Life Lessons from the Library: Librarians Are Not Generally Party Animals

Today, I walked to the circulation desk where three of my staff sat huddled together. They reminded me of those old documentaries of animals caged up in zoos that had developed strange nervous tics. What was wrong? Noise.

The library was hosting a reception for our vice president who is retiring this spring. I chose the time when we had the fewest students, and since the party was announced as a drop-in event around classes, I didn’t expect very many people at one time.

I was wrong. Our VP has been at our college for more than twenty years, and she is a popular person. People came pouring in from the beginning and they stayed. There was laughter. And noise. And the library staff began to have physical twitching, a sense of irritation, and a general gloominess.

Now it’s not like our group is the stereotypical librarians who only talk to tell people to be quiet and shush on a regular basis. We are a loud little group ourselves. We like to talk to students and to each other. And we have to remind ourselves to be quiet at times.

But our noise is intermittent. We talk and then we retreat back into quiet as we search databases or do research. The noise today was long-lasting and constant. For those sitting at the front desk, there were no breaks, no relief. Even our most outgoing person said that it turned her into a grump. One librarian simply disappeared into the back where no amount of calling could bring him out. Another librarian’s expression mirrored that of my friend’s cat when it was taken to the vet to be neutered.  

So, in general, librarians probably deserve their non-party animal reputation–unless the party is one where a small group of people chat and mingle. Then they can shine. But put them into a situation where they must endure constant noise from strangers, then they want to do only one thing–disappear.

So I promise my staff: no more parties in the library.

You can come out from hiding now.

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