Most people who knew me back in the day were perplexed when I told them that I was going off to school to become a librarian. “Wally”, they said, “how are you going to succeed in a business that requires people to be quiet?” I never really thought that being a quiet person was a qualification to be in the library profession. When I finally narrowed down what I “wanted to be when I grew up,” I was too busy having fun working in the children’s department of my local public library, where making noise was the order of the day. The concept of being quiet while performing a storytime, or when visiting schools, or while doing crafts, seemed too far-fetched for me to imagine. Funny how life can go full circle.

I used to be a noisy person, just as my friends had said. I was the kid who was always making up loud sounds, which unnerved teachers, parents, neighbors, and older adults alike. I was the kid who always had to stay after school and write 500 times on the black board, “I will not talk in class.” It’s funny, because these days I like to think of myself as a person who is a bit more on the quiet side. Over the years, I came to respect and understand the quiet spaces that libraries had to offer the public. But times have changed, and libraries have learned to adapt to new social and technological mores and a culture of excitement and innovation that helps to keep libraries interesting, busy, and motivating.

What is interesting about the changes in our profession is that it really has upped the levels of noisy excitement in the children’s area. Programs, toys, games, and other interactive devices help to keep the kids moving and involved in imaginative play. And while we love and appreciate our sometimes very busy and noisy interactions with our kids, we sometimes find that we need to reimagine a bit of our space and look to strike a balance. On one hand, we want that pleasurable and busy engagement with the kids, and on the other hand, we sometimes need to seek out and provide those quiet spaces that some of our more traditionally minded patrons crave and miss. Sometimes that quiet doesn’t even have to be a space, necessarily. Sometimes it is just something we can practice, instead.

I was recently able to attend a workshop presented by Ryan Dowd through the Oregon Library Association. One of the tips he offered in his presentation was on breathing techniques to help folks alleviate stress. I took notes on that, because we can always use pointers on how to bring down our blood pressure! What I love about attending seminars is that sometimes you get a chance to reinforce those lessons through daily living. Case in point: I recently read a book titled Around India in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh. The author, at the end of her travels, went on a retreat where she couldn’t speak to anyone for ten days. While she was there, she learned how to meditate using the same breathing techniques that we had learned the week before in Ryan Dowd’s workshop!

So now, thanks to a workshop and a travelogue, I practice a bit of silent meditation each morning. I put on the kettle, and then settle down for 15 minutes of contemplative breathing each day, quieting my mind and preparing myself for another fun, busy, noisy day in the children’s department. It is funny how life goes ’round and the things that we never thought to be important suddenly become the most important things ever. Librarians, like the libraries of old, like to be quiet and tranquil every once in a while. Except during storytime in the children’s department, where noise will always reign and is to be expected!