Saturday, June 17, 2006

Kids These Days - Summer edition

If someone doesn't end of dead or maimed this summer, it will be a miracle.

And forgive this post. It is kind of rambling and poorly written. I think I mainly wrote it to make a paper trail so when things finally blow up, I'll have clear incidents to refer to when questioned. I don't plan on doing anything stupid, but these kids might as you will read.

Schools are out here in our lovely town, and that means groups of roving children from ages eight to fifteen will be stomping around hunting for stuff to do. Last summer these roving groups would come to Library X and congregate at the computers and proceed to speak loudly, run around, and have general horseplay and mayhem. If a library employee spoke to them, the library employee was lucky if the children would say they would do what was requested and then not do it at all. Worse case scenario, the children would ridicule the library employee, and the mayhem would escalate.

This is why the age restriction rules were created. A child must be at least sixteen to be in the library without adult supervision. We put logins on the computers, change the passwords daily, and have cut down the number of computers the public can access to six as a way to stop these children from abusing the library.

These rules have been in effect for six months now, but many of the children haven't been back to the library since last summer. Thursday night a group of boys tried waltzing in to use the computers. All of them were clearly under sixteen. Some of them weren't even in their teens. I stopped them at the gates and told them that they couldn't be in here without a parent. They all huffed at this. One boy was bold enough to ask, "Isn't this a public library?"

I answered, "No, we're an academic library."

"That's not true. You were a public library. I came here all last summer," another boy exclaimed. This was one of the most notorious troublemakers from last year.

I shook my head. "No, we've never been a public library. We let you use the computers last year, but now we don't. We're a UZ library."

They left unhappily, but then slowly started to slip back in one at a time. The first one to come in just said bathroom loudly. Not to me, but just to the air. I let him go and watched him go to the bathroom. We have two individual bathrooms on that floor that are around a corner and not in direct sight. I noted the time the boy went back there because if he were in the bathroom too long, I was going to check on him. I can open a locked bathroom with my key. We had some graffiti appear in one of our bathrooms which took the cleaning crew a lot of work to erase, and this group of kids had some known mischief makers.

I watched the boys closely. The most notorious mischief maker on his way back from the restrooms, tried to go to the stairwell instead of the exit, and I called out to him and told him he had to go outside.

Laura, my co-vampire found me amusing because what I said was, "Hey guy, you can't stay in here. You gotta leave." She found it funny I called him guy. It was also funny because a group of male students were coming in as I was calling out to the kid, and they all stopped in their tracks to look at me. I had to wave them along and watched the kid go outside to rejoin his friends.

The last boy to come into the library went to use the restroom and waited a few moments then came up to the desk. This was the boy who'd also asked about us being a public library. He wasn't one I recognized but anyway. He came up to say that one of the bathrooms smelled really bad and had stuff all over the floor, and the other bathroom was locked with no one in it.

I suspected that I knew the culprits for both reasons, and he was hanging with them. I grabbed my keys and went to check out the bathrooms. The unlocked bathroom did smell bad and possibly had some water or worse piss on the floor, but not shocking. These bathrooms don't have vents or fans so if someone takes a dump, the next person will be able to tell by smell alone. I locked the bathroom and made a note to put an out of order sign on it.

I went to the locked bathroom. Tried the door, it was locked, knocked loudly and didn't get a response. I started to put my key in the lock when I heard what sounded like the sink start. I knocked again and called out, "Is anyone in there?" Finally, I hear a male voice answer, "Yeah." The kid looked amazed. He said that he'd knocked loudly too. I left him there to wait for the other guy to get out of the bathroom. Another minute went by and the kid left complaining that the guy was taking too long. Thirty seconds later he returned. He was now doing the pee dance. He asked if the bathroom was free yet or if there were anymore bathrooms. I took pity on the boy and escorted him to the third floor where there were more bathrooms. The third floor also has another circ desk, and I told the two students there to keep an eye on the boy. If he didn't go back up the stairs when he left to call me. Fortunately the boy did leave without mishap. He even said thank you to me. After the boys finally left, I thought a few minutes and had to silently apologize for suspecting the boys of doing anything to the bathrooms. The one that smelled bad was probably due to a homeless patron who was in the library at the time and reeked, and I'd seen him go to the bathrooms in the past ten minutes, and the person in the other bathroom was a male student who just took an inordinate amount of time it would appear. So the boys used the bathrooms innocently, I think.

I don't know how long after, fifteen or twenty minutes maybe, I went outside for a smoke break. I could hear the boys, but couldn't see them, and I heard the disquieting crunch of gravel. There is no gravel around Library X except on top of a low section of roof.

I went and checked and sure enough, these brats had hopped the railings and climbed on this roof. It was a hazardous place because it had no railings and a steep drop on three sides. No one was allowed on it. The boys saw me staring at them and quickly proceed to leave. I watched them go to mechanical area behind a building and to pick up stuff and throw it, right next to a large air handling machine. I've had enough. I went in and called UPD to swing around Library X and to see if they can spook the children into leaving. UPD swung by, checked out the area, didn't find the kids, and chatted with me. I've talked with both officers before. One officer asked that if I see the kids doing stuff like that again to grab my cell and follow them and help UPD track them. I'm sort of amazed by the request. Part of the reason I need to call UPD so much to deal with these situations is because I'm the only staff person in the building. I have one student for back up and that's it. I can't go traipsing around tracking little hoodlums, though it might be fun.

UPD left and not one hour later, the boys returned with a number of girls with them. I hadn't been sitting at the circ counter, but back at my desk, so when the kids looked in, I know all they saw was my student assistant, and they thought they'd hit the jackpot. They literally came rushing in like we were dept. store opening for a big sale and headed straight to the computers. I jumped out quick and told them that they knew they couldn't be in there.

Bathroom boy decided to engage me again about the public library debate. He asked why had we changed the rules. I told him it was because kids weren't behaving when they came so we decided not to let them in anymore without someone with them to keep them in line. He complained about a few kids ruining it for everyone. One of the "few" who ruined it for everyone was sitting on the floor, underneath the computer trying to hide behind a chair from me. I looked pointedly at the little hideaway and the other boy noticed my pointed look and conceded that that particular boy was a fool. I started to like bathroom boy, but that didn't mean he could come in without an adult. The kids asked if they could stay a few minutes to check their email. One claimed she had to check it to see if her mom had emailed her something important. A bold lie, but I told them they had fifteen minutes. They all proceeded to put on the computer headphones and log into

I stayed conspicuously at the circ counter and watched them all. It was after nine o'clock now. I'm always amazed that these kids can be out after dark and use public transportation on their own. Shouldn't there be a height requirement to get on a bus without an adult? I periodically reminded them how long they had, and they logged off the computers at about the time I set for them and left. A few of them thanked me for letting them use the computers. I worry that they're going to come back night after night to use the computers and push how long they can stay, and I'm going to have to put my foot down and totally piss them off. Then there will be fireworks.



Blogger Librarian of Darkness said...

Wow, you have more patience than I! I think that you handled them nicely enough this time to justify calling the UPD if they try this stuff again; if for no other reason, to have the officers start asking the boys about how to get in touch with the parents.

This often does the trick for me if my Librarian Superpowers (the Cold Stare and the low, gruff sounding Voice of Rebuke) fail.

3:01 PM, June 18, 2006  
Blogger Katya said...

We had to impose an age limit as well because of similar abuses but our town doesn't have very good public transportation so we don't get as many students who are underage as you probably do. I wish you continued patience: I'm afraid I'd have said something completely inappropriate by now.

4:40 PM, June 18, 2006  

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