Sound of silence
PUBLISHED: 11:43 31 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:28 06 May 2010
SIR, — Hello, my name is Jacqueline and I m a silent reader.… I have just returned to my home town having lived in California for the past 23 years and this year I have decided to work in the schools as a substitute teacher to offset the cost of my trip.
SIR, - Hello, my name is Jacqueline and I'm a silent reader....
I have just returned to my home town having lived in California for the past 23 years and this year I have decided to work in the schools as a substitute teacher to offset the cost of my trip. It's been a long week and I am looking forward to some quiet time in the St Albans library.
As I enter the library I am met with a display of books focusing on "Stress Busting". Perfect. Having been in half-a-dozen local schools as a "sub" my nerves are a little frayed, to say the least.
"A Busy Person's Guide to Aromatherapy" sounds good - what is that smell? A mother is wrestling her small child into a stroller so she can have five minutes to check her email. A leaky nappy seems to be the cause of the very full-throated bellowing that ensues.
A whole group of mothers and their babies suddenly descend. The noise level rises. "Young Herts Crying" by Richard Yates jumps off the shelves at me. I try hard to find some compassion towards all mothers and their children. But a large part of me begins to wonder: "Why here, why now?"
A large vertical poster looms. "What's on your mind?" it asks. "Your library is working with the BBC Headroom to encourage you to look after your mental well being." I'm all for it - great idea!
I find a seat at a vacant computer monitor. A young man sits beside me. His ipod is cranked so loud he might as well have brought his boom box along. Next to me a young woman is chatting on her cell phone. I learn more than I care to know about her personal life. What are those bizarre jingles I keep hearing? Oh, of course, more cell phones!
By now the number of mothers and their children has doubled. There must be a children's hour. A song begins: "See the baby's finger, see the baby's toes, see the baby's belly button, round and round it goes" - just like my spinning mind! My patience is diminishing with each shriek.
As I try to check my airline itinerary online, my mind freezes. I decide to take a walk back to the "stress shelves". A book catches my attention: "Healing the Hurt Within - Understanding Self-Injury and Self-harm and Heal the Emotional Wounds". Does digging my fingernails into my palms to stop myself from wrestling the ipod away from the bozo next to me make me a candidate for the book? No, I needed the "homicidal tendencies" section.
Joking aside, what happened to the hushed and precious silence of the library? The haven of tranquillity where books, newspapers and periodicals could be read without distraction? Don't get me wrong, I am all for children and their mums enjoying story time, but should it be to the detriment of all those who come to the library for a quiet read?
Here is my proposal: that following each children's story hour, there is a support group for "Silent Readers Anon". Those of us who like to read silently form a circle and for one hour silence reigns in the entire library. Otherwise I advocate silent readers to check out their library books and make for the nearest park bench.
Lemsford Road, St Albans.