Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Lost in all the fuss

Posted by lpearle on 9 January 2007

The biblioblogosphere (Joyce, the H2O library and Jessamyn, to name a few, not to mention e-lists like LM_NET and NEXTGEN) has been buzzing mightily about the recent news from Maplewood (NJ): due to the “rowdy” behavior of some teens, the library will be closing after work. Now, this is totally in keeping with the library’s policy that “The librarians and support personnel… are not social workers, police or daycare providers.”

I have friends in that town, and here’s one response to the issue:

Yes, I wholeheartedly support the drastic measure–if nothing else, it has served to focus public and political attention on the problem, which is essentially parents using the library as babysitting, instead of arranging supervised after school care or trusting the kids to go home, which they obviously don’t which is why they dump their children on the library. It is not the school’s responsibility to look after the kids after the end of the day, and it is not the job of the librarians to babysit. This is a parental failure, plus the lack of manners inherent in this issue. Can you tell where I stand on this?

There was a branch of NYPL near where I worked, across from two very large high schools. When their classes got out, the corner near the entrance to the branch was impassible. Now, this is a street corner, and unless you’re a police officer, you can’t urge the kids to get to their next location. But it was disturbing the neighborhood, and I know that I, my students and others would avoid going to that branch for at least an hour after those schools let out. Clearly, Maplewood isn’t the only place with a problem. But with no other place to go/hang out…

That’s one of the “missing”: where is parental responsibility? When did it become the job of the librarians to maintain peace and order in a library? The reality is that this is all too often the case – public spaces become de facto babysitting spaces for people. Like malls (which often now impose curfews and other regulations on teens). Like libraries. Where’s the uproar over that?

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