I’m a librarian. Not a monk.

I have what some would call a “booming voice”. There are many reasons for this—one of which I will propound on at length in a future essay. But suffice it to say that my voice carries.

Now, as a children’s librarian, this is an absolute boon. Having a loud, controlled voice as I read “Pete the Cat” to the little darlings is a major asset. And especially when I get to the part in “Wheels on the Bus” where the driver says ‘GET ON BACK, GET ON BACK”. (Yes, I do all this with a straight face. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m laughing the entire time.)

However, it seems that when I’m on the reference desk, and getting animated while I research something interesting for a patron, my voice can get a bit loud. Cavernous, even. Stentorian. And, sometimes, a patron is less than pleased with my rich, strong tones.

“Do you have to be so loud?”

On the occasions when someone sneeringly asks me that, I have to control my face to not make it look as if I just smelled a rather odious fart.

Do I have to be so loud?

Well, perhaps not. But as someone who has spent much of life quiet, having a loud voice is something I came to late in life. (Okay, middle of my life. I’m not as old as I think I am.)

No, I don’t have to be “loud”. And I don’t think I am. I’m merely speaking in my voice.

And that’s the funny thing. I’m a librarian, not a monk. Libraries are not the monasteries of old. Sure, they’re still not the noisiest places. But neither are they places with stern librarians shushing you. (I rarely have to shush people, only when I have to look at them and say “Now, come on, even for me that’s loud.”)

Libraries have become a community’s center. We get the homeless spending their days in our chairs reading. We get moms and nannies taking their kids into the children’s area to play with toys and computers and to, yes, read. If this gentleman thought I was loud, he should see me doing Storytime, which goes on in full voice while the library is open. (And I don’t close the doors, as my Storytimes are standing room only as it is.)

No, I don’t have to be loud, and I try to monitor my voice as I know it carries. But neither do I have to conform to a notion of a library which hasn’t existed for years. A place of relative quiet: yes. But a place of deathly silence? There are many fine Trappist monasteries for that kind of solitude. The library is firmly in this world, partaking of all it’s roiling life.

It might get loud.

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