Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Policy Adjustments of the Needed Kind

At our staff meeting last week, one of the topics we covered was the use of cell phones in the "liberry." Until recently, cells were mostly just an occasional annoyance. However, our additional computer terminals brought additional opportunities for more cell phone usage and abusage. I don't think we've actually had any actual complaints from patrons about cell phones, but there have been several recent incidents of loud cell talking and loud ringtone blaring at the computers, so Mrs. A decided it was high time to put our collective foot down. Cell phones are now to be restricted to the enclosed foyer, the out of doors or, perhaps, the restrooms.

The other major matter we discussed was that of children using the internet without parental supervision or parental permission slips on file. At our branch, kids between the age of 13 and 18 cannot use the internet alone without a parental permission slip on file. If they have no slip or are younger than 13, they have to have a parent sitting with them as they use the internet. These policies have been on the books for a while, but a number of brats have been slipping through because certain staff members have an inability to estimate age visually. (And though I am hardly the only one, I have to include myself among the Certain Staff Member ranks, as I've been guilty of misjudging age myself. For instance, I recently let a 17 year old guy have a computer, having assumed he was in his mid 20s because he was at least 6'5", built like a linebacker and had a neck tattoo. On the flip side of the coin, I once tried to card a 24-year-old woman because she was about 4'5" tall and looked exactly like a 12-year-old, male cast member from Newsies.)

Mrs. A informed us that we were to start cracking down again. No longer would we allow kids on sans slip or sans parent.

Last night, we had both policies tested when a high school aged girl came in and signed up for a computer.

"How old are you?" I asked.


"Do you have a permission slip on file?"

"No, but my mom's on the way in," she said.

We waited for Mom to turn up, but four minutes crawled by with no sign of her. The girl huffed and rolled her eyes and stared through the front door in the direction of the parking lot. Finally, fed up, she went outside to fetch her mom. A minute later she returned, dragging in her mother, who was talking on a cell phone. The mother, still on the phone, gave me the international sign language for "I'm just going to sign her in and then I'll take my call outside while she uses the computer."

"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but without a permission slip on file, you'll need to sit with her while she uses the computer."

The mother looked agitated, then said, "Hold on," into the phone, before turning back to me. "I'm just going to be right outside. We do this every day," she said.

Uh, no, they don't do this every day. I'm there every day and I think I would know.

"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but we just had a staff meeting about this and we have to follow the policy. Kids either have to have permission slips on file or they have to have a parent with them when they use the internet."

The mom rolled her eyes, in much the same way her daughter had before. This annoyed me greatly, so I added, "Also, I have to tell you that we can't have the cell phone in here, either. You're welcome to use it in the foyer or outside, but you can't use it in here."

The mom looked at her daughter then looked back outside where she had been talking before, then back at daughter.

"Just! Hang! Up!" the daughter said.

"I can't," Mom said. "I have to take this call."

The daughter then emitted an impressively executed teenage-girl-grunt as mom continued to look indecisive.

Oh, the dilemma! Do you continue with your no doubt lengthy phone call, pissing off your already moody teenage daughter even further, insuring a spite-filled evening, or do you end your call to go be shackled to this surly creature as she does her MySpacing or "school research" or whatever she's supposed to be doing?

Since the mom was clearly not doing the math herself, I used my "liberry" ninja skills to deftly snatch a permission slip form from the front pocket of our permission slip binder, held it up and said, "You know, if you sign one of these we're all good."

Mom's eyes lit up at the ingeniousness of my offered solution. She held out her hand for the form even as the daughter dashed away to her computer.


Jan said...

Your liberry seriously needs filtered internet stations.

Ordinary Janet said...

I hate to say it, but computers will be the death of libraries. I have a good friend who works part time in a library and we agree that computers should be in a separate building. I know computers are valuable tools for information but it seems like so few library users actually use them for information (the kind old farts like me think qualifies as "information"-like encyclopedic information.)

Juice S. Aaron said...


We have filtering software. You'd be both amazed what gets past it and apalled at what doesn't.

An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.