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September 1, 2011 / Christian M.

The Shushers and Enforcers Part 1

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Everyone knows the stereotypical old white lady librarian image with the scowling brow and finger at the lips shushing noisy offenders. I feel like I am becoming that stereotype. Okay, so I’m not white, and I’m definitely not old. However, too much of my time in the youth area of the library is spent telling children and teens to be quiet, stop cussing, stop eating, stop running, be quiet, and so on and so forth. I find myself coming to the youth desk with an immediate attitude these days counting the minutes until I can rotate back to the adult desk, and that is not good. I’m a generalist library associate; I’m supposed to be just as comfortable and eager to work with the youth as well as the adults.

Most of the current “trouble-makers” in our small urban library are in their late teens and early twenties. They just hang out in the library with no intention of using any of our resources. Which is fine with me, I’m happy the library is viewed as a safe and comfortable place for all ages. There is nothing wrong with coming here just to talk to friends. We are definitely more lenient with the noise level in the youth area because it is unrealistic to expect complete silence.  However, when a conversation can be heard across the room, or there is really loud laughter or profanity (as is common) then that is a problem.

The previous manager was very no-nonsense, and would not hesitate to put people out of the library for inappropriate behavior. She was well-loved by the neighborhood though. She retired several months ago, and the new manager is more lenient, and seems to want to be more buddy-buddy with everyone and give multiple warnings without actually following through most times. There has also been some turnover in staff in the past few months, with the newer reference staff also being more reluctant to put people out the library. This approach clashes with those of us who were here under the previous manager and are used to being more firm.

I have become a little more lax to match the management style of my new boss. I don’t feel comfortable asking people to leave if there is no one to back me up on it. Another staff person has told me she also feels the same. This leaves me to constantly walk back and forth between my desk, and the little groups of loud youth to say “be quiet” over and over and over.

There is also the issue of less security/police presence. We used to have a deputy sheriff on duty from 4:00 pm until closing on weekdays. This discouraged a lot of disruptive behavior. But the sheriffs have been pulled from the schools and libraries in our county due to budget cuts. We do have one un-armed security guard during the day, but her shift ends in the afternoon, and during the critical hours of late afternoon and evening we are left without security.

There have been more murmurings among the staff behind the manager’s back lately, and increasing frustration and irritability. So earlier this week, I spoke with the manager privately, and asked if she could schedule a staff brainstorming meeting so we could all talk about the situation and voice our concerns and suggestions. Hopefully, as a group we can develop an effective approach that would be supported by all staff, and continue to promote a welcoming space to the community.

My boss thought the meeting was a great idea and scheduled it for two days later.
To be continued……..

 

I know this issue is not unique to my library. Have you ever been in this type of situation? How do you or your library staff handle rowdy teens? Do you discourage them from just “hanging out” at your library?

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