ASSOCIATES (2009, November, v. 16, no. 2)


Opinion – Silence is Golden

jimj3Jim Jackson

In today’s modern world everyone needs something different to be able to sell a particular product. This ‘something’ is hard to define and whole companies work on this ‘magic formula’ and it is generally called marketing. How do you get someone to use your store/cell phone/service as opposed to someone else’s?

This applies to library services as much as anything, hence the development of the library/coffee shop culture and the need for social spaces in libraries, where people gather together and talk.

Are we missing something extra here or worse still are we losing something important?

Have we lost the concept of silent study – are we now so focused on being trendy and trying to pander to everyone’s slightest need that we have forgotten what the brand ‘library’ means? As a brand the word library will usually bring up visions of rows of desks, piles of books and silent study. This brand loyalty is often lost by calling the place an ‘information store’ or ‘resource centre’ when sadly some people can not even spell the word resource, let alone know what it means. By all means do away with old stereotypes of old Miss Shush and try and widen the appeal of the library by calling it a library and research centre. Tell people about free use of the Internet in the library, provide IT training and provide I-Pod docking stations as an additional attraction. Include DVD’s and of course books. Provide all the information that people need but now in different formats. With so many people being told to ‘look on our web site’ we need library staff that can help them do this and access other organisations such as Social Services and Welfare Rights.

Schools and Colleges now encourage people to work together in groups – which is great but we also need to teach them that there are times when they need to work together silently.

Libraries have this chance to sell silence – silence costs nothing and is unique however it does require staff and the right working environment. With non-stop noise almost every library can offer this magic formula as an additional attraction. I am reminded of Rob Westwood’s recent article in the CILIP Gazette magazine (9th October 2009 Page 15) entitled ‘Pipe Down-Sell Silence, where he says ‘we are all desperate to promote libraries unique selling points these days….. have we forgotten the obvious one of silence’.

There is a time and place for something that is lacking in today’s world – the chance to think in peace and to work in silence. Where do you stand on the question of providing an area where Silent Study is required?