Cultural and creative life

Can I shhh them? 5 library etiquette tips

Times have changed. Get reacquainted with your local library

Paul Garbin, City of Sydney Library branch team leader

__20 years ago, before Google and personal laptops, writing an essay meant sitting in a quiet corner at your local library surrounded by books. __

“At that time, libraries facilitated the connection between our community and reams of knowledge. We helped with research by holding extensive collections of material on any given topic. However, today, most of the community is familiar with the internet so people don’t necessarily need to come to the library to do this anymore," Paul Garbin, a City of Sydney Library branch team leader says.

So, does this mean a purge of leather-bound volumes in favour of futuristic screens? Not at all. Our library is just expanding what it does best, to better accommodate a growing community whose needs are changing.

Have a ton of uni work to do, but live in a share house where it’s party time day and night? Need to take the kids out of the house, but have exhausted local parks? Need to quickly fix something on Photoshop but don’t have it on your computer? Go to your local library. You just might need to adjust some expectations so you don’t accidentally put your foot in it with a misguided shhh.

Make and Create session at Surry Hills Library.
Make and Create session at Surry Hills Library.

Making noise is ok

City of Sydney libraries are community hubs. This means, they’re a place to have a meeting, do a group assignment or take your kids. We run regular events for kids of all ages so you can plan to visit, or choose to avoid visiting at these times. Expect there to be a bit of noise most of the time though.

If you want a quiet space, we still have those too. The reading room at Customs House Library is a popular spot.

Eating is OK too

As the types of things you can do in a library expand, so does the number of people who would have otherwise spent their time in other spaces. You’d be surprised at the number of people doing work or personal research in our libraries. They make use of desks, computers, printing and free wifi. So, if you’re spending a chunk of your day at the library, you’ll need to eat lunch or at least have snacks to keep you going.

Just use common sense and limit yourself to foods not known for overwhelming odours or sticky fingers.

Paul Garbin says borrow big.
Paul Garbin says borrow big.

Borrowing big is encouraged

We have no issues with you stocking up on books, CDs, DVDs or magazines for the whole family.

“When I first started at the library years back, you could only borrow 4 items. Now you can take home up to 30 for 3 weeks!” says Paul. “We understand that today people are more focused on recreational reading and entertainment, so this is a way to maximise value.”

Don't fear the fine

The days of walking sheepishly up to the librarian with a stack of books, a note and an apology are over. We’ve taken away fines on late returns, as long as you return your items to us. But please try to get them in on time, so others can borrow too.

On that note, if you can’t find something, need helping navigating, or have any other questions, just ask one of our library staff.

Get comfy at Kings Cross Library.
Get comfy at Kings Cross Library.

Get comfy

Don’t stress about getting side-eyes for Skyping on our computers, chatting on your phone, watching videos or snooping around for a power plug for your laptop – we want you to feel at home. Just remember to use common sense and your headphones as you settle in to catch up on your favourite show, so you don’t interrupt others. And, as your mum would say, keep your shoes off the furniture!

Sound like it’s time to get reacquainted with your local library? Find your branch.

Published 27 April 2018, updated 4 August 2022

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