The first thing I was taught before we even walked in the building was “be quiet in the library.” Rule number one. People are trying to read, to learn, to be better and they should not be disturbed. I never called my mom’s bluff on that one. I stayed quiet while I picked out my Encyclopedia Brown’s and whispered even though we were the only people in the library at the time.
When I got to high school, I got a job in that very same library. Saturday’s were staffed with the page (me) and a professional librarian. We split lunches, one hour out and one hour alone. One Saturday, I found myself all alone in the public library.
I checked all the shelves. I checked the genealogy room for the creepy Adams family. I checked every nook and cranny of the building. Then I ran around, yelling my damn head off, breaking the first rule I ever learned about libraries in a fit of teenage rebellion.
I forgot about the cleaning lady, Miss Agnes. Miss Agnes was as old as I was young and as black as I was white. She snuck in the library on Saturdays and cleaned around us, most days sitting in the cleaning closet and taking a nap until we left so she could vacuum in peace. Normally a great plan, if not for some damn fool kid.
She came out of the closet as I rounded the circulation desk and pointed an accusing finger at me.
“Boy, why you yelling?” she asked.
I stopped and didn’t think. My heart dropped. I stared at her and she stared back at me.
“Huh. Kids. Keep it down,” she said, “this is a library.”
Then Miss Agnes turned around and went back to her closet. I did not see her again for the rest of the day. When I saw her then next Saturday, she did not mention it. I wonder now how many silly young library assistants had woken Miss Agnes from her Saturday nap in the closet?
I was thinking about noise in the library as I watched repeats of the Texas senate filibuster by state Senator Wendy Davis on the abortion bill she opposed. Noise as she talked for 10 hours (a good noise, a time filling noise) and noise from the crowd when legislatures attempted to supersede her efforts.
I was thinking about noise in the library when I heard people cry out when the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and California’s Prop 8. Good noise, overjoyed noise of triumph and happiness that equality is present and available for all in the year 2013.
If those are the kinds of noises that I get to hear today, then progress has truly come to the library.
Just turn off your damn cell phones, please.