Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why your library is not a library.

Has your library become a "meeting space"? A "community center"?  If you answered Yes, then your library isn't a library.

You can yell and shake your Doctor Girlfriend action figure at the screen, but it won't help to turn your community center back into a library. All it will take is one asshole handing out pamphlets for some movement and your library will forfeit any protections it ever earned in any court decision.

What keeps a library from becoming a sidewalk or a park or an abandoned lot is that it's not a public forum. What keeps your library a library is that the librarian has the power to enforce behavior. Out on the sidewalk, cops do it. But in the library, you do it. If you lose that, then only the police will be able to regulate what happens in your library.

I think that's a big something missing from library training: "When you become a librarian, you will be the police." But if you're done shaking and you still think your library is better off not being a library, just think about this: Shhhhhh.

If the library is about Free Speech, it's also about No Speech. Free Speech should be communicated quietly, in your head, between you and the author/creator of whatever you are reading/viewing.

When the fuck did you think the shushing started? It started when people walked into the library from off of the loud and busy street and needed to be reminded to Shut the Fuck Up. And do you really want to go back to doing that all day?

When people are giving public speeches in front of the check-out desk in your community-center-not-a-library, you'll be shushing your ass off. It's taken years to get out that message, mostly by doing something even more offensive to get the talkers to stop: shushing.

"I will shush you" is not a fucking joke; it's our legacy. Because in public spaces, each one of us has the right to fuck with other people. We can get right in their faces and shout, "Did you know...?" And then follow with some insane conspiracy theory or mathematical proof or muffin recipe and no one can stop us.

When you give up the quiet, you give up the library. Why do you think cats are associated with libraries? Because they are fucking quiet. Not because their shit smells like roses. That's why you let smelly people in your library.

 I can see a day when libraries will need sound meters to gauge the loudness. 35 decibels is okay. 60 decibels: Shhhhh. But if we're lucky, they'll let us use that water bottle we use to squirt the cat to shoot the talkers right in their agitated faces.

No comments:

Post a Comment