The Hushed Tone In Libraries

The Hushed Tone is my archnemesis. He appears on furtive lips and bursts forth with subtle softness. He can possess everyone from co-workers to grocery store clerks. But where he’s found most oft is in The Library. There he commandeers everyone’s mouths, save for the occasional unruly child of course. The bastion of books is his

stronghold. So why do I find myself spending both oodles of money and capacious amounts of my energy fighting to make his evil liar my workplace? When I first decided to go to Library school many a friend wondered what on Earth I could be thinking. The Lair of Quietness is no place one of the hearing-aid wearing population! I mean have you ever heard a librarian ask you to speak up?

I, on the other hand, have asked librarians themselves to speak up. I’ve been volunteering at the incomparable Robbins Library since March and I do my fare share of nodding and smiling, pretending I have a clue. I’ve let Barbara in on my not-so-secret hearing trouble since I don’t want her to think I’m a volunteer that ignores his boss. She’s been great about it and so have the other librarians. However, in the heat of the moment when the librarian is looking for a patron’s reserve among the books on cart I’m shelving, they tend to forget. So I’ve played the role of a curly-haired statue in the stead of actually grabbing the book on more than one occasion. Luckily, for me they usually are able to find the book themselves and no harm is done.

Adding to the fun is my Foghorn Leghorn height. I’m 6’3” and tower over almost everyone there. So, for folks normally possessed by that vile villain, The Hushed Tone, even if they know to speak up when talking to me it’s not enough. So I have to fold in half to get the microphone of my hearing aid within vocal range. That gets their attention and they speak up. Only it’s too late. I’m close enough to their mouth that the diabolical evil-doer has flown the coop and it’s like they’re shouting at me. Good times.

It’s fun times like these, combined with my IT background, that are steering me towards the dusty back room of the library. I want to head down the Digital Library path, where speech needn’t be so subdued. I do love helping people find new and exciting or old and thrilling information, I just think I’m more suited for a blacksmith role. I’ll help build and maintain the tools like OPACs (Online Public Access Catalog) that those with normal (or at least better) hearing use to help people find what they’re looking for. Is this me conceding victory to the wicked enemy of mine? Is it me simply playing the hand I was dealt? I dare say it’s too soon to know. One thing I do know, though, is that my future holds plenty more battles with….The Hushed Tone!


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