Lock the Doors! Lock the Doors! (Updated)

I’m a tad dumb-founded over this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/02/nyregion/02library.html?ex=1168405200&en=954c51bc14b566e8&ei=5070&emc=eta1

Every afternoon at Maplewood Middle School’s final bell, dozens of students pour across Baker Street to the public library. Some study quietly. The Baker Street library in Maplewood, N.J., near a middle school, will soon close from 2:45 to 5 p.m. Others, library officials say, fight, urinate on the bathroom floor, scrawl graffiti on the walls, talk back to librarians or refuse to leave when asked. One recently threatened to burn down the branch library. Librarians call the police, sometimes twice a day. As a result, starting on Jan. 16, the Maplewood Memorial Library will be closing its two buildings on weekdays from 2:45 to 5 p.m., until further notice.

Jessamyn links to the library’s announcement here.

And Michael Casey weighs in with his experiences and I couldn’t agree more:

None of this has been easy or inexpensive. Security guards and off-duty police officers costs money, as do extra staff. The time to plan and present teen programs is also not without a cost. But the return on this investment has been remarkable. The numbers of incidents in the branch are down. Customer comments are far more positive and, perhaps most importantly, the community understands and approves of the library’s efforts because the community has been made an integral part of the solution. While it is never possible to please everyone all of the time, the efforts being made in Dacula are showing very real and positive results. I hope other libraries facing such issues can find the resources to address their teen problems without resorting to closing their doors.

I think we’ll see this one RIPPLE across the Biblioblogosphere like crazy in the next few days.

I’m dumbfounded because things like this suprise me. I sometimes say “I live in a bubble” and here it’s most true. I just can’t imagine circumstances that would lead to a library actually deciding to close its doors against young users when, as Michael Casey points out, security guards can be hired etc. My views on looking at library staffing are really coming clearer to me now: do we need 3 people staffing a public library reference desk..and other librarians at other desks when statistics and channels for access are changing? How about evaluating usuage patterns and ROIs for those desks/service points and reallocate bodies and positions in newer ways that suit what’s happening now? How about better programs and engaging activities that fit with our generation of content-creators?

I think in doing this they’ve lost those young people forever — and maybe that’s the goal — but what message are they sending to future users as well? I know only what I read so I can’t say for sure what it’s like at that library but it breals my heart for the future of library service in that town.

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