A couple of days ago, I read the latest Library Journal BackTalk article, “Embracing the Shhhhhtereotype”. This essay laments the gradual move away from the quiet sacrosanct environments of the libraries of yesterday in favor of the noisy world of cell phones, gadgets, and devices. This evolution is seen as bad as there is an industry popping up that works to help people disconnect from the constant barrage of media and (for lack of a better phrase) connectedness. Given the trends of the last twenty to thirty years, I’m not sure how this could this could have been predicted by libraries, but it matters not. The opinion piece concludes by urging libraries to consider offering similar settings where a person can disconnect (or be mindful of their connectedness, if ever there was a clunky phrase). Overall, I find myself agreeing with the author’s end point even if I don’t agree with how they got to it.
In considering this over the last couple of days, I can see the opportunity that can be created here as implied by the author. What could a library offer to someone who is connected with cell phones, tablets, eReaders, and other gadgets? An escape from being connected. Whether it is through pin drop quiet and strictly enforced quiet reading/writing/study areas or meditation, yoga, and tai chi classes, or other stress relief via disconnection, it is a way to offer people something that they don’t have. To the connected, we could offer a disconnect.
To me, it makes sense and add an element of balance to the equation. To the disconnected (most notably the ones on the other side of the digital divide), the library already works to remedy that situation through internet access, material lending, and program. We already work to eradicate the lacuna of access that exists in every community. Furthermore, libraries offer to help people make their own connections through literature discovery and programs and classes that teach skills or hobbies or offer social opportunities. There are connections being made and that’s still a good thing (even if at times it is a noisy thing).
It makes me wonder if one could size up a member at their service desk and figure out whether they are trying to make a connection or a disconnection. Are they reading or watching a movie to escape or to have something to talk about with others? Are they signing up for a program to take a break from their busy lives or find others who have the same interest? Are they at the library to take an uninterrupted breath in their lives or are they here to find materials and people that add meaning to it?
I want to give this some more thought, but I think there are some legs to considering how the library can help people connect or disconnect.