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September 14, 2011 / Christian M.

The Shushers and Enforcers Part 2

In Part 1, I shared about our dilemma with rowdy young adults in the library. We ended up having a brainstorming meeting that included reference and circulation staff. We all gave our input, and the overall theme was that all staff need to be in agreement about an appropriate response and consistent in the application of that response.

 My manager brought to our attention “The Guidelines for Dealing With Problem Behavior,” which could be found in our library system’s safety manual. We also reviewed the “Library Rules of Behavior” sign which hangs above the circulation desk (not very obvious to patrons really). We have one copy of the sign in our branch, and these rules are not included in any of our staff policy manuals. My manager has requested a second sign that we can hang in the children’s area.

Some of the specific actions we discussed in addition to “The Guidelines” include:

  1. One warning is enough, just make sure we address them up close (no shouting from across the room) and that the customer acknowledges the warning.
  2. If someone is put out, it is for the rest of the day.
  3. If problem child is twelve and under, try to get a parent’s contact info so that we can call and let the parent know about the situation.
  4. Limit the number of people who can sit at a table or computer together to keep noise level down.
  5. Provide for parents (if needed) copies of Department of Social Services brochure, “What’s the Buzz on When Your Child Can Be Left Alone?”

Since then things still get crazy at times. The same people come in, and act out in the same negative behaviors. They have been put out when they do (most of the time – there are still some reluctant staff), and they come back the next day and usually do the same thing again. It seems to be a herd mentality though. Because when some of these young adults come into the library alone, they behave and are respectful of the environment. It’s just when they get together with their buddies that they seem to want to show off.

The same day that we had the brainstorming meeting, a man in his thirties came into the library and introduced himself at the reference desk. He had grown up in the neighborhood and moved away in his mid-teens. This was his first time back to this library in eighteen years. He reminensced about his positive experiences there and the librarians who made such a big impact on his life. He remembered one librarian in particular, and was hoping someone could help him find her. One of the staff who had been in the system a long time made a call for him. Unfortunately, she found out that librarian had passed away a few years ago. This man admits he used to act up in the library, because that’s what kids do. He is now a college professor in the midwest. Before he left, he reminded us that the work we do is very important and we are impacting lives in the community.

It was a very refreshing and sobering encounter. Will the youth I serve remember me twenty years from now – for the right reasons? This conversation definitely has caused me to check my attitude, and made me re-evaluate if I should stay in this position much longer. I’ve been feeling very drained and a little burnt out lately. I believe I should bring positivity to my interactions with all of my customers, and I don’t feel that is the case anymore.

I am not giving up on being a librarian, I just don’t think this particular environment is best for me. I had planned to remain a generalist in this branch until I finished my degree, but I am definitely eyeing some other positions in the library system now…….


Image Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos




Leave a Comment
  1. Lesley / Sep 15 2011 7:41 am

    After all you’ve been through with the youth behavior issues, I’m happy you got such nice feedback from the professor!

  2. LibGirl09 / Sep 15 2011 12:58 pm

    Lesley, it was definitely much needed at that time! 🙂

  3. Ge Ge / Oct 7 2011 2:54 pm

    I am so proud of you for sharing all of this. I bet it was very refreshing to have a professor come back to show his appreciation. I think it’s very interesting that the library manager was open to having a staff meeting. I am hoping that it gets better and they [manager] start staying consistent about the policies manual. Hang in there. G

  4. LibGirl09 / Oct 19 2011 2:13 pm


    Sorry, I’m so late responding…I’ve been away from the blog for a few weeks. Yes, it was refreshing and good reminder that what I do here goes beyond the present and has potential to impact lives for the future. Thanks for the feedback. 🙂

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