Public libraries used to be a place of peace and solitude; a sanctuary where patrons could go to read, study and dream of dating bookish yet-still-sexy librarians, if that’s what you were into. And, really, who isn’t? But, with the introduction of the cell phone, these refuges with reference desks began a steady slide into something depressingly like a condemned Detroit Greyhound depot (I know: that sounds redundant). Respect and decorum were ground out like old cigar butts; courtesy went the way of 1990s record label execs. When libraries began to offer free computer and internet access, the slide erupted into an avalanche. Casualties were high and there were few survivors.
But a ember of hope remains. I propose a list of 15 guidelines which libraries across the country – or at least in Los Angeles (LA libraries? I’ve been to quieter hip hop concerts) – are encouraged to post in all of their high-traffic areas. Hell, let’s make a day of it and even enforce them.
15 guidelines for a quieter library that shouldn’t be necessary but somehow still are.
1. Silence all cell phones. Or, minimally, when your phone rings, don’t regard it as if you’ve just dropped a hit of acid and can’t understand why it’s shouting at you in your dead grandmother’s voice about cookies you stole when you were seven.
2. No cell phone usage in the library generally, come to think of it. It’s tempting to feel like the loudest (and therefore most important?) voice in the room. But don’t give in. You’re better than that. Or at least louder.
3. If you’re using a library computer, you probably don’t own a PC. Likewise, you probably can’t afford an assault rifle. Accordingly, please don’t price them online in full public view. And not just because it makes other patrons uneasy although that’s also a really good, albeit legally unenforceable, reason (thanks, NRA).
4. Service dogs excepted, please leave pit bulls at home. Only a handful of libraries maintain kennels and few if any are AKC certified. Moreover, no one thinks that owning a pit bull makes you a badass. Not even you, if you’re being honest.
5. If you shout your order in a McDonald’s, people will think you’re crazy. Much of this same logic applies when speaking to library staff or parole officers you bump into unexpectedly in the non-fiction section.
6. Business should be conducted in your office, not a library meeting room. If you don’t have an office, you probably don’t have a business.
7. You’re allowed to check out up to 100 books. That doesn’t mean that you should. Loan periods are three weeks. If you can read 100 books in 21 days, you should be working at NASA.
8. We all talk to ourselves. But when you do it in a library, it just seems weird. Mainly because it is.
9. YouTube and earbuds: They go together like rama lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong (you know – that song from ?).
10. Singing is discouraged, incidentally. Bad singing will result in the loss of library privileges.
11. Smoking and alcohol are strictly prohibited.*
12. Library late fines are non-negotiable. We do not accept credit cards, bitcoin or half-baked conspiracy theories (I know: that sounds redundant).
13. Elevators are for the disabled and the infirm. Laziness is generally not deemed a disability. I don’t care what the Teamsters say.
14. Snacks are permitted. Buffet-style lunches are not.
15. Children are always welcome! However, crying children should be comforted, wailing children should be silenced, screaming children should be left at home. As should screaming adults.
*Really? Really! Why it’s necessary in 2015 to state this explicitly is a testament to the decline of civility. For the sake of clarity, the following are also disallowed: fireworks, firearms – all forms of fire, really –, séances, farming, funeral services/cremations/disposal of ashes, presidential inaugurations or Shark Tank practice pitches. Note that this list is not exhaustive, but if you use common sense, you should be fine. Then again, if people exercised common sense, this list would be unnecessarily superfluous (I know: that sounds redundant. Mainly because it is).