No more shushing: Library a place to get comfortable and get busy

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The Modern Library: Part three of a four-part series

By Sarah Berkshire

Contrary to what some expect, you’re not likely to be shushed in today’s libraries.


While still a place to browse books, read and research, libraries often are transforming to have a community center sort of atmosphere.

“I don’t think anyone whispers in the library anymore,” said Charlotte Bragdon, circulation manager at Hardin County Public Library in Elizabethtown. Patrons still are respectful of others’ need for quiet, but the atmosphere is much more relaxed than it once was, she added.

Much of the change is driven by the evolving needs of library patrons.

It’s about more than printed material. Users of all ages want libraries to give them access to information, tools and experiences, said Hardin County Public Library director Rene Hutcheson.

The old way, for example, concerned checking out a book about flowers while the new way would concern attending a class about arranging flowers. It’s still using the library to connect people to resources, but it’s more interactive and engaging.

And that means libraries are more often bustling places.

At the public library, other activities include Stories and Tails, in which children visit the library to read aloud to therapy dogs to improve their reading and communication skills without fear of judgment. And on Thursday, preschoolers are invited to a one-hour session all about pumpkins.

The increasing use of computers and advancements in technology have impacted the atmosphere, too, from students discussing a book with its author via Skype in a school library to adults taking free computer classes through the public libraries.

Also, with more computer labs — and sometimes wi-fi — libraries have become not only a place where people consume others’ work, but a popular place to produce their own work.

Atmosphere is especially important when it comes to children.

“We think the atmosphere is welcoming and nurturing,” said Gloria Stahl, youth services librarian at the public library in Elizabethtown.

The décor is cheery, the furniture is small and any book a child might like is within their reach.

Whether its story time for preschoolers or 30 older children gathering for the regular Lego Night, librarians aim to create spaces where children want to be, they said.

School libraries also welcome children into comfortable spaces.

Traditional tables and chairs will always have place in school libraries because of some of the work students must do, said Jessica Hundley, library media specialist at Bluegrass Middle School. Still, the atmosphere can’t be cold.

“We’re kind of working toward that Barnes and Noble feel,” she said, noting colorful walls, posted quotes about books and new, comfortable furniture.

Similarly, rugs and cushions in bright colors add to the atmosphere of the library at the preschool and kindergarten center Panther Academy.

“It’s a fun place to be,” said Amy Truitt, Panther Academy’s librarian.

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com. Sarah Berkshire can be reached at (270) 505-1745 or sberkshire@thenewsenterprise.com.