Friday, June 02, 2006

What different enirons we are

The British Library, or BL, as it's known -- a national research library located in London -- is now encountering growing pains amongst their traditional library users due to a new director, policy changes, and attempts at reaching a new (younger) audience. The article's author, an impossibly too British-like forenamed Tristram, compellingly argues against allowing these new, differently-aged interlopers into the reading rooms of the BL, due to the introduction of a new buzz that was heretofore not heard in the exalted rooms: conversations, the whirr of mobile phones, the sips of coffee. Further conflicting the traditionalists are the tangible space considerations, where BL patrons cannot even find a seat in the reading rooms after noon, as the boisterous youngsters, referred to condescendingly as undergrads, having taken all the seats.

Certainly we are now seeing a dynamism in libraries that is disconcerting to traditionalists, whether in Mr. Hunt's British Isles, or here in the middle west of the United States. Whereas the perceived traditional role, the stereotype, of librarians is to 'shush' first, and ferret information second, libraries currently -- especially school libraries, and especially ours here in the Grand Ledge High School -- are active little busy centers of conversational, educational commerce. Students coming to the GLHS Library frequently work in groups, as assigned by their teacher, and thus are necessarily talking amongst themselves. I have made a conscious effort to not only break from tradition, but to break from what the public perceives as traditional, in that I refuse to shush.

But, in a local way, the evolving role of the the library for Grand Ledge High School students mirrors the (perceived) problem against which Mr. Hunt writes: the traditionalists -- in London, the researchers; in Grand Ledge, the faculty and staff not of a certain chronological age, but of a musty mindset -- yearn for the olden times, the quieter times. It's dismissively simple to argue that modern school library environments are playgrounds with boisterous or rude or inconsiderate kids, where I find that there are students who are earnest and keenly interested in research and their finished product. The sips of coffee, the chatter, the gentle whirr of mobile phones and Blackberries are our future.

By the way, considering the abbreviation for the library discussed in this column, what, naturally, would a reasonably deductive reader think Londoners call the British Museum?

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