Libraries Are Quiet Places? Right!

I think people generally tend to think of libraries as quiet places where nothing much ever happens.

On the other hand, here’s a partial list of things I’ve heard of happening at libraries I’ve worked at and elsewhere – lots of which involve illegal activities while others are just unsavory…

  • fist fights between patrons that include bloodshed and/or lost teeth
  • fights involving knives or other weapons
  • verbal or physical altercations between patrons and staff
  • verbal altercations between staff (there have probably been physical ones in some library somewhere but I’ve never heard of any)
  • unwanted sexual advances towards staff
  • destruction of property including graffiti, breaking windows, destroying books
  • patrons who are drunk causing a disturbance
  • patrons who are high causing a disturbance
  • patrons who are mentally ill causing a disturbance
  • patrons who are just in a pissy mood causing a disturbance
  • patrons who smell worse than a music festival port-a-potty
  • patrons watching pornography with absolutely no attempt to be discrete or subtle about this
  • patrons exposing themselves to staff or other patrons
  • patrons defecating in the library
  • drug deals in the lobby, the washrooms or the stacks
  • sex in the washrooms or the stacks
  • attempted child abductions
  • child abandonment
  • theft of materials
  • theft of patron belongings
  • numerous unmentionables happening in regards to book drops
  • …and probably other things I’m missing/forgetting.

And now we can add one more to the list of “things I never expected to see at the library”  (a video clip will be available here by tomorrow I would assume – either the Wednesday supper or Thursday noon hour newscast should have it as the first story.)

Increasingly, I’ve begun to wonder if libraries should do something quite outside the box to address this problem? A quick Google search reveals that one library has already taken a unique step to dealing with some of these issues.  I especially like that, in addition to hiring a social worker to be on staff at the San Fransisco Central Library, they’ve also created a transition program to help formerly homeless people into library work.

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