Shushing Librarian?

One of my favorite Christmas gifts ever is proudly on my desk:

That’s my librarian action figure, modeled after Seattle librarian, Nancy Pearl.  It’s silly, I know, but I love it.  
However, I don’t intend to be a shushing librarian.  Oh, I know going to library time shouldn’t be like going to P.E. or recess.  But I do believe the library needs to be a vibrant, active place – a real learning commons.
I mean, why do we think libraries need to be quiet?  I understand why an academic library should be that way – people are there studying.  But that isn’t what happens in a school library, certainly not at the elementary level.  Why should it be more quiet than a typical classroom?
So why do we hold on to so strongly to this model?  I recently substitute taught in two schools with fantastic teachers and kids who love the library.  Whenever one of my classes are scheduled to go to library, I tag along.  The collections in both these school libraries were fantastic, even if the physical facilities were older.  The librarian wasn’t in either school that day (serving several elementary schools) but a full-time paraprofessional was there.  The similarities stopped there, however.
One school had what I can only call a “shushing librarian.”  (I know, I know, a paraprofessional isn’t officially a librarian, but certainly in the minds of the students, she is.)  Students were repeatedly reminded to use their “library voices” and to sit at desks and quietly read the books they had checked out.  Again and again and again.
The other school painted a completely different picture.  The library associate had the projector unit going with a webcam of a mother eagle and her eggs, ready to hatch.  Students were reminded of library procedures (a new student joined the class that day) and encouraged to find a book and then to sit down and read.  Or, if they felt like it, they could work together on a 500-piece puzzle that is set up in the back of the library.  Not once were students told to use “library voices” – they weren’t loud, but they were able to comfortably communicate with each other.  She did a great job of making the library a welcoming and fun place to be.

Which library would you want to visit?


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