Sunday, March 15, 2015


The image of the shushing librarian is perhaps the most iconic library image we have going. The fact that I have never seen this essential event live and in person does not alter my awareness of it. When some persistently loud person fills the library atmosphere with their cacophony I reflect on our loss of this ancient library ideal. Not being a very confrontational person, and not being a licensed librarian, I very much like the idea of one of my librarian colleagues coming out and shushing. It doesn't happen. I myself would be willing to shush in a pinch, but the fact is that our policy doesn't support it. 

Though there are as many kinds of noise offenders as there are patrons, the predominate offender at this point is the person on a cell phone.

"I'm at the library."

"I'm at the library."

"I'm at the library."

"What do you want for dinner?"

Once upon a time we had some anemic cell phone policy, like "We request patrons take extended phone calls out into the lobby."

It was too controversial, or pointless, or something, and we got rid of even that. So the fact is I don't feel really deputized to act until someone complains directly to me. This happens incredibly rarely. If they do I'll do something about it. But the fact is, even were I the deputized sound police, I rarely feel like there's much I can do anyway. Incessant coughers, people making weird adenoidal noises they don't know they're making, cell phone conversations that people have already politely taken into the most secluded corner of the library are all hard to combat. "Excuse me Ma'am, your persistent coughing is interfering with my shelving. Could you go sit in your car?" Or "You probably don't realize that every 20 seconds you are making a bizarre snorting noise and so I understand, Sir, that you will likely be unable to stop doing it, but I just wanted to come over and let you know that you are driving this entire wing of the library and everyone in it completely and utterly insane." 

Today, while shelving, I heard, peripherally, someone yelling as loud as they possibly could. Or, I guess, it would be for me yelling as loud as I could. When I actually focused on the incredible noise it was merely a person talking at that rock concert decibel level, an amazing feat endemic almost exclusively to cell phone users. And this man apparently knew he was loud and so had taken his call into the Mens' Room, from which his pointless, single sided monologue was issuing. I checked. He'd even gone into a stall.

At least I think he was on the phone.

Much as I would have loved to intercede, it seemed best to just wait it out. A few hours and he was all done.


  1. Not always.On the phone, that is. We had the same thing happen when I was volunteering for ChristNet, a progressive dinner style homeless shelter where each week a new church shelters the "Out Wayne County" (read as: Not Detroit, Highland Park or Hamtramck homeless as they have a separate but not equal system to shelter.) (sorry spell checker, that IS how Hamtramck is spelled) homeless people. We became alarmed when a male voice started booming loudly and angrily in the bathroom. But it turned out that it was not an impending fist fight. He was all alone in the bathroom, at least as alone as a truly paranoid person CAN be, and he had dutifully turned in his cell phone at the door, as had all but one persistent violator, who's hand held communication device kept playing an annoying tone every time someone in his (male room) Facebook Friend-iverse hit a "LIKE" button. It never toned long enough for us to play phone police so everyone else could have quiet.

    Found a new Fforde book: Shades of Gray....perhaps the first 10/50?

    1. Could have been the same guy, just, you know, touring, but I do suspect mine was on a phone.

      Sadly Shades of Gray is the only fforde book I am not feverishly enthusiastic about. I get worried whenever he makes noises about a sequel. I want another Jack Spratt detective novel.



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