All's (Not) Quiet on the Library Front

Letter from a library patron on the North Shore of Long Island (NY):

LIBRARY NOISE: While I appreciate the input from the librarian regarding this topic, I must voice my opinion on it. I really see no need for the high level of noise in the library. Yes there will be interactions between people in the library, but what I've heard bordered on obnoxious...certainly unnecessary. It seems like every time someone uses the excuse of 'times have changed', it seems like it's always for the worse.

I hate to say it, but the noises that were the loudest were from the library workers themselves, and it had NOTHING to do with library business. C'mon ladies and germs, tone it down please. Maybe times have changed, but there are more than a few old timers that still welcome the peace, solitude and quiet of a library. Don't take this last remaining refuge from us.

And elsewhere, another library in Newport Beach, CA is in the midst of deciding how much noise is too much. From the Daily Pilot.

So what do you much noise is acceptable?


43 dB

For most Americans, silence is hard to find these days. Traffic and airplane noise fill most major cities. Cellphone conversations have taken over the parks and sidewalks, buzzing electronics have invaded our homes, and each store has its own carefully shaped "sonic environment."

Most of us accept these noises as a normal byproduct of our gadget-obsessed times, but in his new book, "In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise," George Prochnik argues that this barrage of noise is more than just a nuisance; it poses a real threat to our cardiovascular system and mental health, our ability to concentrate, and, perhaps most dangerous of all, it turns our political discourse into a shrill barrage.

A self-described lover of silence, Prochnik attends "boom car" competitions in Florida -- where owners compete to create the loudest sound from their audio system -- spends time with a shopping mall sound designer, and visits "soundscaping" projects in Europe, where designers use sound maps and hypermodern technology to decrease noise pollution. In the book's most fascinating moment, he looks at the way the peculiar pitch and volume of Hitler's voice may have seduced Germans into following his ideas.

Salon spoke to Prochnik over the phone about the younger generation's passion for noise, the torture of mall music, and why Americans are so much louder than the rest of the world.

Full article:

Book: In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise

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