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Manners And Etiquette: How To Act At The Public Library

A Computer Lab Learning Center

Is the Library a Workplace?

Our public libraries are inconsistent in the behaviors they permit to patrons. Some post guidelines in their foyers, while other hire uniformed guards and police officers to patrol the building.

Although public facilities, public libraries are workplaces for library administration, staff, volunteers, and tutors and professional etiquette is important for these groups as they offer good customer service to patrons. Even though you as a patron are not usually purchasing something at the library, you are a customer or client in the facility.

Researchers, students, and online workers also access library facilities and equipment in order to compete their studies and to make a living. Professional etiquette is a must among these groups of people as well.

What is good etiquette in a public library?


Some Elements of Library Etiquette

The following tips are not all-inclusive and you might think of some others. Feel free to leave your advise in the Comments thread below.

  • Please limit your talking and maintain your voice at quieter levels of sound in a library. If you need to speak with a business colleague, tutor, student, or someone else involved in a project with you, please use one of the small study rooms available, the foyer, the snack bar, or a corner of the library that is furthest away from most customers. In the large Quiet Study Areas, please do not talk, play music, or create other noises.

Peace and A Little Quiet

  • Some libraries have different sections for quiet and for noise. One of ours has a Children'' Department, noise allowed; a homework and reference/research department (quiet please), and a teens and media section, some noise permitted.

You might want to plan which section is best for you and your family, especially if the sections are all furnished with public computers.

  • Put cell phones on "vibrate." If you need to take or make a call, please use the dedicated area for that activity -- Many libraries have an atrium or foyer for this.
  • Please be careful with beverages in the library, especially near computers, and drink as quietly as possible. Be careful with foods as well. Once, several of us in the quiet area of a library were interrupted by a gentleman opening cans of soups and vegetables and eating them noisily from the cans. A librarian did intervene, though.
  • Please take care with library books, CDs, DVD,s computers, and other equipment and materials. Make them last as long as possible so that other patrons can also enjoy them. Often, when a book is destroyed or lost, a library cannot purchase a new one.
  • Please refrain reading over shoulders or craning your neck to look at the screens of computers, laptops, Kindle, and iPad users in the library. This is rather intrusive and some individuals steal personal information in this way for Identity Theft.
Calm and well lighted.

Calm and well lighted.

Refrain from using the tabletop as a drum. Use headphones and please don't sing with a video.

Dude, That's Rude!

  • At computer bays and shared tables, please do not slam your body down in a chair, pound your stuff onto the table, and then create additional unnecessary noise. Refrain from using the tabletop as a drum. Use headphones and please don't sing with a video. Please use calm and considerate actions overall.
  • At computer terminals, please do not talk to the computer! Refrain from pounding on the table, kicking your feet, leaning over into another patron beside you on a different terminal, etc. When you need serious help with a computer, please see a library staff person, instead of engaging three or four patrons around you in loud complaints that disturb those who are working. If you need to do so, please go to the rest room and blow your nose; refrain form sniffing 100 times. In addition, please do not wipe you nose on your hand or sleeve and then onto the computer housing or keyboard.
  • Please refrain from taking a bath or washing your clothes in the library restrooms; and take care about extreme body odor. Just FRI: This is an actual guideline posted in our libraries in Central Ohio.
  • Please do not steal your parents' car and drive it through the library wall. This has happened in my city and that library was completely rebuilt form the ground up.

Our Local Code of Conduct


  • I think there is no cause for a loud argument or a fistfight in a library, although I have witnessed both.
  • Try not to fall asleep in a comfortable chair in the library. It happens and the staff of some libraries do not like this, because the homeless often take refuge in libraries to sleep. We may need daytime homeless lounges or some such.
The homeless need help of some kind. Some libraries have job search comuter labs.

The homeless need help of some kind. Some libraries have job search comuter labs.

Scroll to Continue


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 05, 2012:

I wonder what your code of conduct will be in your country's library, travel_man1971.

Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on March 05, 2012:

I've been eyeing to apply a public library card again here in Paranaque, Philippines. It's an old facility, but the inspiration of those old book pages are unlimited.

Might as well, share some DOs and DON'Ts at this local public library.

Thanks for this very informative hub, Patty. :D

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 05, 2012:

Thank you for careful driving, tillsonitan! Some parts of my city are pretty strange...

Mary Craig from New York on March 05, 2012:

I promise not to drive my parents' car through any walls...this whole ting is a classic for people who still use libraries.

moneycop from JABALPUR on March 03, 2012:

i anew thought and came out in a form of a hub...beautyfull....thanks for giving me a hint to think alike

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 03, 2012:

Thanks for all the new comments. Your experiences are very interesting.

I think it's shocking that some public libraries that are not even in higher-crime areas need an armed guard or police officers to patrol the floors. There are several; branches I feel I cannot use. However, the Delaware city library is the most quiet I have even visited. Yet, they blocked off the book return slots outside, because someone was sending through waste materials and small items on fire.

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on March 03, 2012:

A great hub. Too bad the people that really need to read it probably never will. I used to work in a public library while in college, and it was much quieter back in 1960 and 1961. no computers, no media except LPs. It was a small branch library.

I have seen some of what you mentioned in the Paso Robles City Library, but I've not seen people bring food in or bathe in the restrooms. But the homeless do gather by the easy chairs and discuss strategies. I learn a lot by eavesdropping.

Donna Cosmato from USA on March 02, 2012:

Good advice, Patty, I hope people follow it. I had to stop using the public library as one of my hot spot stops to use my laptop because of the foul language that proliferated in the computer area. Thanks for raising awareness that in spite of what one might read or see on the Internet or television or even in public, manners do still matter in a civilized world.

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on March 02, 2012:

Libraries have certainly changed over the years, but for the most part they still remain very quiet. I was surprised though, the last time I was at the counter in the library, the clerk spoke in a rather loud voice. Anyway, I can't help but to wonder why a teen who would steal their parents car would be at a library. Funny.

FloraBreenRobison on March 02, 2012:

I find that DVDs are quite often badly scratched at my library. I don't borrow them anymore.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 02, 2012:

Sound like a great place, leahlefler. One of our branches holds fireside chamber music events on Friday afternoons in February by the lit fireplace in the main room That is always nice.

Leah Lefler from Western New York on March 02, 2012:

Don't drive your parent's car through the library wall: classic! I can't imagine that happening at our library (thank goodness your library manager was not hurt in the incident). Our library is a wonderful place in the winter - we used to take our boys to the library story hour when they were toddlers and it was a wonderful place to go when we were trapped indoors!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 02, 2012:

Yes, the first car was really a disturbance, alright. The youth drove it into the library manager's office and she was fortunately not in it.

One of our libraries is about 4 miles from one homeless shelter and the folks there walk the 4 miles each way, read some, work on the computer, and take a nap if they can manage it. Finding somewhere to go all day without spending money is difficult.

againsttheodds on March 02, 2012:

Nice hub, glad to see that you pointed out the issue of the homeless in libraries. In many urban areas the library is a place to get away from the homeless shelter for the day and allows them to use computers, stay out of the cold or rain, and even catch some sleep if they can avoid the guard. Some people might not even realize that many of the patrons in the city library are actually homeless and sometimes a good percentage. It can be a crime issue and people should always watch their possessions. Some city's are getting better services for the homeless so that they can use computers and be helped with the job search onsite but not all.

Marissa from United States on March 02, 2012:

Wow! A car through the wall? I bet that was distracting! This is a perfect hub for library etiquette. Thanks for sharing! :)

JSParker from Detroit, Michigan on March 02, 2012:

Some of the things you say are funny because they are so obvious...except that, as you know, they're actually not so obvious. Libraries have to constantly deal with enforcing the most fundamental public etiquette issues. Furthermore, people have grown used to having libraries and forget what a privilege it is even to have public access to books and media and a country where we can read books....for free!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 02, 2012:

Sally's Trove and Simone - I worked on computers at these libraries for my first two+ years with HubPages and was very thankful for home Internet access after that!!

I really value all the comments on this thread...I WONDERED if our local library system was like others or not.

Ruchira from United States on March 02, 2012:

many a times these manners r missing...esp the talking on phone in the silent zone.

voted up!

Earth Angel on March 02, 2012:

Spending time in the library does expose some interesting social behaviors! GREAT Hub Patty! I'm not sure we can teach all the "manners" to those who have few to none, but we can teach heightened awareness! Often people have no idea how noisy/smelly/distracting they are just entering a room! For those of us who study and/or meditate regularly, it is quite eye-opening! Blessings, Earth Angel!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on March 02, 2012:

Oh my gosh, are you serious??? That's awful! I've seen some pretty bad behavior in libraries, but never anything THAT bad!

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on March 02, 2012:

CML's code of conduct is right on, although it is sad that some of the behaviors listed even need to be mentioned.I can't believe your last comment, Patty. That is totally amazing, and horrifying. Whatever has happened to respect and common sense? Up, useful, interesting.

jenubouka on March 02, 2012:

Great info and tips here. It is pretty bad at the public library in Bellevue Wa, I once sat next to someone who jabbered endlessly on their phone while on the public computer. Needless to say, TMI about their conversation as well as very distracting and rude.

And parents really need to utilize the "kids" section while in the public library!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 01, 2012:

Once in a public library, a man carried a struggling child too close to me as I sat at a computer, the child kicked me in the head, and I fell off my chair. The man yelled at ME and the guard came over to settle it.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on March 01, 2012:

Hi Patty,

I am a little bleary from commenting but I did giggle at not driving your parents car through the library wall... that is sooooo very rude!

Seriously, a comprehensive and useful read!

Voted UP & UAI. Hugs, mar.

americababy on March 01, 2012:

The library is serious business. This is a good idea for an article.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on March 01, 2012:

Loud laptops are another pet peeve of mine. Libraries often have wireless and people bring their laptops and will sometimes play music on them. Librarians will intervene if they can hear it, but usually it's the constant "bing" of windows commands that are bad. Great hub.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on March 01, 2012:

I have seen a few folks that I thought might possibly be homeless at our library. I didn't realize that it was a service. Very cool. I hope other libraries will follow suite.Thanks for a great Hub!

Stephen88 on March 01, 2012:

Sounds like you have been to some very colorful libraries! I've been blessed as it seems like the libraries I've been to have been filled with well-behaving people.

Liz Rayen from California on March 01, 2012:

oh boy. I know a couple of libraries that need this list posted on every wall! So useful and very well executed!

Voted up and definately shared!

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on March 01, 2012:

I had no idea some of those issues (body odor, slamming around) were happening in libraries. But I am not surprised, now that I think about it. You described perfectly some of the rude behaviors I've seen elsewhere, and libraries aren't immune to that. This hub should be required reading before anyone can get a library card. Voted up, useful and interesting.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 01, 2012:

Thanks a million to both of you for reading my Hub and enjoying it. I actually had a lot of fun with this one, thinking of some of the sights I've seen in libraries.

Anamika S Jain from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India on March 01, 2012:

Wonderful list of Manners and Etiquette. I have not been to a library ever since I passed out of college. Anyways, Good Hub... voted up and useful.

Callum from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (At Home With My Wonderful Partner) on March 01, 2012:

Hi Patty have enjoyed this hub from start to finish, have voted up and awesome, shared through Google, facebook and twitter :)


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