Friday, June 1, 2012

Are you a SHHHHER?

Image credit: David Ng Soon Thong ( and
When I graduated from library school, I was asked multiple times how it feels to be a “Professional Shhhher.”  Fortunately, I have yet to flex my SHHHHing muscles but a recent article definitely made think about it. I came across an article last weekend by Steven Bernstein in Library Journal entitled “Embracing the Shhhhhtereotype” and it discuses the idea of libraries not shying away from requesting quiet but rather fully enforcing it and even teaching it.

The article made me laugh but it also made me think about what it means for libraries to facilitate connections through providing spaces for human interaction while simultaneously being valuable spots of quiet and solitude. 

The article generally discussed the transformations that many libraries have gone through.  From being an unconnected space before cell phones, computers, and tablets to being on connection overload.  According to Bernstein, it appears that users are now seeking out moments of quiet to escape their device heavy world.  Although libraries seem like the ideal place to run to, the library – like the user – has changed.  Libraries have become wonderful places to come and connect, have conversations, take in training sessions, have a book club meeting, or grab a coffee at the in house cafe. These are all positive changes.  However, we can’t forget to provide those nooks and crannies for silence.  Reading rooms, study rooms, and device- free zones are all quiet spaces that I have encountered at both public and academic libraries.

In his article, Bernstein offers us a few more ideas for libraries to consider.  His ideas are taken from a report by Jessie L. Mannisto from ALA’s Office of Information Technology Policy.  One of the suggestions I really like is providing a “Creative Contemplative Resource Center.”  This would be a place that offers “tools and resources for concentration and thought.”  For example, computer stations equipped with word processing programs but without Internet connection (to inhibit Facebook and web browsing opportunities).   

Another great suggestion is to provide to users training sessions on “Connection Management” and “Focus Techniques.”  Learning how to disengage from devices and concentrate on a single task is equally important as learning how to multi-task.  Learning to focus and manage one’s devices is also applicable and valuable to everyone from young adults to seniors.   

Are we all ready to kindly and strategically use our SHHHHing powers?  Let’s try not to SHHHH patrons right out the door. 

For those who missed the links within, here is Bernstein’s article from Library Journal. 

And Jessie L. Mannisto’s report from ALA's Office of Information Technology Policy.

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