Shhhh … but not always

Everybody knows you are supposed to be quiet in the library. But how often is that the case?

I was the children’s librarian for 20 years and let’s face it, the days of “children should be seen and not heard” are long over. The children were encouraged to have fun, laugh at the stories in story time, and in general, enjoy the library. Because how was I supposed to create an atmosphere of love of learning and reading if I was yelling at the kids to be quiet all the time?

I’ll be honest with you … I encouraged the children to yell a little bit during a story. Especially if it was a scary story. For example, when the troll would come up from underneath the bridge in “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” we would yell, “Who’s that sneaking over my bridge!!!” Three exclamation points and at the tops of our inside voices! So much fun.

Some of the noise from the children’s room spills into the grown-up or check out area of the library. That Pergo floor can be so noisy with little running feet. And what about some of our book carts? Ugh!

But sometimes, even in the adult — that is — quiet section, we are boisterous.

The best thing about working at the library is patron interaction, whether we want to hear it or not. Our patrons sometimes just need to tell us their story. Many are older and hard of hearing. And just need a couple of minutes to talk. And when we look for books, talking is involved.

Why am I writing about this? Because I was helping a patron by telling him about the book sale and how donations may be dropped off any time all year long, and another patron walked by and shushed us! I started to talk softly but he keep asking me pardon. I talked louder so he could hear me and he went on to tell me all the books he and his wife had collected over the years but that now they needed to downsize as they were moving to a cottage. His wife’s health isn’t the best, and so on.

Yes, our voices were strident. But I won’t apologize. Because what is customer service? Customer service is more than just giving an answer to a question. It’s looking the other person in the eye and giving him or her your full attention for a brief moment. Customer service needs to be a little bit personal.

I realize some patrons come into the library to concentrate. Many job licenses must be renewed online and people come to the library to use our computers to renew things, or to apply for a job or something else that requires silence.

Then there are the activities, such as Faith Fest and the summer reading kick-off program. And some of the other events MCL hosts on Saturdays. Talk about noisy!

Faith Fest will be on Saturday, May 19 and the summer reading kick-off will be on Saturday, June 2. Both offer a free picnic lunch, other snacks, a concert and games for children. Please mark these in your phones (or on your calendars). And come to or avoid the library as you see fit. These are uproarious events and will hopefully draw new families or individuals to become library users.


Susan Miriello is the acting library director at the Mifflin County Library. After the cacophony of a day at the library, she enjoys reading quietly at home. She has just finished reading “Death and Judgment,” by Donna Leon,” yes, on her phone. Three library patrons have already told her they think it’s terrible to read books on a cellphone. But don’t worry, she still does.