Okay, I’m going to catch some flack for this, I know. Libraries shouldn’t be silent. If you’re sitting in the middle of a large building (or even a small one) and there is no noise but the clacking of your own computer keyboard while you’re typing a blog, that’s a bad sign. Now, maybe if that’s because you aren’t open, that’s not so bad. But a silent library when it’s open? That’s not good.
Silence is wonderful if you have to make a huge life decision or if you’re trying to catch 40 winks but a library should only be silent if no one is there. That’s the main reason why they shouldn’t be silent. Quiet is something else. The whispers of a couple of kids talking about the latest 39 Clues, the mutter of a mother telling her child to pick out another book, or the exasperated sigh of a patron who has forgotten his email password for the umpteenth time (and “No, sir, I’m sorry but I don’t know what you’re password is” in a gentle voice from a sympathetic staff-member), those help stave off “silence.”
Silence is bad because it equals (at least in my mind) the lack of life, as in death. Any library of books crackles, in my mind, with energy. All those words and thoughts, those untranslated feelings waiting to spring from the page, those vibrant pictures (literal and figurative) waiting to emerge, are energy just waiting to be shared. Energy equals life. But if there is no one to share that energy with, those wonders of energy bound might as well be door-stops. Contrary to popular belief, books don’t make a library; people, most importantly, our patrons (customers, clients, whatever is the current vogue to call them) do.
So that’s why I think a library shouldn’t be silent. Quiet maybe, silent never. If you haven’t been to the library in a while, maybe it’s time you came back to visit. If not for you then for the books. Silence is a burial shroud for books and a burial shroud is never a good look.