This recent blog post on Salon.com, "Bring back shushing librarians," pleads to bring back shushing librarians. Ah -- what a concept! The grim-faced, dour librarian controlling and patrolling the learning environment for the sake of peace and quiet. The librarian who is unapproachable and generates a feeling that only the silent are welcome here. We have read the Pew Report as well and we understand.
Modern life is complicated; libraries and cultural organizations, particularly in the public realm, are struggling with ways to reach diverse populations. We think libraries can do both. The best in library design offers a combination of active, engaging and creative spaces -- spaces that do promote social interaction where discussion (noise?) becomes part of the communication experience. These libraries may indeed prove to be training grounds for the real world, where most employers want individuals who can communicate, work in groups, and think creatively. But most libraries still have havens of refuge, contemplation and reflection, and it is important to offer both types of spaces.
Today's librarians are more than just the gatekeepers of sacred books. Please, lose the shushing stereotype -- and recognize the importance of reaching out to diverse users. We can be respective of private contemplative spaces and welcoming at the same time.
What is noise to your ears, just might be music to ours.