Have you seen moms bringing their children into the library and stage-whispering to them, “Shh! This is the library! You have to be quiet here”? When I see this happen (and I’ve seen it surprisingly often), I always think, “Geez. What planet is she from?” I like to think those old stereotypes of the silent library and shushing librarian are long gone. But I guess they aren’t – not with everyone.

(I’m always tempted to keep a big brass gong behind the ref desk and whang it hard when I hear someone saying that, and announce in a loud voice, “It’s 2008. So it’s okay to make noise in the library.”)

For the most part, I see families coming in and making plenty of noise, which is (at least I think so) the way it should be in a library these days. But the media still loves the old stereotypes. Here’s a good example from the Kansas City (MO) Star: “It’s not rocket science, it’s library science, and it’s broadening in scope with new offerings.”

The story seems to be based on ALA President Loriene Roy’s “State of America’s Libraries” report, about a month and a half after National Library Week. But oh well:

Sharon Moreland, director of the Tonganoxie (KS) Public Library, knows some library patrons worry that an institution once perceived as a citadel of learning is now viewed as, “Oh, yeah; we’ve got books, too!”

“But it’s not the reality,” Moreland said. “As our door count has gone up, our circulation has gone up, too. … The best libraries being designed now take both the traditionalists and the more modern way of thinking into account. They’ll have both quiet reading areas and places for teens to congregate and just be teens.”

Still, salsa dancing? If it brings people in, yes, indeed, said Sonia Smith, spokeswoman for Kansas City Kansas Public Libraries.

The writer, throughout this piece, seems to believe that average folks will be shocked that libraries might feature an Ethiopian cooking program or a salsa dancing class. But I suppose that we should all be glad every time a local newspaper runs a story about how libraries have moved away from a century-old stereotype and actually attempted new kinds of activities that might appeal to those of us in 2008.

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