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This article is not meant to malign or impugn anyone or any group, but rather, solely to call attention to a significant problem, without mitigating any part of it through softening its description. If it seems harsh, it is the problem that I’m treating harshly, not the people involved on either end of it.

During the hours when kids are not in school, Waverly Public Library is by far the noisiest library I have ever been in. I can begin with an illustration that is colorful while truthfully not being sarcastic whatsoever: our library is like a cross between a video arcade, a teen hangout, a carnival, and a used book store. I like everyone I’ve met who runs it, and that’s nearly everyone, but nobody is exercising any control over the quiet and scholarly environment that should prevail there. Kids hang around talking loudly, laughing boisterously, yelling, swearing, making vulgar references to genitalia, running, chasing each other, throwing things over the racks of books with no regard for who might be on the other side, or possibly with the intention if hitting who’s on the other side, and on, and on, and on.

When I walk into the library I see an extensive, impressive bank of computers, with a child seated at every one, which seems wonderful. Then I see that on every screen is a video game, and I am no longer impressed, not favorably, that is. That’s not what that equipment is for. It’s for research and learning. Who is monitoring its use? Apparently no one. Who is even sensibly deciding what its use will be? Again, apparently no one.

How can this facility even be called a library? For as long as they’ve existed, libraries have been places of quiet and study. The reason for keeping them quiet is of course that noise is distracting and interferes with concentration, running against the goal of learning. Libraries are for learning, and no one can learn without concentrating. And libraries are not for entertainment, any more than raucous socializing.

The kids in there making the noise and playing the video games are obviously not there to learn anything, and are using the library as a gathering place based largely in animated, violent “sport” or war, or as a party place, even with music. The only things missing are cigarettes and beer.

What in the world are we doing? Is this going to be a library, or a clubhouse for kids who want to postpone parental supervision, until suppertime or until the library closes? I suggest and urge that we expel the most unruly kids from the building for the day, ask the others to be quiet, and cease letting anyone use the computers for video games, or any anything else but learning.

I call upon the staff at the library to re-examine their purpose in working there, and to contrast it with what they are actually condoning or supporting. It’s a disgrace. It’s a fiasco. I’m astounded that the staff have let this go on for so long. Even many adult visitors in there talk loudly, laugh loudly, use their cell phones… Most of the adult patrons are dignified and respectful, and hurray for them. I call upon the remaining adults to set a good example by being quiet themselves ~ conducting themselves with decorum conducive to study. And I call upon all of us to get involved in quieting or removing the noisy kids. We all have the right to ask them to be quiet, without deferring to the staff first, but I truly want to see the staff take the lead. It’s a vital part of their jobs.

Mike Nelson is a community living specialist at North Star Community Services and an author living in Waverly.