An SJCPL Librarian Responds to Mishawaka’s Ban

An SJCPL Librarian comments on the Mishawaka Ban:

I work in the reference department at SJCPL and yes – we’re getting the overflow from Mishawaka now that MySpace and Facebook have been restricted. Our computers are basically full with a queue all of the time. I’ll share some thoughts…

First, we have a limit of 2 persons per computer. We were hesitant to do that, but found that things were just getting too loud. We do still get complaints about the noise level and we try to keep the peace as much as we can. We don’t have our computers in a special room – they are all at circular stations in front of the reference desk.

Second, we have security. Lots of security. We have over 20 cameras and no fewer than 4 security staff in the building at all times. This is a luxury that some libraries may feel that they cannot afford, but I question that. It is a matter of priorities. Patrons have to feel safe. Staff has to feel safe. If patrons don’t feel safe they stop coming – except for the patrons who are contributing to the problem – so you have a situation that grows exponentially worse.

Finally, we have an administration that will back up their staff. We have been told that if we need to intervene in a Code of Conduct violation that we should act with the confidence that administration will support our decision. Fortunately this is not often necessary, because we can simply call security, but there have been a few instances where threatening language has been used and library staff stepped in to address the issue before it came to blows.

It is a difficult balance to strike. Discouraging troublemakers is important, but discouraging an entire demographic from using library services seems like something that will contribute to future problems for the library system. I get annoyed by teens. You bet. But isn’t that their job? Sometimes it is a good day when we get them to keep their pants up and their tops down. lol But they seem to like it here and they’ll remember that when, someday, they need information in addition to that entertainment.