Remedial Training for Today’s Librarians

librarian bookended print
photo credit: Super Furry Librarian

EAR Librarian of Today,

It has come to my attention that the library, once a place of quiet reading and gentle research, is now a hotbed of childcare, a veritable zoo of underage noise and all-around caterwauling, a word I've always wanted to use in a sentence.

Did you know that your forebears used to be the very guardians of peace and order at the library? That with a single glare or "shoosh" the slightest disturbance was nipped, thus maintaining the warp and woof of society itself? No, I guess you didn't.

I am here to help restore your profession’s former glory and thus do my small part to tighten the perilously loose fabric of civilization. With just a few remedial steps, you will be empowered to do the following:

- produce silence out of clamor

- produce order out of chaos

- frighten children

- induce defensive behavior in parents with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement

- ignore them and continue on your merry way producing silence and order

- relish the rush of power that results from doing all of the above a few times

- give me unlimited access to the computers, instead of that chintzy one-hour rule, where I get kicked off when someone else “needs” a computer.

So let us begin with a real-life scenario. First we will see how the situation is handled by today's librarian. We will scoff liberally at its complete ineffectiveness and wish there was something we could do about it.

Then we will employ the powerful techniques of the librarian of old. We will wonder why on earth we had ever deserted these fabulously effective methods, and hurry to teach all our fellow librarians what we have learned.


Mother with two children, aged three and five, strolls to the kiddie section of the library. Three-year old proceeds to throw toys on the tile floor and produce various unearthly noises at the top of her lungs. Five-year old proceeds to run unfettered throughout the library several times, and then return to his mother, to recount in a voice loud enough to wake the dead all that he has discovered. Mother does nothing to reduce her children's noise. She behaves as she always does under the circumstances: she pretends that she and the kiddies are at home, and that all of us are pieces of furniture in her living room.

Today's Useless Librarian Responses

Denial-typing at the Computer

"I am much too busy," says Today's Librarian, "typing all these words into the computer."

Denial-chatting with Other Librarians

"How can I be annoyed by loud visitors," asks Today's Librarian, "when I am busily adding to the general din with my own pointless librarian chatter?"

Denial-chatting with Offender's Parent(s)

"How can I confront the parents of noisy children," continues Today's Librarian, "when I am demonstrating to said parents that I am a passive numbskull by chatting with them, even while their children are driving everyone bonkers?"

Denial-loud-talking with Computer Patrons

"How can I quiet loud talkers when I am speaking at the same volume to a computer patron who clearly doesn't need the computer as much as you do? I mean, why don't I just get you a free pass right now to unlimited time at one of our nicer computers?"

The Superior Responses of the Librarian of Old

The Shoosh

Our Librarian of Old, always female, places an index figure perpendicular to her thin, disapproving lips. She then emits a short, sharp "shooshing" sound, the timbre of which penetrates all other noises and produces immediate silence throughout the library.

Nowadays, the only person capable of emitting a shoosh like that is Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, whilst correcting a naughty dog's behavior. Note how his shoosh works every time. This is no accident.

The Standby Glare

Our Librarian of Old, although having shooshed with successful results, notes that there are a few poor saps who aren't remaining silent. Some people never learn. Noiselessly she glides, in Capezio flats, across the gleaming floor, undetected by the offenders. Suddenly they feel a cold shadow over one shoulder. They turn to look, and there she stands, glaring down at them like a displeased Goddess of Silence. Today we would say that they are so busted.

The Standby Glare with Shoosh

For the very naughty library visitors, the Librarian of Old saves her most potent weapon. Yum: there is simply nothing better than watching someone other than yourself being personally shooshed and shamed by the public-servant equivalent of your mother. I get all misty just thinking about it.

The Standby Glare with Head Librarian

You are so extremely naughty that the Matron of Silence has been called to the side of one of her Librarians. Today we would say that you are such dead meat.

Now, is there any contest between today's Useless Librarian Responses and the Superior Responses of the Librarian of Old?

Shoosh! That was a rhetorical question.