A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Quiet Spaces

by on March 5, 2013

A few years ago I was mountain biking just outside my home town of Green River, Wyoming. I stopped, and once my heart slowed down I realized there wasn’t a sound. No bugs, no breeze, no birds, not even a jackalope – just sagebrush and desert. It was absolutely amazing and peaceful! But I wouldn’t want that all the time.

“Whisper Fight, ” a library-related commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, made a lot of us think of things like that desert, at least to the extent of considering just how quiet a library should or shouldn’t be. If you haven’t seen it yet, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kMWLYYcAYw] check it out now. It’s not only safe for work, you won’t even need to turn down your volume. Call it “research.” A Fall 2012 Pew Internet survey (3) noted that around 95% of all Americans viewed “quiet study spaces” as either very or somewhat important (76% choosing “very important”) for libraries to offer. And of course people immediately jumped on both sides of that issue with good points to make. Pointing out that  xpectations for quiet, contemplative spaces need to be met (4). but also that  providing spaces for conversations promote the idea of the library as a community-centered social space.. In the end, we try to find a good balance with the space we have.

I like that we don’t shy away from having some noise in the library. Whenever the shusher in me rises up, I consider how sad it would be if there weren’t people in the library to make that noise, and weigh that against anyone else in that space who might be trying to study. It’s amazing how much good individual PR you get when you’re consistent but reasonable.

Just protect some quiet spaces. That goes for my desert too.


1) Oreo.com. “Whisper Fight.”


2) Rooney, Jennifer. Forbes (Feb 4, 2013). http://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferrooney/2013/02/04/behind-the-scenes-of-oreos-real-time-super-bowl-slam-dunk/

3) Zikhuhr, Kathryn, et al. “Library Services in the Digital Age,” released Jan 22, 2013 (Pew Internet & American Life Project).


4) Miller, Laura. Salon. http://www.salon.com/2013/01/31/bring_back_shushing_librarians/