Embracing Services to Teens 2011: Revisiting Mishawaka’s Ban on Social Networking

A new anonymous comment went up on this post from 2008 about my hometown library’s ban of social media access because of issues with teens:

http://tametheweb.com/2008/03/18/no-myspace-facebook-at-mishawaka-library/

No email address or URL was shared, so I thought I’d share the comment here so the person might get some useful feedback – including ideas to welcome everyone into the library without “stricter patron codes of conduct.” I would especially like to hear from teen librarians.

I am currently employed at a library in Kentucky and I must say that I disagree with your assessment that the primary goal of the library should be to just let these actions go on without any moves to correct them. While I do agree that the steps taken are a bit extensive, the fact remains that the primary purpose of a library should be that of a center of learning that is open to anyone who is interested in learning something or attempting to discover something. A library is not an internet café nor is it a place for individuals to gather to place their personal feelings on a social networking website. As librarians, we are taught how to best help patrons discover, use, and understand the items we have on our stacks and we take great pains to offer our services in a kindly manner.

However, the teens, at least at my particular branch of employment, have become the biggest thorns in our side. Despite offering special teen spaces, unique teen programs, and various other opportunities the problems that we started with have remained. In the case of our particular branch the problem had to do with particular teen patrons. These ‘problem’ patrons are often the source of either mischief or, in some cases, harm to others. While there are adult ‘problem’ patrons are most vocal and most confrontational are our teen ‘problem’ patrons. I personally feel that the solution to the problems experienced at your particular library, namely the parking issue among others, are the cause of individual teens who should be removed and I do agree that eliminating it for all is a bit much. Having said that, I completely understand the Library Director’s reasoning on this matter. Furthermore, it is easy to sit outside of a library system and question the judgements from the comforts of a classroom or a home, but when you work for the public on a regular basis you soon find that there are some individuals who complain about just anything and it is extremely likely that your particular Director had some nasty phone calls from irate older patrons who were inconvenienced by teens. In an effort to appease these patrons the Director took an option to cut the snake off at the head.

At my particular branch, there are those patrons who often do complain about the slightest transgressions, be they real or imagined, and they demand immediate responses. In these cases it is difficult for us to act because our hands are tied by a management tactic that attempts to make all parties happy; this flawed way of viewing public relations has created situations where the end result is often a massive over-reaction. The library staff, often eager to find a way to calm down overzealous patrons are often forced to cut off access to certain things in an effort to appease these individuals. This policy of appeasement, much like its earlier 20th century political equivalent, is highly controversial and flawed as you have now seen. The correct solution, in my opinion, is to institute more business like procedures within a library setting and to enforce stricter patron codes of conduct in an effort to ensure that these kind of incidents never occur, thus allowing the teens to peacefully coexist with the other patrons.

Full TTW coverage of the Mishawaka ban is here: http://tametheweb.com/page/2/?s=Mishawaka The policy was reversed a year later. I would also  love to hear from the Mishawaka librarians – how is it going these days?

More:

The Transparent Library: Embracing Services to Teens

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One thought on “Embracing Services to Teens 2011: Revisiting Mishawaka’s Ban on Social Networking”

  1. Sounds to me like someone needs to do some administratin’ Lots of opportunities here to turn things around. Both the staff and customer comfort will increase.

    And this has nothing whatsoever to do with social media. If it did, half the adults would be problematic as well.

    I wonder if this library has a “standards of conduct” policy?
    I wonder if they enforce the standards of conduct?
    I wonder if they know how to enforce the standards of conduct – we have guards but I’m sure many libraries don’t. It can be scary. There are non-confrontational techniques that work.
    Do they have a standard “you’re out for x amount of time and next time it will be y amount of time” procedure that they enforce?
    Do they have a good relationship with their local police department so, should violence break out, they know how to report?
    Could they work with their local PD to learn how to turn a situation from confrontational to conversational?
    Do they know how to make an effective 911 or non-emergency call for backup?
    Do they know how to be good witnesses?
    Do they write up incident reports?
    Does someone review those reports and look for patterns?
    Are the customers breaking fire code by having too many people in one place at one time? (we did for a while!)
    Is the front line empowered to do what needs to be done?

    We had behavior problems like this for years. Yes, a library always will. However, once we got those procedures in place and were supported in using them, the job became so much easier. Some problem behaviors disappeared when we began to get to know the individual instead of the troublemaker. Some even left the “dark side” and became allies.

    It even gave us (gasp) new insight into our community

    For others, being recognized as an individual encouraged them to find other places to misbehave.

    Here’s hoping a better way can be found for all concerned

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