Monday, May 6, 2013

Wild Sounds of the Library

My public library produces a collection of some of the widest range of voices outside of an opera house, or, no, maybe an opera house located in the middle of a poorly run zoo. I'm not saying it's noisy, just that it's all over the map. Sometimes a visitor will come to me and whisper softly and I will think "You are now in the idea of a library. In this actual library I could not possibly hear you amongst all this sheer animal screeching." And yet other times that same soft whisper will seem ostentatiously loud, carrying unobstructed to the farthest reaches of the library. To further demonstrate I here provide a little random tour of some of the voices and types of voices and human sounds to be found in my library.

1. Weird low level droning somewhere between humming and singing, soft, but with a peculiar indiscernible reach, usually produced by people alone in the stacks. Comes in uninterrupted hour long chunks.

2. Peaceful, murmurous talking of two friends. They have usually run into each other in happy accident and there is a faint note of guilt in their voices from their feeling they shouldn't exactly be having a conversation here, but they are too happy about the whole thing to come up with an alternate solution. As a side note this often blocks half of the staircase.

3. Cell Phone Voice. Like a loud version of number 1. You may be well aware that people on cell phones often talk very loudly about very uninteresting things, but you might not know that people who talk on cell phones in the library refuse, for some reason, to let the person on the other end of the line talk. Once, many years ago, we had a troubled patron who used the public phone we had then, to have long, ostentatious, delusional, fake conversations with her imaginary boyfriend. All cell phone callers are sort of like her.

4. The rich array of animal sounds. No, we don't have many animals in here. Guide dogs, ants, mice occasionally. We used to have a hamster. There's a dog that comes in for children to read to once or twice a week even though science is fairly sure dogs don't much understand storytelling. None of these animals make much noise. It is the people who make so many animal noises that you could have a fun Saturday afternoon here tracking them with a list, kind of like going birding. Children produce the sounds of any number of actual birds, mostly raptors, and their high strange call-like screeches can be heard anywhere in the library. Chimps at play is also generally loud and produced by children, sometimes during distress, sometimes joy. Snorers can do the big cats, and some of our volunteers specialize in the ungulates. You will often hear them hunting requests out in genre fiction. The small noises of squirrels and gophers can be heard over by the DVDs by people making little sucking noises with their teeth and mouths as they industriously browse. We clerks, when gathered, are surprisingly duck-like at a 12 pace distance. The bathrooms, which I mainly try to avoid, are rich with aquatic sounds, primarily fish, but, occasionally, alarmingly, dolphins and seals. Also you can hear the chuffs of bears coming from the stalls there as great effort is engaged in. Though those bear noises sometimes also abruptly punctuate the usually quiet internet computer areas. I have never understood the source for those.

That is hardly a complete list, but I feel it is more than adequate to illustrate my point. It makes me feel self-consciously deranged for having this whole discussion and yet also strangely compelled to get a long list of animals and on some noisy afternoon see how many I can check off. I'll try to resist this, but it's going to be touch and go.


  1. I didn't realize that when I muttered to myself in the stacks it carried enough to add to the orchestral whole. Nice.

    I'm enjoying your blog. Think I'll bookmark it. I could be part of the next spike!

    1. Thanks. I'm glad you like it. I'll try to portray stack mutterers in an especially favorable light from now on.


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