I flunked “shushing” in library school.
Honestly, I stink at it. When it comes right down to it, I hate quashing a kid’s natural exuberance.
Kids are the greatest – even the ones I throw out of the library. Once, I was throwing a kid out for making too much noise, and when I threatened to call her mother, she sat down and wrote out her last will and testament to show me.
How funny is that? I had a terrible time keeping a straight face.
I’ve tried to explain why we keep it quiet in the library in this way: If I went to a basketball court and set up all my books and papers in the middle of the free throw line, I’d be disrupting play. That’s not what a basketball court is for. If you come to the library and want to have a snack and horse around with your friends, you’d be interfering with people trying to do homework or just trying to read. We are not your party place.
But frankly, my sympathies are with the little offenders. Don’t get me wrong, after considerable effort and years of practice, I have more or less gotten the hang of "shushing." I’m older and crankier, too, so sometimes I can silence a kid with just the old, hairy eyeball. But I don’t ever expect to be really good at keeping the kid’s department quiet and orderly. I have too much enthusiasm for kids and their projects to be really convincing. I can’t help “ooing” and “aahing” when a kid shows me a new comic book character they’ve drawn, or a robotic mosquito they’ve designed, or a rough draft of a story they’ve written. I run little circles around the desk and squeak, “Let me see. Let me see.”
A kid once came into the library with a fake dinosaur skeleton he’d created out of turkey and chicken bones. Sweet!
You’ve got something interesting you’re working on, I’m right here for you.
You need info, I’m all over it.
You don’t know what you want to do. Have I got ideas for you.
You want to learn something new. I’m your librarian.
Yes, I can build a stellated icosahedron out of scrap paper.
Yes, I can draw a hallucigenia, not to mention Sponge Bob.
Yes, I’m a Zen doodle master and the Spirograph queen.
What’s more, I know what the mythical creature that’s half horse-half porpoise is called, and I know the name of the book series about the kid who visits a fantastic world down the air vent in his living room.
That’s right, I’ve got a masters degree in information science. Ask me anything. Go ahead, ask me. I’m a human search engine.
So come to our library, but behave yourself and don’t make me “shush” you!
Julie Yekel is a librarian in the Youth Service Department of the Westchester Public Library