My patience has been running thin and my frustration has been growing for over a year now. Today, I reached my limit and was compelled to write this letter.
As I write this letter, I am sitting at one of the Internet computer terminals at the Lake Oswego Public Library. As I was conducting research online, two pre-teen girls sat down at computers across the table from me. They proceeded to get online, log onto their precious MySpace pages and broadcast out loud every single word that was on the screen in front of them. After hearing about whose boobs were bigger or what boy was cuter in photo after photo I asked the two young ladies if they could cut the chatter or take it outside. They both mumbled some words of disgust at me and the fact that I would dare interrupt their social time at the library, then they left. This is not an isolated incident at the Lake Oswego library, it is the norm. If it's not groups of pre-teens or teen-agers clustered around one computer terminal laughing, gossiping, using vulgar language or outright yelling, then it's groups of grade school kids playing interactive games on an entire row of computers, stopping only to run back and forth between their computer and their friends' computers to see what is happening on their friends' monitors. You would think that would be bad enough. But wait, there's more! Cell phones have long been the bane of certain areas in our society. Movie theaters, public transit and the line at the grocery store come to mind as a few places where I do not need to hear other's cell phone conversations. But when did it become OK and accepted to have someone answer their cell phone with their Mozart ring tone in the library only to continue their conversation for minutes on end right next to another library patron without any regard for the others in the library? There are a handful of small, blue signs posted around the library that say 'Please be considerate of other library patrons when using your cell phone.' Obviously, these signs have no impact whatsoever. No one seems to know what the word 'considerate' means and the signs aren't very visible. There should be a sign on every single computer that says, 'Please turn off cell phones or turn off the ringer on your cell phone while inside the library. Please do not talk on your cell phone while in the library.' I own a cell phone and I bring it with me to the library. Before I enter the library I activate the 'Silence all sounds' feature on my phone. If my phone rings, I can see the little red light flash and if I need to take the call I answer the phone and then go outside to talk on it. Pretty simple really. I have traveled all over the United States and Europe and I have used literally hundreds of libraries. The Lake Oswego Public Library is, without doubt, the loudest, noisiest library I have ever used. My friend Allen and I simply refer to the library as 'The livestock auction.' If you have ever been to a livestock auction you will understand. If you haven't been to a livestock auction, imagine a guy with a PA system turned up to maximum volume talking 200 mph over hundreds of head of cattle all mooing and grunting at the same time. Part of the problem is that the loudest area of the library is the checkout counter. The checkout counter at the Lake Oswego library is directly below a huge cutout section of the second floor. Every single noise that is generated at the check out counter bounces off the brick floor and goes straight up, through the opening in the second floor, bounces off the angled ceiling and echoes through the second floor like someone throwing broken concrete into an empty Dumpster.
How about putting a nice glass cover over that opening so that light can still come through, but the deafening sounds of combat can remain on the first floor? Again, pretty simple really. If you have been to the library recently you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't been recently, stop by and have a look and a listen. Be sure to go after 3:30 p.m. so you can see how our youth are behaving at our library.
Furthermore, the library staff never seems to lift a finger to put an end to the constant chatter and cell phone use unless you get up from what you are doing and go ask them to do something. Most of the time they are sitting only a few feet away, but will rarely put an end to loud or disruptive behavior on their own. I was not aware that our library had become a daycare center, after school social club, computer game arcade and cell phone test facility. The last time I checked, our library was still, at least in part, a library … and livestock auction.
C.J. McNulty is a resident of Lake Oswego.