I was talking to a couple of children's librarian friends in the airport on the way home from ALA the other day. We were discussing some of the challenges we face with our public and how much things have changed in the past thirty years that we have worked with kids and families.
We come from various sized libraries but there was a common theme running through our conversation. People of all ages are increasingly unable to accept limits on their poor behaviors in the library. Back in the day, if you set a policy or limit, most folks accepted it. But somewhere, somehow, somewhen, some people of all ages, all socioeconomic backgrounds and all - well, all! - simply don't think they need to accept there are limits to behaviors out in public and in a public building.
This pervasive "You're-Not-the-Boss-of-Me" attitude is our challenge each day at work. We want everyone to love coming to the library and we want to love helping them. We expect alot of free-ranging action and hubbub- we work with kids after all. But when things start to go bad and patrons are asked to calm down; supervise their children; stop running/climbing/swinging/cheese-doodling on the keyboards - well, you get the gist- the reaction is outrage that someone would attempt to limit their actions.
Some staffers handle this reaction with fear and back down. After all, we are supposed to be endlessly friendly. But in doing so I think those staffers lose control of the space and cede their authority to the kids/adults exhibiting poor behaviors. Other staffers calmly assert their authority to maintain a space friendly and welcoming for all users. Limits are set, perimeters established and expectations calmly conveyed.
Hard to do? You bet. But we do have a responsibility to create a space that all users feel they can use. As the librarian or library worker at the desk or responsible for the department, we help to set the tone for the children's area. We are the boss -not bossy - or at least the manager who manages the space. So here comes my mantra: be brave, don't fear. You can do it!
Image: '018_18' http://www.flickr.com/photos/94976401@N00/362852690