Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why did libraries change?

I think people, most people, and not a vast majority, but most people, want someone else to tell them what to do. I don't think anyone really knows what to do. We're tired, we sleep. We're hungry, we eat; that's our bodies telling us what to do.

And when people figure out what they should be doing, or what makes them happy, they make rules about it. Rules help us by telling us what to do or not do.

When I hear people wonder why nobody visits the library, I tell them it's because we've stopped telling everyone what to do. The old skool library would have a large "QUIET" sign on the front desk, a simple message, or rule, that told everyone what to do. People would rush through their busy, noisy lives, but when that thought arose that they needed some peace and quiet, they would remember that it's always quiet in the library. After all, there's that sign.

The library used to deliver a product, and it did it very well. It was a quiet place where people could think and read and learn.

But now libraries have abandoned that product. I don't know why. It was a great product; if the supply of quiet ran out, you could always create more. When things got too loud, a librarian would shush everyone until the quiet returned.

People want things to make sense. Libraries used to be quiet places, and that's why people visited. I agree that libraries need to change to meet modern needs, but why did libraries need to change that part, the part we did so well?

So when you come into my library, I for one, am telling you to be quiet. Doesn't that make you feel better?