I breathed in deep, watching the antics of the children surrounding me. They built their towering Lego structures then knocked them down in a furiously chaotic jumble – pieces flying, fought emphatically with plastic dinosaurs, screamed with delight at cartoons blaring from the TV, and raced Matchbox Cars around the racetrack themed rug. Their incessant, ear-splitting squeals and generally deafening racket filled my ears at this amazing birthday party. One child in particular screamed for two and a half hours straight; I didn’t know this was physically possible. It was impressive really.
It wasn’t a birthday party. This was during my recent trip to the library! Okay, so even though the title says “Library Etiquette for Kids,” it really should read “Library etiquette for parents who let their kids run around and invade every quiet space anywhere, ever.”
What happened to the days of yore when librarians glared over their horn-rimmed glasses and “shhh-d” kids with a menacing shhh that could not, would not be ignored? Instead, they build an entire open air playground for them within the sacred walls of mystery, reading, and learning. Gone are the days of teaching children that there is a time and a place for play, and that the library is most definitely not one of these places.
Do you want your kids to blow off steam? Newsflash: there are places designed just for that purpose. Chuck E. Cheese, for example, the park, a playground, or a Bounce Zone come to mind. Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in the sanctity of the library. Okay, okay, I know I get up to my own library shenanigans, but hey, at least I’m QUIET about it. I mean, this is serious business, people.
I remember the good old days, when I would go to the library with my friends or parents and read, study, or research…not to mention stock up on books to take home. So quiet were these spaces that you didn’t dare giggle or you would risk being loudly hushed by the bespectacled Gargoyle behind the Counter.
During my fateful trip to the kid zone, I mean, library, there were several high school students scattered around at tables, attempting to have lessons with tutors; my daughter herself was there with a tutor trying to take a test. These kids and their tutors had to raise their own voices to be heard over the ruckus coming from the kid’s corner. The resulting cacophony brought to mind a football game or a bar; in fact, if I had a drink in my hand, this atmosphere would have been easier to understand…and to tolerate. Maybe.
I’m afraid of a future where kids have no respect for anything or anyone. The heart of respect and learning could be found in the pages of the world that surrounded these kids at this specific moment in time and instead, they careened all around this indoor playground and paid no attention to the wonders that could have been found on the shelves right in front of their eyes.
What does this say about the parents? I do understand that some parents need to use the library and have no-one to watch the kids for a few minutes; trust me, I get it. Been there, done that. But, here’s a novel idea (see what I did there?): encourage your kids to read. Help them to learn. Point them in the direction of books that challenge their minds, warm their hearts, encourage their imagination.
If they can’t read yet, sit them down with picture books – it’s a library for god’s sake – there are a myriad of options and opportunities to open your children up to the world of books. If you allow your kid to run wild in a library, you may be part of a bigger problem. If you cannot teach your kids that they need to be quiet in some situations, Great Aunt Abigail’s funeral will be quite an interesting event.
What do these “play areas” say about the librarians and management of these once fine institutions? Are they afraid to ask parents to (gulp, gasp) be PARENTS? Who came up with this fantastic idea of allowing kids to play loudly in a building that is traditionally used to study, read, and learn?
Now, of course I know that kids need to play. I am a big proponent of kids playing and burning off energy, socializing, sharing and laughing. I am also a big supporter of the idea, “a time and a place for everything.”
To me, the library is not the place for unrestrained, rowdy free-for-alls. Allowing this behavior is disappointing for the people who still choose to use the library as intended, and for the kids themselves as they ignore thousands of books full of wonderful, wild adventures.
I guess I’m done with this rant for now; I need to go to Chuck E. Cheese and read a book.