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vent: why have libraries turned into play zones?


ondreeuh
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When I was a kid, you didn't speak above a whisper in the library. The last two libraries we have used have computer banks with Minecraft and Roblox installed, and kids play together while they chat, tease, and play. I wouldn't care except they ruin the ability for anyone else to concentrate. We will be spending a lot of time on the army base this year and I asked the librarian if there was any quiet place to study. She said nope. Nice. So I guess the kids have eh playground, the youth center, and the library as their Rex centers and those of us who want to read or study in quiet are SOL.

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Ours are like this too, but they do have quiet areas as well.  Maybe this is less possible with a smaller library though.

 

I don't know.  I suspect that maybe libraries are trying to stay relevant.  Around here I hardly see any children at the library.  Between e-books and the fact every school has their own library, kids don't have a lot of reason to go there it seems.  We went a lot more when my kids were younger and now we hardly go.  I buy my most of our books because the selection at our library was so lousy anyway.

 

 

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Ours are like this too, but they do have quiet areas as well. Maybe this is less possible with a smaller library though.

 

I don't know. I suspect that maybe libraries are trying to stay relevant. Around here I hardly see any children at the library. Between e-books and the fact every school has their own library, kids don't have a lot of reason to go there it seems. We went a lot more when my kids were younger and now we hardly go. I buy my most of our books because the selection at our library was so lousy anyway.

Very few schools here have libraries anymore. And their library is really just the teacher media center. For many students if they don't have books at home or their teacher doesn't buy books for her classroom - then that's it. The schools justify it as saying books aren't relevant to to kids anymore and instead spend their money on buying kids iPad for the classroom. I am very much not a fan bc I do not see even slight evidence this advances education for those students.

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Our newest library built a two-story pirate ship in the kids section. Shockingly, kids are loud on a two-story pirate ship. The librarians spend their time policing children. Also, shockingly, the city's insurance company is not excited about children playing on the second floor of the boat so it is usually closed. I feel like no one in the design process had ever met a child.

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Yeah, the library is a lot louder now than when I was a kid. But libraries are struggling to get patrons. They have to offer more to get people in the door. Our library does have a very small quiet room with a few chairs, and there are study carrels on the opposite side of the building from the kids area. So that helps. I use the library a lot so am just happy they still exist.

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Or go off post and look for a coffee shop.

 

Anyplace that has an "event space" or "birthday party room" might let you go in there during the day, too.

 

It wouldn't hurt to ask at the bowling center (no idea what they would say).

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I have a bunch of little boys.  I wouldn't be able to take them to a whisper only library.  Our library allows reasonable noise in both the children & young adult (teen) sections. All the adult sections are usually quiet, for whatever reason the periodical room is dead silent except for the turning of pages.  They also have quiet study rooms and an adults only computer lab.  Honestly, I think this arrangement is best for everyone.

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Very few schools here have libraries anymore. And their library is really just the teacher media center. For many students if they don't have books at home or their teacher doesn't buy books for her classroom - then that's it. The schools justify it as saying books aren't relevant to to kids anymore and instead spend their money on buying kids iPad for the classroom. I am very much not a fan bc I do not see even slight evidence this advances education for those students.

 

They seem to have decent school libraries here.  They often ask for book donations too.

 

They recently opened up a literacy center (an entire separate branch).  They do a ton of community outreach programs all focused on teaching reading, promoting reading, etc.  Just, what gets me about a lot of the libraries we have (we have many) is they don't have many actual books (or e-books).  They seem to spend the bulk of their budget on real estate (to support having so many branches).  Even taking their collection combined from all the branches is not much. 

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This is one reason I love my library.  Most of the other area libraries have computers in the kids' section, and that's what the kids gravitate to.  Our library has NO computers in the kids' section.  A train table, that's it for play stuff.  Some low tables, some comfy chairs, I think there's a comfy place for kids to sit on the floor.  No noise, no electronics.   Awesome.

 

ETA: When I say no noise, I don't mean kids have to whisper.  They do play at the train table and with puzzles, and are allowed to talk.  But the lack of electronics really does change the tenor of the area.

Edited by Matryoshka
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Could you ask the librarians about designating a "quiet reading" area? Every library I've been in has at least one of those for people who want to read. It isn't always a separate room- sometimes just an area with chairs and a sign that says "quiet reading area." I've found that most librarians are pretty receptive to requests from patrons.

 

If that doesn't work, could you bring earplugs?

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I have a bunch of little boys.  I wouldn't be able to take them to a whisper only library.  Our library allows reasonable noise in both the children & young adult (teen) sections. All the adult sections are usually quiet, for whatever reason the periodical room is dead silent except for the turning of pages.  They also have quiet study rooms and an adults only computer lab.  Honestly, I think this arrangement is best for everyone.

 

Agreed. It was hard to get used to at first. But I really appreciate that my kids are not expected to be completely silent at the library.  In the kids area, even, noise is expected. You can read to your child, discuss the books they are thinking about checking out, etc. and no one is bothered. It is the children's area.  The adult area is quieter plus they have a Study area that is separated by glass walls and a door from the rest of the library.  There are many activities held in the community rooms at this library.  They seem to really be trying to become a community center.

 

Another library we go to has play things on the first floor so my younger child plays while my older child researches, allowing us to stay at the library longer.  The second floor has signs saying to keep your kids quiet up there as it is a study zone -- but all the kid books, DVDs, activities, etc are on the first floor so you don't need to go up there for very long.

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I've noticed the playground atmosphere, too. But I've noticed something else, too. A LOT of kids meet tutors there after school hours, so there can be a dozen tables of student and tutor conducting sessions in normal speaking voices (rather than keeping their voices low). It's like being in a coffee shop without the benefit of actual coffee being available!

 

I don't begrudge their use of the space, but yeah, it's a different atmosphere. I've been thinking about using the local university library instead when I need true quiet. I do think the public libraries are trying to incorporate more private study spaces as they remodel, but that's a slow process.

 

But yes, OP, libraries aren't exactly what they used to be. And I often feel sorry for the librarians.

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That's not true here. Our county and state have recently spent a lot of money revamping our school libraries. Yes we have laptop carts and iPad carts. We also have books. Lots of books. Oh, and lots of books on our iPads.

 

Very few schools here have libraries anymore. And their library is really just the teacher media center. For many students if they don't have books at home or their teacher doesn't buy books for her classroom - then that's it. The schools justify it as saying books aren't relevant to to kids anymore and instead spend their money on buying kids iPad for the classroom. I am very much not a fan bc I do not see even slight evidence this advances education for those students.

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Could you ask the librarians about designating a "quiet reading" area? Every library I've been in has at least one of those for people who want to read. It isn't always a separate room- sometimes just an area with chairs and a sign that says "quiet reading area." I've found that most librarians are pretty receptive to requests from patrons.

 

If that doesn't work, could you bring earplugs?

I I asked about a quiet area: no. They have an area with tables & chairs which is where we are most comfortable setting up, but it is directly next to the Kid Korral (computer area). They have no study rooms or separate area except the children's room. The computers are in the back of the library, out of sight of the front desk, and against a wall so the noise bounces. It would help if they could install acoustic tiles, but there is no budget for that.

 

My son has the hardest time focusing with noise, and he does use earplugs. But he often needs to talk with me, so that gets annoying. He can't hear me if I am speaking in a library-appropriate voice unless he takes them out. We have noise canceling headphones, but they are uncomfortable. It just seems nutty that there isn't any planning for a designated quiet zone.

 

I can keep looking for work-around solutions, but I will remain annoyed that the library is no longer a quiet place.

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I also wonder -- maybe you could talk to a chaplain and see if someone could unlock a Sunday School room for you. Those rooms may be vacant on several days a week if no other groups are using them.

 

Or could you go in the Youth Center during school hours?

 

It does sound very frustrating.

Edited by Lecka
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I feel like ideally libraries should serve both purposes. It shouldn't have to be an either/or choice. Our libraries seem to do a decent job of balancing technology with books - and social use with quiet. To stay relevant and useful, libraries genuinely need to provide technology that not all young people (or adults) have access to. They also need to be community centers. And to have old fashioned materials like books and reference materials.

 

That's cruddy that there's nowhere for you during the day though. I like a lot of the creative suggestions here.

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When I was a kid, you didn't speak above a whisper in the library. The last two libraries we have used have computer banks with Minecraft and Roblox installed, and kids play together while they chat, tease, and play. I wouldn't care except they ruin the ability for anyone else to concentrate. We will be spending a lot of time on the army base this year and I asked the librarian if there was any quiet place to study. She said nope. Nice. So I guess the kids have eh playground, the youth center, and the library as their Rex centers and those of us who want to read or study in quiet are SOL.

 

Around here, we don't have youth/community/rec centers and the playgrounds are pretty much unusable (restrooms locked, parking lots not plowed) for 6 months each year.

 

The libraries are the only indoor, public use community facilities.

 

I think our libraries are designed very well.  There are high noise areas (the large kid play spaces), medium noise areas (banks of computers, teen lounge areas, open work tables) and low noise areas (book stacks, study rooms).  Through strategic use of space, book shelves, walls, etc, everyone is able to use their preferred space as it was designed, without overly impacting anyone else.

 

Yes, the kids' areas get noisy.  To be fair, there are normally WAY more kids in the building than there are adults (at the times we go).  The librarians rarely police normal, exuberant play noises; the kids areas are isolated enough from the rest of the building (often on their own floor, far away from the quiet study areas) that the noise isn't bothering anyone else.

 

I think the kid play areas are a great resources for the community.  A place for homeschool groups or Mom and Tot groups to meet, a rotating collection of "educational" toys (blocks, dress up, farm animals, art supplies, puzzles, etc) available for lower income kids who might otherwise not be exposed to them, a free place to go and play when cabin fever sets in mid-winter, etc.

 

Our library system also has an amazing collection of books, a robust interlibrary loan system, and many classes and services for various groups (knitting groups, men's book clubs, tutoring, STEM classes, ESL lessons, board game groups, canning/homemaking demonstrations, computer skill classes, etc), so I don't worry about some space being devoted to and enthusiastically used by children.

 

Wendy

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Don't even get me started on our library. Ours has 2 floors and all of the adult non-fiction was upstairs. Years ago they took the kids' non-fiction books from the kids' area and put them upstairs, mixed in with the adult stuff. It made it impossible to browse for kids' non-fiction, and then I always got grumpy stares when I brought my kids upstairs into the quiet zone.

 

I complained about it and was told they needed to make room for the "literacy center" for kids which consisted of a bunch of computers. *eyeroll*

 

They recently put the non-fiction back downstairs, but I haven't seen what they've other rearranging they've done. They are making a teen zone right now which is somehow different from the teen area they already have.

 

I have not been impressed with our library. I usually just request books to be put on hold for me.

Edited by DesertBlossom
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I would bring this to someone's attention at a formal level rather than just take no for an answer from whoever's at the desk. Hearing this I'm so glad our local libraries have found a happy medium with the fun stuff (mostly by having very distinct space so sound doesn't travel, and keeping the fun stuff to a minimum at branches that don't have room to set it up that way).

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I've noticed the playground atmosphere, too. But I've noticed something else, too. A LOT of kids meet tutors there after school hours, so there can be a dozen tables of student and tutor conducting sessions in normal speaking voices (rather than keeping their voices low). It's like being in a coffee shop without the benefit of actual coffee being available!

 

Are most libraries some kind of giant open-concept now?  Our library has a ton of tutoring going on, but it's mostly in a separate area with cafe tables near the coffee (which is self-serve), which is near the YA section and videos and CDs - or in a small study room.  The children's area is separate from the rest of the library.  The main adult section is usually very quiet; there are comfy chairs for reading in the periodicals section, and banks of computers nearby.  There are also desks for quiet study. There are quiet study rooms and carrells on the mezzanine.

 

It's not even a very big library, but it has different areas for different uses...

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Depending on age -- maybe you could go in an exercise room in the gym while there is no class. I see those unused a lot, and they are an enclosed room with a door hopefully. I have been where there is not that kind of exercise room, but a lot do have it, and they are pretty open to go into.

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My library is whisper only, even with designated quiet rooms. I can't go. My kids playing in the children's area becomes a constant battle between the disapproving librarians and my toddlers using a normal voice or clacking toys. Very few parents linger in the children's section. If the library doesn't want toddlers playing, they should remove the play area. I check out books near every week, but I pick up them up at the drive through, avoiding entering the building entirely.

 

I love libraries with closed off children's areas. My kids enjoyed browsing the shelves, playing with the provided toys, and meeting other kids. It made the libraries a welcoming place for families AND a place my kids wanted to visit. I know not every library can have it, but I do think that if there's a designated quiet room that's very soundproof (I've used it before) it would be nice if the rest of the library relaxed noise levels.

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Are most libraries some kind of giant open-concept now? Our library has a ton of tutoring going on, but it's mostly in a separate area with cafe tables near the coffee (which is self-serve), which is near the YA section and videos and CDs - or in a small study room. The children's area is separate from the rest of the library. The main adult section is usually very quiet; there are comfy chairs for reading in the periodicals section, and banks of computers nearby. There are also desks for quiet study. There are quiet study rooms and carrells on the mezzanine.

 

It's not even a very big library, but it has different areas for different uses...

IME the library does attempt to subdivide areas, but tutoring in particular is a grey area. The student is a youth, but the tutor an adult, and the adult chooses to utilize tables in the adult area.

 

To be fair, as I said above, the area libraries that have remodeled are including more quiet study spaces, but getting all the locations remodeled is a long term project.

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Unfortunately in my town the librarians are babysitters. All the kids there are unsupervised. You never see anyone looking at books (besides us!). It's all about the computers, ipads, and the play places. For some reason they spend a lot of money every couple of years building a new play place that I never really see a lot of kids use. Upstairs in the adult section, you don't see a lot of people looking at books either. It really is unfortunate because we actually have a great library.

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Alternately -- I do bet the library quiets down some when school is back in session. I hope.

 

We generally go to the library during the day when its pretty deserted other than a handful of seniors. In the summer, my kids go to the library and are shocked and offended that *other people are in OUR library* because it's pretty busy.

 

We'll be glad when school starts up.

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That's not true here. Our county and state have recently spent a lot of money revamping our school libraries. Yes we have laptop carts and iPad carts. We also have books. Lots of books. Oh, and lots of books on our iPads.

 

Our school district just closed the libraries and laid off the librarians in 5 elementary schools and two junior highs. I believe the high school library is hanging by a thread. It's a real shame that access to these resources varies from school to school, district to district, or state to state. A real shame.

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That would drive me nuts.  While I think it is nice when the kids have an area of their own where they talk about books they like and visit with other kids, etc. it would drive me bananas if there was no quiet place to go for people who need quiet and it would especially drive me nuts if the kids were all playing loud video games in the library.

 

Our local library relocated to an old grocery store.  They did a great job on the redesign.  The kids have a large separate section.  No video games but some toys, lots of books, pretty tables in various sizes, and any noise they make does not affect the rest of the library.  There are also 3 private rooms with big glass windows right off of the children's section so if a parent needs quiet but wants to keep an eye on their kids they can see them and get to them quickly but they can be in a quiet environment. 

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Could you ask the librarians about designating a "quiet reading" area? Every library I've been in has at least one of those for people who want to read. It isn't always a separate room- sometimes just an area with chairs and a sign that says "quiet reading area." I've found that most librarians are pretty receptive to requests from patrons.

 

If that doesn't work, could you bring earplugs?

Our library is only one long room. The children's section is in the back. They have lots of excellent children's programming, which means when you go in there (the three days it is open) it always seems to be cant-hear-yourself-think loud and crowded. We couldn't get close to the shelves to look at books last time we went in because of all the kids, parents, and their things. And that was before summer programs started.

 

The tiny local school eliminated their library, and I think the kids go to the town library during the school day instead, like once or twice per month.

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Recently, I sent lists home with my students of audio books we got from the library during the last 8 years or so that we loved, such as Mr. Popper's Penguins, The Cricket in Times Square, etc.  We enjoyed them so much, I wanted others to have the same experience.  When I went to the online catalog to check some of these out to actually bring to my students to hear in my class, most of these classics can only be gotten from one library in our shared system.  What?  What has happened to these over the years, and why is only 1 library carrying these? (Must be the library with the brains!)

 

Are they all going to electronic readers?  I will  have to find out.  But I know one of our young librarians was removing books from the shelf, they were ones she just didn't 'get' she said.  Whoa!  Such a waste of our tax dollars just like that!  Yes, libraries have changed, and not always for the better.

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Recently, I sent lists home with my students of audio books we got from the library during the last 8 years or so that we loved, such as Mr. Popper's Penguins, The Cricket in Times Square, etc. We enjoyed them so much, I wanted others to have the same experience. When I went to the online catalog to check some of these out to actually bring to my students to hear in my class, most of these classics can only be gotten from one library in our shared system. What? What has happened to these over the years, and why is only 1 library carrying these? (Must be the library with the brains!)

 

Are they all going to electronic readers? I will have to find out. But I know one of our young librarians was removing books from the shelf, they were ones she just didn't 'get' she said. Whoa! Such a waste of our tax dollars just like that! Yes, libraries have changed, and not always for the better.

A lot of the audio books have changed to a digital format instead of cds. You access them the same way you access other ebooks, but download the audio instead of text. It really frustrates me when I'm looking for ebooks but the ones I want are only available as audio books.

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Our library has no quiet space. The tables are being used for all kinds of tutoring, paid and volunteer. Studying is done at home, meeting one's lab partners is done at a fast food place with wifi.

 

Since you are on post, I second asking chaplain and also add try the bowling alley. If it is big enough, they may have a room you could use for a few hours.

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Very few schools here have libraries anymore. 

 

That's really a shame.  The schools here have nice sized libraries at the elementary, middle, and high school level.  The elementary kids visit the library weekly (older kids who are big readers are allowed to go more often when they have finished their work and have extra free time).  Most of the classrooms have a lot of reading for pleasure books available for the kids to read, too.  A couple times a year they have Scholastic book fairs at the elementary schools and they have one at least once a year in the middle schools (the book fairs are held in the libraries).

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Our kiddy sections are basically play rooms with books, but there are other areas that are quieter.  You can still hear if some kid is having a screaming fit, but hopefully most of us can block that out.  :)  Some of our nearby branches have the teen section partitioned off with glass walls.  Not sure if that's to keep noise out or in, LOL.  There's usually some chairs at a far corner for people like me who just want some peace.

 

The normal sounds of kids don't bother me.  What I find distracting is the moms who want to make sure everyone in earshot knows that their preschooler can read, or their 2yo knows his letters.  :P

 

And, to be honest, I'm glad the library is a little more laid back than it used to be.  Less stress for me over every question I ask or every peep my kids make.  :)

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Are there other branches you can try? We are spoiled here with many options, and they are all a bit different, depending on when they were built, and whether or not they have been remodeled. We avoid the smaller ones that are mostly one big open room. 

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A lot of the audio books have changed to a digital format instead of cds. You access them the same way you access other ebooks, but download the audio instead of text. It really frustrates me when I'm looking for ebooks but the ones I want are only available as audio books.

I access them via the Axis360 app. Cheaper than Audible.

 

I love that they are available this way. I am sad that some titles may be or become available ONLY this way.

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We have multiple branches, and they vary.  The ones with the most "kid fun" also have the most secluded (often walled and doored in a separate wing or floor) quiet areas.  There's a small one with zero separation, but they don't have *any sort of computers (even for looking up books) in the kid area.

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Oh wow, that stinks.

 

Our high school has an amazing library. It's bigger, brighter and better stocked than the library in the town we moved here from. It has computers and a computer lab, but it's mostly books.

 

Our town library is incredible. The children's section is separate from the rest, so when it gets loudish that's ok (it's rare, ime). There are a couple open computers for little kids, and quiet study rooms for middle (maybe also high) schoolers only. Our teen librarian is phenomenal and creates all kinds of creative programming for the kids and for teens. In the upstairs of the main library we have a huge quiet room. It's actually the original turn of last century building; in one of the quiet rooms there is a gigantic wood burning fireplace that keeps it cozy in the winter, with comfy chairs for curling up in. It's pretty blissful.

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