Everyday Etiquette: Shhh! This Is the Library!

By Diane Gottsman

Everyday Etiquette
Traditionally, a library has been viewed and used as a Hall of Knowledge, a place where one can go to do research, study material in a quiet venue, take the children for a book reading or simply relax and enjoy a book or magazine away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. In other words, libraries, by their very nature, are meant to be tranquil and respectful of the quest for learning and enjoyment.

Fast forward to 2008: iPods, cell phones and kids being dropped off at the door are becoming an increasingly common occurrence. Here are some rules that will make everyone’s experience more enjoyable. It starts with respect in three areas:

• Respect of the building.

• Respect of the inside area, including books, other materials, furniture and computers.

• Respect of self, staff and fellow patrons.

Wow! That sounds so easy. Now let’s put it into action.

1. If your child carries a cell phone, make sure he or she understands that it needs to be turned off or on vibrate in the library. Cell phones have become a major distraction and disruption of library patrons.

2. Be respectful of computer time. Both children and adults should “sign in” and adhere to the allotted use of time on the computer. Librarians are not comfortable having to be “computer police,” but they must enforce the rules when computer time is abused and there are lines of unhappy patrons waiting for their turn use a computer.

3. If your child’s research paper is due tomorrow morning, it’s a good idea to have started it
before today. Although the library offers access to a plethora of information, expecting the librarian to wave a magic wand and deliver the material in seconds is not a realistic or a responsible expectation. Research takes time to locate, evaluate, process and then compose (by your child). Librarians are not there to do your child’s work, only to assist and guide him or her in the right direction.

4. If you’re in the main part of the library
(as opposed to the children’s room) and you find yourself running after your toddler, repeatedly correcting his or her behavior or attempting to tame tantrums, take your child home and visit at another time, when your little one is well-rested and fed.

5. Discuss with your child that the library is owned and used by the entire community. Be a good steward of the material by not eating, drinking or chewing gum that can potentially damage the books and other material. Point out that this responsibility is similar to taking care of toys and books at home. (This might be a good time to take a look at how your child treats his personal belongings, too.)

6. The library staff is not there to clean up after patrons, baby-sit small children, take your child to the restroom or monitor teen behavior (unless necessary).

7. Set the example for your child by keeping your voice low and visiting with your own friends outside the library door.

8. A trip to the library is not an opportunity for your teen to unload the last few bars of candy he or she is selling as a school fundraiser.

9. If your older children go to the library as a group,
make it a point to discuss the reason for the library visit and let them know you will be reviewing their material or work when they arrive home.

10. While today’s technology gives us instant access to information
via our home computer, there is merit in teaching your child the value of obtaining and using a library card, being responsible for the timely return of the material borrowed, respecting others while at the library, spending time together, researching a project or simply reading a good book. All of these things give our children a sense of accomplishment that will last them a lifetime.

Diane Gottsman is an etiquette and protocol expert who leads programs for children and adults.