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Saturday, October 07, 2006


Telephone Operator, You're My Aural Violator*

* With appologies to Pete Shelley

I continue to be puzzled by people who carry on cell phone conversations without hesitation while huddled in the stacks of the Los Angeles Public Library downtown.

Again today I witnessed a number of uninhibited analogue dialogues in the literature section, all of which were carried out at full cell-yell volume.
"Yeah, ok, what? ... No, what kind? ... When? ... Oh, yeah. ... Wait, while I've got you on the phone I wanted to ...
Coffee shops and cafes have grown tired of this, some to the point of agressively forbiding cell phone use. And yet, in a public library where patrons have a time-honored expectation of peace and quiet, the behavior continues unabated.

Although not addressed explicitly in the Library Rules of Conduct, it would seem to be banned implicitly.

"Disruptive or unsafe behavior including any conduct that interferes with the use of the library by others or with the functioning of library staff."
Perhaps what's confusing is the text beneath the 11 prohibitions, where the Library says:
"To avoid disturbing other library users, mute the volume of electronic devices and use cell phones in the lobby or outside the library."
Is it a ban? Is it a suggestion?

The library staff shouldn't have to act as peace officers, so maybe that's why the Library doesn't spell it out. Besides, where do you stop drawing the line when people persist in exhibiting bad behavior? How many principles of common sense need to be spelled out on a list no one looks at anyway? Already the library has explicitly banned "sexual misconduct," "insulting language," and "bathing."

Yes, there's an explicit ban on bathing, although it's unclear whether that includes the shaving of chin whiskers, or the brushing of teeth.

As I've said before, I have great affection for the Central Library. In the past few weeks I've made frequent use of it. As a result, I have witnessed how the Library deals effectively with a variety of potential problems. I've seen the uniformed officers patrol every level, going so far as to physically nudge homeless people who seek out the most comfortable chairs and proceed to nap (sleeping is prohibited in the Rules of Conduct).

Were the decision mine, I might rearrange the priorities, or at least bump one rule up to priority status. As inconvenient as the presence of a snoring sleeper might be to some library patrons, I find it far less disruptive than the cell phone conversations of the gainfully employed.

At least those who snore can argue that they're not snoring on purpose.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
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