Do Controversial Blogs get More Engagement?

“If you want more attention from your blog posts, write about controversial topics,” stated the event speaker. I could see his point and decided to give it a shot with this post. (I’ll return to business topics next week.) Since some people are still stinging from the election results, I chose something far less polarizing – public libraries. Or so I thought …

My internet unexpectedly went out this past Friday morning. When the technician arrived, he said, "Your internet equipment literally froze to death. There’s a foot-long icicle covering the entire satellite dish. I can’t access your steep roof to replace it until the snow melts. Maybe Monday." Then, he left.

After just a few hours, I realized how much I truly rely on the internet for my business, personal, and household operations. It’s as vital as running water and power in my house. I used the hot spot on my phone as a temporary solution, but I was quickly burning through my data plan. I surrendered and called it a night.

Saturday morning was warmer, so I hoped the internet would rise from the dead. It didn’t. The hot spot was painfully slow, so I debated going to a Starbucks or library to be more productive. I chose the library figuring I’d have a guaranteed table, plug, and quiet space to work. So wrong!

Since when did the library ‘shhh’ disappear?

When I arrived at the library, the only open table near a plug was at a window next to the children’s area. The fresh snow produced this powerful glare that forced me to drag the large table far into the reading room. (Yes, I got some odd looks from strangers and no one offered to help me). I was finally settled in and ready to work.

As a kid, I often went to the library with my Mom. We went in, selected books, checked out, and brought them home. I assumed that’s how it still worked today. I was shocked with what I saw.

Kids were playing video games with full volume while yelling at their virtual opponents. Crying babies were ignored as their moms continued their social conversation with each other. A toy train ran along a track and periodically blew a loud whistle. Four techie adults were playing some unusual board game with flat marbles so every time a new game started, they loudly clanked the game pieces into a metal container. It was pure chaos! Even with my iPod playing directly in my ears, I couldn’t tune out all of the activity.

It was unpleasant and distracting, but I stayed for 5 hours as there weren’t any other internet alternatives nearby. At the end of the day on my way out, I stopped at the front desk to chat with the librarian. I asked if this particular library was family-friendly and thus noisier on Saturdays. I also asked which library branches were quieter. I explained that I simply wanted to manage my expectations for future visits so I wasn’t surprised.

She proudly explained that libraries are no longer ‘shhh’ places. They are now Community Centers where people are encouraged to gather, talk, laugh, play video games and movies without headphones, and have fun. There are no quiet rules anymore. If I wanted quiet, I should consider a ‘college’ library. When she saw my puzzled look, she added, “Honey, it took me a while to get used to the change, too.”

The days of ‘inside voice’ at the library are gone.

When I got home, I googled ‘quiet libraries’ to determine if this was just a Colorado movement. Turns out there are no more traditional libraries. They have been transitioning toward Community Centers for the last few years – along with some controversy.

Many people believe that libraries should still be the place where anyone can go for quiet. Others feel they should be available to meet your friends socially and be a place for kids to play unrestrained. Apparently, there’s enough division on the issue that the Huffington Post wrote several articles on this topic. I also found a website, the Annoyed Librarian, where people vent about library policies. The site has some fairly heated arguments.

So here’s the controversial part

I actually believe that libraries should be the traditional places where people can expect and enjoy a quiet atmosphere. There’s already so much noise everywhere - people talking on their cell phones in the grocery store, on the gym equipment, at the airport in the seat right next to you – even loudly using talk to text to send messages. I’ve heard confidential business details at plenty of Starbuck’s tables. I’ve overheard lots of highly personal conversations than I wish I hadn’t. I’ve seen kids scream and run freely in restaurants disturbing other people while parents looked away. (Except in Salt Lake City – those kids are the best behaved kids I’ve even seen. Nice job SLC parents!)

Seriously? Can’t we save one place for a ‘shhh’ zone?

Please leave a comment on your library viewpoint – quiet or community? Let’s see if controversial writing really does bring more engagement and shares as the event speaker projected.


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Nancy Gaines

Nancy Gaines is CEO/Founder of Gain Advantages Inc. and has been advising small businesses and Fortune 100 companies how to increase revenues through proven systems for almost two decades. She is a best-selling author and international keynote speaker. Nancy has been named in the Top 100 Productivity Experts to follow on Twitter and has a global podcast downloaded in over 95 countries. Her main focus is creating business processes with actionable steps so her clients achieve more consistency, ease, and ultimate success.

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