For anyone who thinks librarians spend their time shooshing chatty patrons, last week’s Library Board meeting would have been shock.
The Billings Public Library board approved revisions to the library’s customer behavior policy in response to concerns that have cropped up in the new building where 1,200 people have come through the door on an average day. Conversely, some complaints common in the old building have disappeared since the move to the larger, well-ventilated library with most areas in staff line of sight.
Much of the influx of new patrons is in the beautiful children’s area. It’s wonderful that more children are visiting the library. However, some youngsters and the adults accompanying them have been extremely disrespectful of the library, its staff and other users.
Children have climbed on and jumped off book shelves, raced around the area and thrown metal objects, Library Director Bill Cochran told the board. Grandparents have encouraged grandchildren to enter the water pool to collect coins.
Cochran described librarians’ “intense interactions with parents and grandparents.” When librarians tell children to stop disruptive behavior or tell their elders to stop it, all too often the adults have become angry with the librarians.
The child misbehavior and parental push back have been so bad on some days that Cochran said he feared the children’s staff was ready to quit.
Thus, the revised library policy prohibits:
“Chasing, running, and playing, especially on or near furniture, shelves, stairs or the water feature. Parents or chaperones of children who violate this policy will receive the same warnings and penalties as the children.”
The penalties include “an order to leave the library for the remainder of the day.” Multiple violations of this rule or other library rules can result in violators being prohibited from entering the library for 30 days upon penalty of a charge of criminal trespass.
It’s sad that our library needs to have rules for what ought to be good manners and common sense. Sadder still is the bad habits adults teach children when they defend bad behavior.
Other revisions to the library policy include:
The children and teen areas are restricted to children, teens and adults who accompany them. “Other adults may enter these areas to browse and/or retrieve materials, or to briefly tour the area, but they may not remain in the area otherwise to, for example, sit, read or use computers.” Adults not accompanying minors should check in at the Children’s Services Help Desk or the second floor help desk before entering the teen area.
Saddest still, the library also has to have a policy on “unattended dependent persons.” This isn’t a new policy; it was instituted several years ago because children dropped off at the library weren’t picked up at closing time. The policy requires the library staff or security guards to attempt to call the parents. If parents can’t be reached, police are called to take charge of the children. Guards remain with the kids till police arrive.
If any of the bad behavior described in this editorial sounds familiar to you, resolve to be a more responsible library customer. Support the staff as they work to keep the library safe and fun for everyone.