Published On: Fri, Jun 27th, 2014

WRIGHT TO THE POINT

Jonathan Wright

 

It goes without saying: libraries are “quiet zones.”

Recently I gained a deeper appreciation for our Greenbrier County Public Library in Lewisburg when I visited a couple of libraries in Georgia, where I was vacationing.

First of all, I’m sure you’re wondering: why on earth was I visiting libraries while on vacation? Simple I don’t have a smart phone yet, and I needed to do some work on an online class I’m taking, plus check my e-mail and such.

Besides, libraries aren’t really such bad places to visit during vacation. They contain a wealth of information on the local history and attractions of the area you’re visiting, plus they provide a unique break from the demanding rigors of vacationing such as lying around on the beach or playing miniature golf in the sweltering summer heat.

Getting my class work done at the couple of libraries I visited was a fun experience, but it was not without its frustration.

The frustration lay simply in the absence of a very important commodity that libraries have traditionally valued and fiercely valued for centuries—but apparently have been lost by the two facilities I visited:

Silence.

It’s a no-brainer for sure. Libraries are to maintain silence from their patrons to allow people to do best what they come to a library to do: read, study, and browse.

For people like me, who find it hard to concentrate on studies when people are talking at a normal tone of voice, less-than-quiet libraries can be a significant problem.

So it was at the two libraries I visited while on vacation. Each had very friendly, helpful personnel and wonderful facilities, with a wealth and variety of resources.

But they lacked that all-important no-brainer: silence.

In both libraries the patron computers, where I was studying my online course, were near the front desk. As people entered and exited, they would almost invariably interact with the librarian or aides with either questions or friendly banter.

Please don’t misunderstand me. There’s certainly nothing wrong with such conversation at any library. You expect that, of course.

It’s the volume, however, that was the culprit. All this talking was done at a normal volume—not the hushed, subdued volume you would expect in a library. Once one conversation ended and the patron left the desk, inevitably it wasn’t any time until someone else came up and got it going again with an additional distracting interchange, breaking my concentration again.

I finally got my work done—but left with a greater appreciation of our wonderful Lewisburg library, where silence reigns supreme and people can focus much more easily. Here it’s very obvious that the employees take library silence seriously and apparently do all they can to maintain it.

I guess I can boil it all down to this: if you’re a guest spending some vacation time in the Greenbrier Valley and need to do some studying while you’re here, you’ll be very happy with what the Greenbrier County Public Library has to offer—not the least of which is good, old-fashioned, time-honored library silence.