That's the title of one of my favorite Buffy episodes, where a group of monsters called "The Gentlemen" steal the voices of Sunnydale's denizens. What does that have to do with libraries? Silence--or the lack thereof, has become an issue in my library.
In library school, we all held the vision of an active, vibrant center-of-learning, with students engaged in collaborative learning. We disdained the old-style librarians who insisted upon a sepulchral silence. During my practicum, I darned near gave myself an ulcer trying to determine the line where my co-operating librarian would insist upon greater quiet from the students, since it was often FAR sooner that I would have done. I vowed I would run a more student-friendly library.
Enter reality. My library has a "silent" side, for students who need the quiet, and a "collaborative" side, where, ostensibly, they may work quietly in groups. Two or three people working quietly is very different from 20 people working quietly, and I find myself not only waffling on where I think the line is, but going around "sshhshing" people far more frequently than I ever thought I would, and feeling at worst like the guy in the picture, or at best like the old-maid librarian stereotype of the movies.
Sometimes it really is too loud. Other times, students are working in what I think is a reasonable, albeit somewhat noisy, clamor, yet teachers or other students will complain about the volume. Of course, teachers can be even louder than the students!
So here's my question: how quiet is quiet? And how do you provide both a space to collaborate and the silence some students need? Is it really old-fashioned to insist on near-silence, in essence "stealing" student's voices? Or is there a genuine need for a place of quiet reflection and thought?
Or am I completely over-thinking this and, like most of life, the answer is somewhere in-between?