library too popular with teens? close it after school. brilliant!

In the article Lock the Library! Rowdy Students Are Taking Over one New Jersey library claims it has to resort to closing the library during after school hours because the library is being overrrun by unruly teenagers who are fighting, peeing on the bathroom floor and, apparently “talk[ing] back to librarians.” Here’s the library’s announcement on their website. Looks like the library will be available via phone, IM and email after school, just not in person. [thanks kelly!]

16 thoughts on “library too popular with teens? close it after school. brilliant!

  1. Wow, what a sad situation. It sounds like the library did try other methods of dealing with their behavior and tried to engage the teens in constructive activities, so it at least was not a knee-jerk reaction to a few problems. It’s hard to judge without being there, but I’d really like to believe that there is always a better solution than closing the library during peak hours. That punishes everyone.

  2. I sympathize. My library is located right next to an elementary school, a middle school, and an intermediate high school, and some days we are besieged by flocks of students. While most are good kids, it’s very easy for things to get out of hand when you have a crowd of 20-30 kids milling about outside (or inside) your library–and that’s just one group. We’ve had fires set, cars vandalized, kids beaten up, staff threatened, fights break out, screaming matches erupt between parents of small children and students hanging out at the library, and threats of lawsuits from both sides. We’ve posted rules. We have activities and areas set aside for the kids. We’ve worked with the schools and the local police, and little seems to be helping. We’ve documented incidents and banned certain students for limited amounts of time, and those who flagrantly return have even been charged with trespassing (multiple times), and patron complaints of harassment and indecent exposure have led to arrests, but there’s a limit to what the staff can do. We simply are not built or funded to be a childcare substitute for that number of students for 3-6 hours at a time, and it’s something the community needs to solve. So really, come 3 o’clock today, somewhere deep in in my soul, a tiny sliver of me will probably be jealous of that library in NJ because they have just forced their community to confront the problem.

  3. I used to work in the Youth Services department of a library branch that was just down a hill from a junior high school. We regularly got bunches of energetic tweens and teens coming into our library afterschool. After numerous complaints from patrons and staff, the branch got a security guard to help maintain order. The branch had a small YA section and only one YA librarian (who worked at the Adult reference desk), and most of the junior high kids ended up hanging out in the YS area. One of my coworkers and I began organizing afterschool activities to help…focus their energy. Some activities were more successful than others, and not all of the schoolkids were willing to even try to participate. Some kids got banned from the library because of their behavior. Other kids got involved in our activities and behaved quite nicely (if still pretty energetic). And other kids just got bored with the library and stopped hanging out there.

    With that in mind, here’s what I think: those kids are part of the community, and deserve the same rights as any other members of the community–and the same responsibilities. If they are breaking library policies (with vandalism, rude or threatening behavior, etc), then they should be treated exactly as any other misbehaving patron would be. If they’re just a little loud or energetic, but not breaking any library policies, find ways to channel that energy. How sad would it be if all of those kids grow up thinking the library is not a place for them to go to, just because some of the kids were misbehaving in the library! Basically, I agree with Meredith: closing the library during those hours punishes everyone. Should schools also close down, just because some of the students behave badly?

  4. Seems an ingenious way to get other city agencies to get off the dime. Maybe they will contribute to more choices for the kids.

  5. I can certainly empathize. I have a similiar problem at my library. Parents just drop off their kids and use us a free childcare. We’ve been subjected to kids urinating in our stairwells and elevators, fighting, cursing, and looking at God Knows What on the Internet. I don’t work at a public library so we could just ban all users below a certain age. However, I feel that it really should be about the behavior not about changing policies for everyone based on a few bad kids. We have lots of kids that come in and use our collection that are well behaved and respectful (and they aren’t accompanied by a parent).

    It is a really tough situation to be in so I’m not so sure that I can condemn the actions of this other library. My staff don’t relish the idea of being surrogate parents or police. It isn’t what they get paid for and I, for one, don’t believe it’s fair to expect them too.

  6. It’s very unfortunate that the children at the library being productive have to be punished for the kids that are being unruly

  7. What is unfortunate is that parents do not take responsibility for their children.

  8. One of the big issues is that schools are blocking cool sites, meaning that students are just rarin’ to get at runescape once school’s out. When cities and states cut out extra-curricular, recreation centres, and youth-engagement strategies, it’s the libraries that have to pick up the slack (with continuously reduced budgets to boot as well).

  9. I find it somewhat disturbing the number of people that mention that having a lot of kids in the library leads to these unruly kids urinating in various locations.

    Closing at the peak time of the day. I just don’t know what to say about that, no matter what the reasons or reasoning .

  10. while living in the city, I learned to avoid the library after three o’clock–i’ve watched the librarians try to control the rude and the rowdy, with little success. now i work as an assitant at a (very) rural library, and i would LOVE to see a pack of young people in here. it’s as though we don’t exist. breaks my heart.

  11. No one said having a lot of unruly kids leads to urination in various places. (I mentioned only incidents that specifically involved our teens.) It does, however, make it harder to keep order, and it creates dangerous situations, as any mob does. There are reasons that states mandate a staff-to child ratio for childcare centers. The day we had to put out the flaming picnic table with twenty kids near it was alarming. It wasn’t about those kids being bad. It was about one jerk putting everyone at risk, and us not being able to protect the number of kids who were there. (Especially after we threw out another kid who was lighting paper on fire in the YA room a few weeks later.)

    And really, the more chaotic a place is, the more likely shenanigans are to get pulled. :)

  12. What are the solutions?
    If closing the library is unacceptable, and the budget doesn’t cover extra staff or even a security guard, what are we to do?
    I see some people comiserating and some criticizing, but no real solutions!

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