What a List of Rules!

This is from Hall County Public Library in their November eNewsLetter. I believe in having a code of conduct, but some of these are so over the top I thought it was a joke at first. I’ll be using this in class next semester. I’ve bolded the ones that really made my brain ooze out my ears:

From the Director

Dear Patron,

Have you ever walked in on a person bathing in a public restroom to tell them to get dressed? Have you ever called the police to help rescue a dog locked in an automobile on a hot summer day? How about calling on a six year old left alone for several hours while the parent shopped? When did you last tell someone that certain Internet pictures were not acceptable for public viewing and to stop looking? Or have you ever separated two adults from fighting? I bet you have never had a person chased into the place you worked by someone toting a pistol. Well, these are things that are part of the typical day of a library employee. You come to work prepared for anything and if lucky nothing extraordinaire happens.

When I was younger I felt the obvious was best left unsaid. I guess the first valuable lesson I learned after a few years working in the library profession was not to assume too much. I still try to live my life giving the other the benefit of the doubt even at work, though I sometimes need to consciously step back and set questions of credulity aside in order to lend plausibility to the tale I am being told: “No, Sir, that is the woman’s restroom you are using,” or “How did you pick up that purse by accident?”

Some tales are difficult to swallow but I try to accept what is being told until I discover differently since I believe every relationship deserves that starting point. And many a time truth has surprised me.

Where is this leading? We are posting our Library Code of Conduct in our various buildings so when challenged staff can point and say with conviction, “See, the rules are hanging over there.” They are not made up. It says you cannot smoke in a building or use a cell phone.  It requires you come garbed somewhat appropriately and at least wear sandals inside and not traipse about in a wet swimming garment. It says you cannot shout or play the radio loud enough that it bothers others. It informs parents not to drop off their six, seven and eight year olds and expect library staff to entertain them for five hours.  I know it is behavior one would assume is not acceptable but if not posted as ‘prohibited’ someone will challenge staff when asked to stop.

Following is the library’s code of conduct. Most of the policy was developed in response to problems that took staff time to resolve. This code is similar to that followed by many other libraries in this country. I believe the library board will need to change this policy to allow guns carried by patrons with permits, even though we have twice had patrons chase others into library buildings in this county with pistol in hand. Some people just do not know where to park their road rage.  Luckily no one was shot. And I do not expect the library board to require staff to ask if they are carrying a permit the next time it happens.

Let me know by e-mail at amixson@hallcountylibrary.org if you find a particular passage offensive.

I hope to catch you in the stacks reading. 

Adrian Mixson, Library Director

               The following actions are prohibited on library system property:

  • Distributing or posting printed materials/literature not been approved by library staff.
  • Selling and/or soliciting for money or items or services.
  • Possessing or consuming alcohol or illegal drugs or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Smoking or use of tobacco products in library buildings or on library grounds.
  • Consuming food or beverages that leave behind residue for staff to clean.
  • Sleeping.
  • Wearing clothes that reveal undergarments or inappropriate body parts.
  • Wearing swim suit garments or wet clothes.
  • Having bare feet in a library building.
  • Placing feet or legs on furniture.
  • Misusing or abusing furniture.
  • Bringing animals or pets in the library except service animals.
  • Any disruptive and disturbing noises created by persons, radios, tape players or other sound devices.
  • Intentionally damaging, destroying or stealing library property or a patron’s or staff member’s property.
  • Taking library materials into restrooms.
  • Willful concealment of library property while on library premises.
  • Playing cards or board games not provided by the library.
  • Leaving children unattended who are under the age of ten or who require supervision.
  • Leaving children or young adults (though the age of 17) on library property after closing time.
  • Leaving bags or packages unattended.
  • Changing clothes and/or bathing in restrooms.
  • Weapons of any type.
  • Engaging in disorderly conduct, fighting or challenging another to fight, or use of offensive language that is likely to provoke violence.
  • Sexual harassment of patrons or staff.
  • Indecent exposure.
  • Obscene or abusive acts and/or language.
  • Display of obscene materials.
  • Unauthorized access to non-public areas.
  • Parking automobiles on library property when the driver is not using the facility.
  • Use of cell phone in undesignated areas.
  • Taking pictures without permission.
  • Any other illegal acts or conduct in violation of Federal, State, or local law, ordinance or regulation.
What message are we sending to the public at large when such a laundry list of prohibited behaviors is distributed to everyone via the library newsletter – it seems like it would make some people never even want to venture to the library! Or make sure they were not in violation of any of the above. This is particularly interesting:
Most of the policy was developed in response to problems that took staff time to resolve. This code is similar to that followed by many other libraries in this country.
I often worry that many policies are created from one or two occurrences – that staff panic and have to create a rule in case that something happens again. Do other libraries have similar, lengthy lists of prohibited actions? Am I just super naive about how we should interact with our users?
Can I really not text quietly in the stacks (instead of reading!) and bring my own Monopoly game?