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LIS 950: Libraries and community

The purpose of this seminar is to explore an important topic in library and information studies in depth — in all its intertwined historical, cultural, philosophical, and political aspects — through a graduate reading/discussion seminar. The topic varies each time the course is taught; this time around, we will focus on "libraries and community"

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

interesting distractions, The Quiet and Studious Library

I logged in to ask you-all how it is going for you with Bowling Alone? I am finding myself with lots of questions about some of its basic assumptions, though his thesis is certainly interesting.

But then, I got interested in all the other threads that have come up in the last couple of days.
One observation: the library as a place of Quiet and Studious Behavior. I work in the "research" library and my office borders a public space. One thing I notice is that the people who use the public space seem to want it to be quiet. I and my coworkers sometimes get shushed by library users when we carry on necessary work-related conversations in or near our offices.

The reason we are located where we are is so that we can be available to the public, and I myself don't think the space we are in looks like a quiet study area but like an office area, but people seem to assume that because it is the "research"library, quiet has to reign everywhere.
So I wonder, if it is not only the librarians who carried out the studies of Vancouver and Toronto's central libraries, but also the library's users, who expect it to be a place of Quiet and Studious Behavior. The Toronto Central Library, especially, is a non-circulating "research"(Reference) library.

There's a lot of baggage connected with the notion of "research", I think. Especially in a big impressive building that is meant to Look Like a Library.
I wonder if user expectations are different in a smaller or branch library. We sort of got away from the library as "place"after we finished the Van Slyke book, but this does bring it back again.

I too work best in situations which are not too quiet and enjoy collaborative work, but I think many people do like quiet and a chance for solitary thinking. If the library wants to accomodate everyone, I think it needs a variety of welcoming spaces and some cues as to which are Quiet and which are not.

OK, and now on to JSTOR to see if there are some reviews of Bowling
Alone in the Sociology journals. more later..Barbara


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