Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Ottawa Public Library

I remember when libraries were places of quiet contemplation, a place where people could go and peruse the stacks, pick out a good book and sit in quiet or collect their thoughts and study, leaving behind the hubbub of the outside world. Here in Ottawa, though, the library system seems to have become preoccupied with remaining "relevant", with the result being that it tries to be everything to everyone: a gaming centre, a place for teens to socialize, a place for kids to play as though at a park, an internet café.
At my local branch of the library, Greenboro District, the din at any given time of the day is deafening at worst and distracting at best. Long gone are the days where merely clearing your throat would earn a sharp rebuke from the librarian. Open season seems to reign with little in the way of noise constraints, kids running among the stacks, groups of people congregating to talk on the stairs and in the stacks, phone conversations, raucus game playing on the computers and little in the way of even basic courtesy for fellow patrons. I shouldn't complain, they do have a quite room tucked away in a dingy airless corner of the second floor for those of us who crave a little peace.
I guess I am just hopelessly old fashioned. I do wonder, though, if in the library's eagerness to attract a younger crowd, which admittedly does seem to be working, it is alienating the old fogey demographic like me who now just dart in and out as quickly as possible to pick up a book or two. We no longer seem to be welcome.


  1. Do you think that if they provided a better, more comfortable quiet space, you'd be happier? I've personally never liked the "old" style library and I wonder if your library were that way, if anyone would be there. They are a public service at the end of the day, and I've seen libraries clinging to their "shhhhhh" way with only a couple of retirees reading the local paper for free as their only clients for the day. Personally, I would prefer to read my books (honestly, my Ipad) in the comfort of my leather wingback chair, feet up enjoying a glass of wine (honestly a bottle).

  2. Actually our branch is quite comfy. That's what irritates me. I can't enjoy it. I prefer reading ast home, as well, but sometimes it is convenient to be at the library (when the Bean is at art class, for example, or when I have a sack I want to spend some time winnowing). I'm not talking a little noise, I'm talking a lot. ||So much so, I half wonder if the noise levels fall within any OSH guidelines.

  3. My local library is much the same way. Now I basically just grab whatever book I'm there to read and head home. I never thought I'd be able to say that my house is quieter than a library.