Heather (hedr) wrote in libraries,

I'm a children's librarian at a small branch in a large urban public library system. I've had issues for months battling the rest of the staff's negativity toward children and young adults. I've already made significant progress, but I've hit a road block. I *know* there has to be professional literature out there somewhere about ways to be welcoming to children and young adults. I've been scouring ala.org and looking in databases and such, and I'm sure I'll be able to find things if I keep looking -- but do you have any favorite resources on this topic? (I can find plenty of blog posts about "no shushing" and things like that. I want something that looks "official" so that I can show them to these people who have no clue.)

Also, how do you feel about the following "rules" in the library? Does your opinion differ for the children's room compared to the adult room? (I'm definitely not saying that I don't think *any* of these rules should be followed. I just want to see if there's any general consensus about these types of things.)

-NO cell phones in the library.
-NO chewing gum in the library.
-NO food or drink in the library.
-NO hanging out in the library. (You must be reading, using a computer, or using the library's resources in some other way.)
-NO checking out books or using the computers unless you have your library card with you. Even if you have picture ID.
-NO using the computers more than once a day. Even if there's no one waiting.

Input would be much appreciated, especially from children's librarians in public libraries.
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic
← Ctrl ← Alt
Ctrl → Alt →
Where I work, we always accept a picture ID, and draw the line at them reciting their card number.

Also, I feel people should always be allowed to "hang out", so long as they are not conducting business in the building. I actually used to do just that, growing up, and I think it left a positive impression on me (or else I suppose I might not be going for my MLIS). And I can't imagine ever stopping patrons from using a computer more than once in a day, but then again, I work in a university library, so I suppose it's a bit different.
Thank you for your reply. I am always willing to look someone up with their picture ID (or just their name -- I get a lot of kids who come in daily, so I know who they are.) The library assistants at the front desk will NOT check anything out to people without their library card, and even if I write down the person's library card number and ask them to do it anyway, they grumble about it. It sucks.

I agree with you about hanging out. I also can't believe the using a computer once a day thing, but my branch head said "30 minutes a day no matter what, unless you're working on a project or a job application." Once, there were several computers open, and a lady asked for more computer time. The branch head asked her if she needed to apply for a job, and then denied her the extra computer time. (She'd been coming and asking me, and I always said yes, but I wasn't there that day.) She called the area supervisor and complained, and my branch manager was told that he couldn't deny people additional reservations if there were empty computers, and that it was none of his business what they were doing on the computer. I'm glad I have her support, but this has been a constant battle.
Well, this isn't children exactly, but our library has a teen lounge where teens are allowed to go in and close the door (there is a security camera on them). This is both a service to them,to give them their own space to just "hang out," and also to the general public, so there are fewer complaints about "noisy kids." They usually are working on something school-related anyway, but obviously if they're enthusiastic about anything they'll be loud. They're teenagers. The room is also strictly for teens-- no kids or adults allowed.

Those rules seem pretty harsh for a public library, actually. I can see no loud conversations on cell phones, or eating stinky or loud food (or food in general, since it's hard to define that), but no using the computers even if no one is waiting? and no checking stuff out even with a photo ID? Too much. I work in a pretty large public library, and they trust the librarians' judgement for the most part on these things, and we rarely have problems. The one main rule is don't disturb your fellow patrons, and keep your kids (under 8) with you at all times. All other rules kind of fall under that.
Thanks so much for your reply. Unfortunately, we have no space for teens whatsoever, much less a private space. (I'm working on this, too, believe me.)

I agree that people shouldn't talk *loudly* on cell phones and that cell phones should be on vibrate, but otherwise I don't see why using a cell phone would disturb anyone any more than a quiet conversation at the next table.

I totally agree with all of your rules -- but do you have any ideas about how do I get everyone else to agree with me, too?


6 years ago


6 years ago

are there the same rules throughout your system? could you point to the more lenient rules at another branch as evidence?

those rules are crazy and i don't think it has anything to do with children's area vs adult area. those rules are crazy period. no gum??? really the worst one is the once a day on the computer one, though. so the computer could be sitting there idle and you would have to tell someone they couldn't use it?

i feel like i have been in your position with coworkers with negative attitudes and trying to change them. it never worked. but your situation could be a lot different. it just sounds like what my old job was like, and the problem was definitely not that i couldn't show them good enough evidence. i feel like trying to change people makes them more resistant to change. i would take a slow subtle approach. or i would apply for a transfer to another branch.
I'm not totally sure if the rules are the same throughout the system. The no gum, no food/drink, no cell phones library is throughout the system, as far as I know. The administration sent out an email saying that patrons are allowed to drink water in closed containers, but no one wants to take down all of the "NO" signs -- including my boss.

I break or bend those rules (especially circulation-related ones with my regular kids) all the time as a librarian. However, I know for sure that there are librarians (even children's librarians) at other libraries who flat-out refuse to do anything for a kid who didn't bring their library card. Also, the "no second reservation" thing with the computers was totally going on at my library -- see my response to the first commenter above. I'm so glad I won that battle, but there are so many more...

For some reason, the people seem to believe that by following such strict rules, they are making sure that people are responsible about the library. I think they make people just not want to come to the library, period. I don't understand why we can't use common sense about things.

So, I think it's clear that you and I agree -- can you think of any resources from professional sources that agree with us? I really want to take down those horrible signs, and I want the staff to be on board with me in terms of allowing people, especially children and teens, to "hang out" as long as they *aren't bothering anyone.* These are my bare minimum requirements in order to feel comfortable about my job.


6 years ago

Deleted comment

I don't know why they created that rule. Perhaps just to avoid groups from getting rowdy by preventing them from being in the library at all? I really have no idea. I totally disagree with it. A few weeks ago, though, there was a group of kids in the library that I hadn't seen before (there were 4-5 of them and they were 10-13 yrs old). I was really excited that they were there -- it's a tough age group to reach in my library's neighborhood. They ended up sitting down on my storytime rug (I have lots of pillows and stuffed animals there, so kids gravitate toward it) -- and they sat in a circle, cross-legged, not touching one another, talking very quietly and being very respectful. The guard watched them for a while, and I watched her, and after a few minutes she went over to them and said something like, "Look, you can't hang out here!! I've been watching you!! You haven't picked up one book!! This is a library! If you're not using the library, you should leave!" Before I could get myself together and do something about it, the kids left, and I've been fuming about it ever since and fighting it subtly and patiently. I haven't seen those kids since then. :( I wish that I'd run into them in the neighborhood and apologize for how they were treated, and ask them to come back to the library. Sigh.


6 years ago


December 22 2011, 01:05:05 UTC 6 years ago Edited:  December 22 2011, 01:05:51 UTC

-NO cell phones in the library.

Hard to enforce, but we do send loud conversations outside. Adults or children.

-NO chewing gum in the library.

That actually falls under the next one.

-NO food or drink in the library.

Constant battle. We have a McDonald's across the street. I kick people out (including adults) or ask them to take it outside to eat or drink. Then I explain about our mouse problem and the custodian being there only two days a week. Bookstores can afford to have people spill coffee on their books because the loss is tax deduction. For me, replacing things is an expense.

-NO hanging out in the library. (You must be reading, using a computer, or using the library's resources in some other way.)

I enforce this one lightly. It's a library not a hangout. But if they have books in their hands or on the table in front of them and are at least pretending they're there because it's a library I let conversations slide. (I also put books and magazines in front of them when I say "at least pretend you're here because it's a library.")

-NO checking out books or using the computers unless you have your library card with you. Even if you have picture ID.

I agree with this one to some extent, although I will look people up with picture ID for checking out books. (Not for using the computers, though.) I want the kids to know where their library cards are and to treat them like credit cards -- no sharing!

-NO using the computers more than once a day. Even if there's no one waiting.

Just silly. As long as no one's waiting, let people back on the computers. I'd rather see them get used then just sit there burning dinosaurs for no reason.

Deleted comment

I totally agree with you. Please see my responses to the other comments as far as specific examples about these particular ridiculous rules. Do you have any professional resources that agree with us? That would help a lot, I think, as far as trying to get my staff to see that this is *not right* and this is not how other places do things.
I don't work with kids necessarily, so I don't have much advice. However, in the few interactions I DO have with kids, I try hard to not be condescending, impatient, or cold to them. I know many kids are reluctant patrons and one bad experience can be all it takes to keep them out of the library, so I try to be as friendly and accommodating as I can.

-We have signs up that say "please turn your phone to silent" and ask noisy phone users to hush or go outside, but phones are not expressly prohibited.
-No one cares if you have gum.
-Drinks with caps or lids are fine. No food is allowed anywhere.
-Hanging out is, if not encouraged, certainly welcome! As long as you aren't sleeping, doing something illegal, or harassing other people, we don't really care what you're doing or why you're in the library.
-We allow check outs and computer use with a photo ID. Our computer software allows staff to track how often folks get looked up, however, and after the 3rd look up, we make you buy a replacement card (they cost $1). Absolutely no anything without a valid ID or card, though.
-Our computer software monitors computer use. Our smaller branches limit patrons to 1 hour a day and our central location & larger regionals permit 90 minutes. You log on with your card (and penalties for using someone else's card are severe), so staff don't have to do anything to track it. Everyone will grant a 15- or 30-minute extension during non-peak hours if no other patrons are waiting. You can log on and off as much as you want to use that time over the course of the day.

Deleted comment

I'm a teen/adult librarian, not a children's librarian, but some of these rules are nuts.

-Cell phones: Constant battle at our library. And I agree with it because a) people have some amazingly annoying ringtones and b) people tend to raise their voices while using them, and even if they're not being loud, the way our computers are set up, people are right on top of each other. Listening to half of a conversation is kind of annoying in itself, listening to half a loud conversation less than two feet from your ear. If there's no one to be disturbed, we may turn a blind eye to it, but if we can hear it at the desk and there are other patrons around, you're getting shut down.
-No chewing gum/no food/no drink: Again, agreed. There's just too much potential for damage to books/computers/etc. If you have food or drink at our library, you can consume it in the lobby or in the multipurpose room before coming in to the main area of the library.
-No checking out books or computers without a library card: That's our policy too, with the caveat that if you have a photo ID you can buy a new card and use that. In our case, we're part of a statewide system, so there may be 50 Tom Smiths in there - use of the card is to keep us from accidentally checking out the books of a deadbeat borrower on the account of a conscientious patron and screwing the good patron's account to hell and back.
-No hanging out in the library: This is nuts. Or rather, it's a throwback to an earlier era. Back in the day, it was forbidden to talk above a whisper... but in those days, they also forbid children from being in the library at all, the idea of comic books in the library was laughable, and science-fiction and romance novels would never be found in the library because they were too low-class. In our library, our director is disappointed because people don't hang out at the library much.
-No using the computers more than once a day: If there's no waiting list, you can stay on a computer from the minute we unlock the doors in the morning until we close in the evening, even though officially you only get an hour. Why leave the computers sitting idle, after all?

Frankly, it sounds like your coworkers need a major attitude adjustment. They seem to be doing everything they can to make people feel unwelcome - which may cut down on the amount of work that they need to do, but a library without people is just a warehouse for books, and will be the first to get closed if budget cuts require it.
I am a children's librarian in a large public urban area in a fairly nice sized branch. This is my take on things:

-NO cell phones in the library.-- We don't have this rule. No one minds quiet conversations but people who shout into the magic talkie box are told they're being loud and disruptive.

-NO chewing gum in the library.--- not a rule. Gum is fine. No one cares as long as it stays in your mouth.

-NO food or drink in the library.--- Constant battle. We lost a catalog computer to a teen who decided to spill rice and beans all over it. We had mouse issues and people would leave take out containers in the stairway. Its gotten better but our patrons are just not respectful of public space. Its an area thing- the neighborhood streets are pretty gross too.

-NO hanging out in the library. (You must be reading, using a computer, or using the library's resources in some other way.)---- This is a hard one to really call. On one hand, we do want to offer a safe 3rd space for people to enjoy. That said- it goes back to respect. We are a library- not your high school or middle school cafeteria. The running, the screaming, the playing grab-ass with the person you're flirting with doesn't belong here. We also had a good number of 20 year old guys who would hang out at the library just to pick up high school girls. I always wanted to print out pamphlets with the legal definition of "statutory rape" and hand them out.

-NO checking out books or using the computers unless you have your library card with you. Even if you have picture ID.--- This one is strongly enforced in our Children's room. We had the same 5 kids shut out all other patrons from using our library computers because they had memorized multiple cards and made multiple reservations. We, the librarians, now have to make all computer reservations in the Children's Room. We're trying to reinforce to patrons that their library card is like a credit card and should not be shared. As a system wide rule we only check out to patrons who have photo ID or their card. It significantly cuts down on confusion as to which "Tom Smith" we're checking things out to.

-NO using the computers more than once a day. Even if there's no one waiting.-- this is the rule in the branch. We can make exceptions on a case by case basis if we feel like some one needs more time. The computers will automatically extend a reservation if there is no one waiting for the computer so people can and do stay on the computers for hours some times.

I guess it just comes down to a matter of respect. It would be nice to be a little less stringent with the rules, however the branch has become a much nicer and more inviting place since we started being so strict. Parents who would NEVER have come with their children to the branch are now starting to become regular patrons, we've had a lot fewer security incidents and we haven't had to phone the police in months.
If you can find a positive way to state rules it's almost always better. "Please use cell phones in the lobby." "You may drink water in covered containers" (or any drink in a spill proof lid, would be even better) "To be fair to all, everyone gets one computer session per day." "Please dispose of gum in the wastebasket." In my opinion the gum rule is wayyyy to much work to enforce and is way to easy to get around.

As others have stated allowing hanging out (at an acceptable volume) is much more welcoming. You want them in the library, don't give them a small set of things they can be doing. Also, at least in my system, ID is acceptable. All of these rules need to be enforced on both children and adults, otherwise you just breed resentment. The ID issue in particular needs to match up with your system's over all policy, along with that for people under the driving age in your state you need to think about whether school ID is acceptable or not and how to handle those too young to have school ID. You can chide them about not bringing their card and put a limit on how often you can look them up, but again, you want them in the library using the system. What is required to get a card in the first place? If you standards for verifying identity are higher than for getting a card, you have a problem. When and how to grant exceptions needs to be consistent between staff. Does one librarian give adults extra time when they are working on resume/job hunt, etc. This needs to be a discussion among all the staff who can grant computer privileges (how do you handle visitors who don't have or can't get a card?)

The fairness of enforcement is a sore point with me. One of the first public librarians I worked with had rules only she enforced, and she only enforced them on children and people who didn't speak English well. She also liked to yell from the ref desk when anyone's cell phone rang (far more disruptive than the original call had been) She had a countdown clock on her desk, which pretty much summed up her attitude by the time I joined staff. We didn't get along.
I know you said that you checked on the ALA's website, but you might want to contact YALSA and see if they have any advice on how to encourage your co-workers to be more teen friendly (which seems like it's the biggest problem). Maybe they will have some stats or something that could help back up your cause. Everyone that I have spoken to at YALSA is very friendly and helpful, so they might be a good resource.
I was going to suggest YALSA too -- if nothing else, ask them to hook you up with roundtable members. They're one of the most active groups in ALA -- and, quite frankly, one of the few who actually have an impact on the industry.

Re: the rules list. Whatever rules you do come up with, don't start them all with NO NO NO. That's immediately unwelcoming and negative -- and kids/teens in particular are sick of being told "NO" all the time (not to mention the teens will see it as a challenge). You can be direct about expected behavior without phrasing it tyrannically. Adults will appreciate that approach, too.
-NO cell phones in the library.
Is this no cell phone use or a total ban? Either way, I think it's unreasonable. If it's a quiet space, people can silence their phones and still use them for non-voice tasks. Shouldn't be more bothersome than any other movement people make.

-NO chewing gum in the library.
This may be reasonable in a children's space.

-NO food or drink in the library.
I think this is pretty reasonable, although I'm more inclined to amend it to permitting covered beverages with straws or tiny drink holes to make it more reasonable.

-NO hanging out in the library. (You must be reading, using a computer, or using the library's resources in some other way.)
Seems odd as I know some public libraries offer meeting spaces. Then again I know this can become a problem with young adults, so it may be reasonable. If they can't even fake like they're using library resources, why are they there?

-NO checking out books or using the computers unless you have your library card with you. Even if you have picture ID.
Meh, if your face matches the ID and your ID address matches your library account why not? That's a lot of trouble for identity theft in the library. It's not like anyone's checking to see if my library card really belongs to me when I use it.

-NO using the computers more than once a day. Even if there's no one waiting.
This sounds really unreasonable to me and should be abolished in my opinion. No one's waiting--why shouldn't the resource be used?
Basically, just be freindly and sunny and smile, and that can work wonders. Patience is defenatly a virtue here. My staff members also turn to me when there is a "problem," and I take care of it. Usually running, noise etc. :-) I am a chilodren's librarian, who loves them and yet would like to strangle at the same time. :-)

Wow, those are some rules.... :-)

Our general rules for the library vs. yours. (we don't have a children's room its included on one main floor)

Everyone igmores the NO cell phone sign and some have been soooo loud, we've had to ask them to go outside.
No Food or drink allowed including gum....well, as long as it doesn't leave the tables and eveything has lids, we do okay. (though it was startling when I had a parent tell me that their young child had lost their sucker and that it is in a picture book somewhere.)
There is no "NO hanging out rule"....though we often politely patrol the noisy teens and the...overly eager touchy ones in dark corners reminding them to please respect other patron and families. :-)

Must have ID or Card to check out. We have had sooooo many problems in this area that ID and Card is a MUST. Computers can now only be accessed though card use.

Extension extension extension...Bettter computers be used than not. Also better numbers that way. :-)

Hope its helpful. Happy Holidays! Hope you have a white christmas.
-NO cell phones in the library. - we allow cell phones so long as the talking volume is at a level we'd accept for face-to-face conversations

-NO chewing gum in the library. - no rule about this

-NO food or drink in the library. - Only banned around the computers, but patrons are required to clean up after themselves.

-NO hanging out in the library. (You must be reading, using a computer, or using the library's resources in some other way.) - if we put this in... our afternoon patronage would seriously halve.

-NO checking out books or using the computers unless you have your library card with you. Even if you have picture ID. - we do this. We have a three day hold shelf behind the desk to hang onto stuff for people who have forgotten their cards (or need to return overdues)

-NO using the computers more than once a day. Even if there's no one waiting. - we have a policy of a maximum of two hours or four logins, whichever is reached first. Each login cannot be longer than one hour but may be shorter (especially if there is a booking coming up) and we keep express non-booked 15 minute computers to ensure reasonable availability for people wanting to print etc.

Hope that's coherent. I'm so tired -.-
Oh, also. We do have some issues with staff not liking the child/teen patrons but we get them in high volume all the same.

Our rules notices are currently being rewritten to include DO instead of NO statements. Sounds a whole lot less strict and stereotypically shushy.
← Ctrl ← Alt
Ctrl → Alt →