva lot of ground, jaws. I work at a library that allows food and drink and has no problem with conversation at a normal volume (shouting is pretty irritating). Admittedly, we do a great deal of research for clients over the Web and phone, but we haven’t had any complaints about noise from folks who come in to do their own research . . .


“Listen Children Eternal Father Eternally One!” Exceptions? None!
-Doc Bronner

Depends on the library and how it’s built. Some are acoustical nightmares that make even a whisper sound like a shout. The craze for open atrium floorplans was awful for this; hell to heat and sounds like a Greyhound Station.

If you’re lucky, the library is zoned, with a children’s area where the little folks can giggle, act their age, etc. There should be a research/reference area that’s for quiet study only, and preferably either smaller “quiet rooms” or individual study rooms.

You were probably speaking facetiously, but it is incredibly hard to have someone banned from a public building. There was a case (NJ, think) where a homeless man ranted at other patrons and smelled so rank that people were sickened to be near him. They banned him–and he sued. Won, too, and took the library for a bundle.

The general rule of thumb is, if you can’t have someone arrested for the behavior, you can’t ban them and have it upheld if they sue. Access to knowledge is a RIGHT, and there has to be pretty hard, clear evidence to deny that right.

As far as librarians talking to patrons in loud voices, it’s called HELPING people. We serve everyone–repeat, everyone–and quite a few of them are hard of hearing. And if the acoustics are bad, which they are in a lot of libraries, even normal voices, ringing telephones, etc. can be really annoying. But there’s no way to mute it and still provide service.

When in doubt, tell someone in authority. If it’s behavior, that can be changed. If it’s architectural, it’s platinum documention for some furniture/building modifications that will assuredly not make it past the first round budget cuts without it.

Ask if there’s a designated quiet area, and cut people some slack, too.

Wish your experience had been better.


I work in a public library and TVeblen is right… It’s hard as fucking hell to kick someone out of a public building. The acoustics in here are OK though.

What is really irritating about this particular place is the people who don’t understand how we are funded and don’t get it even when we explain it to them. To simplify, our funds come from property taxes. If your property taxes don’t flow into our coffer, you don’t get a free library card. you can pay for one though, $8 for 90 days or $24 a year. Frankly, I think it’s a steal, but people act as if if a free library card is a constitutional right. Really! Not long ago “I’m an American citizen” was offered to me as an argument for why this person “deserved” a free card.

Other shit that bugs me:

  1. people who drop off their kids for the afternoon
  2. people who let their kids run wild
  3. people who try to chew me out over a 5 cent overdue fine
  4. people who swear they “never checked out that book”. Folks, it’s nearly impossible to “accidentally” check out a book to you. Trust me.

Shit, I could go on and on here…

OK, first of all: E-T-I-Q-U-E-T-T-E.

Now, on to the point. I agree that noise in public libraries is out of control these days. I find it extrememly difficult to do research at any of my community libraries because of the noise level. And, since you can’t check out reference books, this is a big problem.
What I find absolutely unbelievable is the mothers with their children who speak in normal tones (no whispering) in all areas of the library. When I have asked these people to keep it down, I got looks as if I were making an unusual and offensive request. I have complained to the library staff on several occasions, but it hasn’t helped. Not surprising as sometimes they have been the one’s talking.
When I was a child, I was taught by both my mother and my teachers that one may only speak in a whisper in the library. What happened to that?

“I think it would be a great idea” Mohandas Ghandi’s answer when asked what he thought of Western civilization

Everyone knows how to spell it; Smiling posted the topic with that spelling as a joke, since I accidently misspelled it in my “Barnes and Noble” thread.

Sorry–missed the B&N thread.

I was at the library this afternoon and I just couldn’t believe how noisy it was! It seemed like every kid in the community was there, just hanging out, doing no library-ish things whatsoever. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be many parents there at all, and the few that I saw did little or nothing to keep their kids in line. Now I remember why I usually hit the library early in the morning.
A lot of the people in my community hold down jobs & are going to school, they may only have a few hours per week to spend at the library to try and do whatever research needs to be done for class. We live on a military post overseas, and the public library also functions as the college library, so there is really no other place for them to go. I’m amazed that they are able to get any work done at all.
BTW, I have nothing but respect for our librarians, they are way understaffed and underfunded, yet they are always doing their job with a smile!

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” Albert Einstein

Man, I guess I’m lucky. Our librarians are not afraid to say SHHHHH or kick out kids who are misbehaving (I’ve seen them do it only once in 4 years). If the floors weren’t carpeted, you could generally hear a pin drop at the Winfield library.


Oh, be quiet.

Literacy is such a problem in my area that we’re grateful people are IN the library. Who cares about the noise? They are actually looking at a book! Hallelujah!

(Now if they’ll just decide to READ one . . .)

I have as much authority as the Pope; I just don’t have as many people who believe it! - George Carlin

Look, I wasn’t trying to say libraries shouldn’t be quiet. Yeah, we’d love it if they could be the hushed temples of learning we all hold so dear.

In justice, though, some libraries, desperate to attract and hold users (aka voting tax payers) that they practically hire strolling marimba bands to make it “user friendly”. IMO, what they achieve is third rate entertainment and a lot of pissed off readers.

But the hard reality is that public libraries are public buildings. Remember some of the rants here on how rude, inconsiderate and generally crass some of the public can be? And please do remember, folks, that some of the folks are your neighbors.

Yeah, we can and do kick people out for inconsiderate behavior. Even forgetting lawsuits, some of those folks are connected where it hurts. Tawdry but true. I’m just coming off a shitstorm because I instructed a lady to watch her “little darling” who was playing on the elevator, punching the buttons for each floor. She was oblivious, and we had an old man with a walker fall because he couldn’t get the elevator to come.

Too bad she was a “dear friend” of some powers I have to answer to. It ended up okay, but it was a real grilling because she was so (quote) “hurt and offended” that “her tax money” was wasted like that. It took some strong talking to recast sympathy toward the real victim, the poor man who couldn’t use an elevator in a public building because of her child’s behavior–which we tried to correct.

Sorry, I’m ranting, but this is the place for it, right?

Every single example I cited in the “Barnes and Noble” post happened–to me, no UL. Or how about the couple that left their 3 month old baby on a couch in the reading room and left for the day to go shopping? BTW, before you stereotype, both parents were doctors, and FURIOUS that we dragged Children’s Protective Services into it.

Or the man w/ Tourette’s Syndrome who sits at the microfilm readers and yells, “Fuck! Fuck!” Care to discuss legal nightmares and the ADA and rights?

Or the man who has grand mal seizures and during the seizures masturbates, then sleep, but when he wakes up he’s disoriented and skitters around, taking a swing at anyone who crosses his path? The cops and the paramedics can’t do anything: he is ill, and there is no law that says he has to take his medication.

So we have to try to warn people out of his way. And when he leaves, if we can’t get a cop to do it, one of us follows him to make sure he gets safely. (He lives w/in walking distance, but when he’ coming off a seizure, he’s so disoriented he’s a victim and/or accident waiting to happen.)

As far as staff talking to people, it’s called SERVICE, folks. And it’s valuable. If we talk to the people we serve, damned if they don’t help us do better. “What did you think of that book?” “Have you tried…?” “Did you find what you were looking for?”

Okay, I’ve vented enough. And I don’t disagree that libraries should be quiet. But most times it isn’t something we can control. When we do, we sacrifice. It’s damned sad when we have to redirect sparse funds to hire security guards. But that’s what we have to do, all too often.

And that means fewer books, and one more place where uniforms have to patrol to keep order…

More depressed than angry,

TVeblen said:

My complaint wasn’t about librarians who are helping people. In my library, the librarians sit and gossip about their boyfriends/husbands, what they plan to do over the weekend or the new sweater they bought. This pisses me off.

“I think it would be a great idea” Mohandas Ghandi’s answer when asked what he thought of Western civilization

palidors and Mr Rogers don’t like their librarian. She looked at them funny when they checked out “Our Bodies, Ourselves”… for the sixth time.

I’ve worked in several libraries, and none of them have ever been what you would call silent. You’d think it was the corner bar the way some people stand around and BS. Thankfully, my current employer has security guards. It was getting to the point that the staff was spending more time trying to maintain some sort of order than actually helping people find stuff they needed. And kids! Everyday after school little Judy and Elroy are here raising hell because Mom and Dad are at work and are under the illusion that someone is watching their kids. If you saw some of the creeps that come in here, you wouldn’t leave your kid alone here for five seconds. But try telling them that. We actually have had kids left here when we close at 9:00 PM. Anyway, with all the problems in running such a public place, quiet is sometime the least of our worries. (It would be nice though)

Preach on, TVeblen. I worked at the public library for six years & the only person we were ever able to kick out was this schizophrenic alcoholic homeless dude who (I swear this on my cat Moses’s life) refused to leave his ax outside. See, he had numerous plastic shopping bags tied to the ax- that was where he kept his worldly possessions. Which would ordinarily be just tragic & depressing, only he used to fondle his ax blade & talk about how much he hated children. This rendered it tragic & alarming, & we were able to have him banned on the grounds that he posed a threat to the well-being of our juvenile patrons.

As far as noise complaints, well, whatever. Loud people are taxpayers too. We can tell them to be quiet, but there’s not much else we can do. It’s all part of the breakdown of etiquette (ediquette? grins) which is taking place in modern society, & anyone who has a viable solution to THAT is more than welcome to implement as far as I’m concerned.

I have a lot of experience with public libraries. Many libraries and librarians are reluctant to make a big issue out of noise because of surveys that show people have a negative image of libraries as boring places where you have to be quiet. You have to complain to administrators. Most will respond if they feel there is a demand for quiet. I have had many people kicked out of our library for noise-making. Not banned, though.

sigh I shall never, ever live down that misspelling.
Anyway, personally I have no problem shushing people in the library, at the movies, wherever (which is probobly why I was so upset to BE shushed). The people working in libraries have enough to deal with. Just say “Shhhhhhhhh!”
(or, you could tell 'em to hit Barnes and Noble if they want to talk!)

Some mornings it just doesn’t seem worth it to gnaw through the leather straps.
Emo Philips (stolen from matt’s webpage)

I gotta say, I don’t make a big issue out of it because it’s like trying to push back the ocean with a broom. I’d never get any librarian work done. What does work better is if patrons complain, either to the loudmouth or to the administration. If it comes from the staff that a patron is a noisy jerk it doesn’t carry any weight. I’ve seen patrons go up to someone and say, “You’re kind of loud, could you keep it down, people are trying to study”. Usually if the person/s realize the whole reading room is pissed at them, they shut up or leave.