In the last few weeks I've outlined to a decent extent all the work that happens behind the scenes at the library. This week, let's take on the assumption that the library is a nice, quiet place to work.
I think there are several ideas that are combined in the "nice and quiet" description. First, the "quiet": many people, when asked to describe a library, would probably include "quiet" in their description. While some libraries do work hard to promote a quiet environment, each library is unique in its level of acceptable noise. Parts of Neill are quieter than others, and sound does carry because of our open floor plan. Because we consider ourselves a community space, we allow quiet conversation throughout the library; there can also be noise from the Children's area, where young people and their families are reading, playing, and exploring. We do try to keep the volume at a reasonable level so people can still read the paper, study, answer emails, etc. For this reason, we may ask patrons to take a lengthy phone conversation into the entry way or to be aware of their voices when working together at a computer. There's an acceptable level of noise that accompanies play at the doll house and train table, but we may ask for a grown-up's help if a child is pounding a rail road piece on the table or if an argument has broken out between toddlers, or for cooperation if a squealing or screaming child needs a few minutes outside to calm down. (Perhaps appropriately, I had to stop writing this paragraph to go make sure two under-twos who were screaming bloody murder were ok; they were just having a disagreement about who ought to playing with a doll house person.)
So it's not always quiet in the library, and we all work in that environment. Not only do we work in that environment when we are on desk-- stationed at the Information Desk or the Circulation Desk, or in the stacks shelving, for example-- but, again because of the floor plan, even those few of us with doors on our offices cannot always escape it. If there's a tantrum at the check-out desk about who gets to carry which picture book to the car or how many bookmarks everyone gets to take, we know about it.
I would like to say that we know crying happens. Many of us here have families at home, and we all have experience with children here in the library. We know that children cry, giggle, fuss, whine, squeal, laugh, and yes, occasionally scream. Developing gross motor skills means that they may drop things, bang things, pound things, and kick things. All of this is a normal part of our working environment; we would miss it if it were gone.
Another idea that goes into the "nice and quiet" is, I think, related to the pace at which we work. If people were imagining library work, I imagine they would think of work embodied by the maxim that "slow and steady wins the race." Our work should be well-researched, correct, and complete, and that can't happen quickly. It is definitely true that we need time to accomplish our tasks, and that hurrying through them would result in shoddy work. But we definitely feel the pressure of time. In addition to all our normal duties, many of us have taken on part of the duties of our many unfilled staff positions. We try to get tasks done as quickly as possible without compromising results, and we move on to the next task post haste.
I love it here, and I would bet all my coworkers love working here, too. "Nice and quiet" this library is not, but we prefer it that way.