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Maine Libraries Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 31 Aug 2022 16:27:04 -0400
James Rathbun <[log in to unmask]>
James Rathbun <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain; charset="UTF-8"
To: Jason Fenimore <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (340 lines)
Oh, I know. But there's a semicolon. :)

I just take mild, eye-rolling offense to instruction like that. It's a
library, right? I know my kid can't run around screaming. Until they do and
I sit there with my feet propped up letting it happen, I really don't need
to be told this. Stuff like this, and codes of conduct in general, just rub
me the wrong way. Do I need to know that 9 is the age at which my child can
be unattended? Yes. Do I need to be told to make sure they behave like a
human before they've behaved otherwise? I don't think I do.

And again, just because I didn't restate this in my initial post, none of
this is meant as a shot at Carrabassett or Andrea in any way whatsoever.
This all just struck me as a particularly good example of things I would
never put in a policy and her initial question, of how in the world do I
have this conversation I don't want to have, drew attention to why this
kind of stuff shouldn't be in a document you're obligated to enforce.


On Wed, Aug 31, 2022 at 4:13 PM Jason Fenimore <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Regarding,
> * "Enjoy the library with your child; please remind them to use inside
> voices and walking feet. Children 9 and under must be with an adult or
> caregiver 14 years of age or older"
> James,
> I think you're looking at that with tired eyes.
> It's not saying you are welcome to enjoy the library with your child
> Period.
> It is just easing into the conversation the idea that if you are a parent
> with
> little ones please teach them the ways of the library.
> Sometimes this does have to be written out.
> Jason Fenimore
> Reference Librarian
> Louis B. Goodall Memorial Library
> 952 Main St.
> Sanford, ME  04073
> On 8/31/2022 3:17 PM, James Rathbun wrote:
> > I feel like a kid in a candy store. I've been asked to post a private
> rant
> > to the list! Andrea was kind enough to send me a copy of their Customer
> > Behavior Policy which, with the phrasing of that title alone, was going
> to
> > elicit some opinions. I told her what I thought about it and she thought
> > everyone else might like to hear it, too! I had previously held back out
> of
> > fear that my old reputation as a man who rants wildly on a public
> listserv
> > would precede me but here we are.
> >
> > I'm paraphrasing from a full conversation but this will nevertheless be
> > long. It also starts a number of sentences with the word "And" while
> > simultaneously waffling back and forth between using they, you, we, and
> I.
> > I'm aware of this. I just didn't feel like fixing it.
> >
> > Hopefully it's worth a read. Some of what I say below feels like I'm
> coming
> > out swinging but this was entirely meant, and received, as friendly,
> > constructive criticism. I fully understand many of you may have similar
> > policies and I don't want to presume to tell you what you should or
> > shouldn't do at your library. This is just the way I see it. Also, all of
> > this presupposes that you're in a public library where patrons have more
> > rights than they might in a more private space.
> >
> > To begin, the policy in question:
> >
> > =====================
> > Carrabassett Valley Public Library
> > Customer Behavior Policy
> >
> > We at the Carrabassett Valley Public Library value our customers and
> strive
> > to treat them with courtesy and respect.  We hope you find the library a
> > comfortable and welcoming place. Please be considerate of the rights of
> > others as you use this community facility.
> >
> > You are welcome to…
> > * Speak in low conversational tones; you may use cell phones for calls in
> > the lobby or Begin Room.
> > * Use our materials gently. Take them home to enjoy by registering as a
> > library member.
> > * Consume drinks. Beverages must be covered; snacks can be enjoyed in the
> > lobby.
> > * Text using a cell phone, but please silence your devices or set to
> > vibrate.
> > * Use library computers following the Internet Use Policy.
> > * Ask the library staff if you have any questions or need any assistance.
> > * Enjoy the library with your child; please remind them to use inside
> > voices and walking feet. Children 9 and under must be with an adult or
> > caregiver 14 years of age or older.
> >
> > The Carrabassett Valley Public Library Board of Directors has established
> > Rules of Conduct so that library users and staff have a clean, pleasant
> and
> > safe environment. We need your cooperation to reach this goal.
> >
> > While in the library, or on library property, the following is
> prohibited:
> > * Engaging in any activity prohibited by law.
> > * Carrying firearms and/or dangerous weapons of any type (except by law
> > enforcement officers).
> > * Disruptive or unsafe behavior including any conduct that interferes
> with
> > the use of the library by others or with the functioning of the library
> > staff.
> > * Possess, sell, distribute, consume tobacco or vaping products, or be
> > under the influence of or any alcoholic beverage, marijuana or controlled
> > substance of any kind.
> > * Use of loud, abusive, threatening or insulting language.
> > * Use of obscene or pornographic Internet sites.
> > * Sexual harassment or misconduct.
> > * Activities that may result in damage to library property.
> > * Sleeping, smoking and offensive odors such as perfume, bodily
> hygiene,etc.
> > * Inappropriate clothing (e.g. absence of shirt or shoes)
> > * Animals, except for service animals.
> > * Petitioning, soliciting or selling merchandise.
> >
> > The Carrabassett Valley Public Library reserves the right to prohibit
> > persons who do not abide by the library’s expectations from using its
> > facilities and premises. Library personnel may ask persons who are
> > exhibiting inappropriate behavior to modify their behavior. Noncompliance
> > may result in the individual being banned from the library premises or in
> > arrest and prosecution.
> > =====================
> >
> > So, there's a lot of standard stuff in there; no porn, no weapons, no
> > abusive or illegal activity, no selling merch. There's also a lot of
> > language that, in my mind, is tough to enforce and impossible to defend
> if
> > someone pushed back when you did enforce it. And there's a lot of NOs to
> be
> > hit with as soon as you get your card, right? Along with some
> questionable
> > YESs. Like "You are welcome to... enjoy the library with your child."
> That
> > got a sarcastic, "Oh, can I really? How kind!" I know where they're going
> > with it but, also, of course I can enjoy the library with my child. I
> don't
> > think that needs to be said. To say it feels somehow condescending.
> >
> > We don't have anything resembling a Code of Conduct policy at my library
> > but we used to have a ton of signage like this and I've done my best to
> > eliminate it. It's just an unwelcoming place to start from, I think. In
> my
> > mind, if you've crossed a line I'll tell you as much and if it really
> > crosses the line, I'll call the cops and they can tell you for me. I've
> > never felt that having a document to point at will help that conversation
> > any. Our lack of one has never once caused us any trouble.
> >
> > Most of the prohibited stuff in the above policy goes without saying. You
> > don't need to tell someone they can't do anything illegal, right? That
> > truly does go without saying. And am I really not allowed to damage
> library
> > property? Who knew?! To say these things implies that you think it needs
> to
> > be said, that your patrons will definitely do something illegal or
> > purposefully destructive unless you tell them not to. Who wants to be
> > treated like that? Our card agreement says you'll have to pay for
> anything
> > you lose or destroy and your account will be frozen until you do so, just
> > so you know what the consequences of your actions will be. It doesn't say
> > tsk, tsk, you shouldn't do that in the first place. They know this
> already.
> >
> > The vast majority of that section just feels like, why are you even
> stating
> > this? Did you have people who didn't realize they couldn't deal drugs
> while
> > brandishing weapons, sexually harrassing folks and screaming curse words
> at
> > the top of their lungs in the library? And once they read this policy,
> > you're telling me that behavior changed? I think you're way better served
> > by stopping at the start, saying:
> > "We at the Carrabassett Valley Public Library value our customers and
> > strive to treat them with courtesy and respect.  We hope you find the
> > library a comfortable and welcoming place. Please be considerate of the
> > rights of others as you use this community facility."
> > I mean, that covers it all, right? I feel welcome. And then if you don't
> > want them drinking soda while using the computers, fair enough. Put that
> on
> > a sign in the computer section or in your rules of use for the computers
> or
> > whatever. Just cover it where it needs to be covered and that way you'll
> > only cover what needs to be covered.
> >
> > We do have a Child Safety policy, multiple Internet Use and Safety
> > policies, and an Animal policy, all of which is covered in Andrea's
> > document but somehow feels better separated out from a Code of Conduct
> into
> > individual, specific policies. If I'm at the library to use the internet,
> > it would be helpful to know what I can and can't do. If I'm there to pick
> > up a book, do I need to first be told that I can't view online
> pornography
> > or engage in illegal downloads? I don't feel like I do.
> >
> > To call attention to a few particularly problematic lines... being "under
> > the influence" is prohibited. Now, if they're behaving poorly or engaging
> > in illegal activity, well, that's already covered with no abusive,
> > disruptive, or illegal activity, right? And, as I said before, even that
> > goes without saying. Otherwise, who is determining whether or not a
> patron
> > is under the influence and how are they making that determination? Is
> there
> > a breathalyzer at the door? Are you urine testing? If I can smell alcohol
> > on a patron's breath but they're acting normally and not causing any
> > problems, what have they done wrong and in what way is it my business? It
> > is legal to drink alcohol off my premises, after all, and simply because
> I
> > can smell it doesn't mean they've had too much. However, they are by
> > definition under the influence. I just feel like that's such a dangerous
> > conversation to have with someone. I can't imagine asking a patron
> whether
> > or not they were under the influence, let alone telling them they'd have
> to
> > leave because I decided they were, based on no objective information
> > whatsoever. If they're behaving badly they're behaving badly. The reasons
> > for that bad behavior aren't particularly relevant. That's something that
> > should only come into play if they're causing so much trouble the police
> > show up and at that point, it's for the police to test them appropriately
> > and decide what the best course of action is.
> >
> > Ditto the bodily hygiene, perfume, etc. part of this. I'm going to
> > disregard how that line in its entirety lumps enough unrelated things
> > together so as to say "no homeless people". We can all see that. Moving
> on
> > to the smell thing in particular, I don't know this patron of theirs but
> if
> > I were ever asked to leave a public building because someone didn't like
> > how I smelled, I would absolutely make that place wish they hadn't. It's
> > too arbitrary. "What smell is it that offends your delicate
> sensibilities?
> > Is it my deodorant or my body odor? Is it the residual shampoo in my
> > freshly washed hair or the smell of my wood stove that you don't like? Is
> > it my breath? It's my breath, isn't it. I did just eat an egg salad
> > sandwich. But that said, at what point is my smell offensive? Since when
> is
> > it not my right to smell how I smell?" It's just not a conversation I
> would
> > ever consider having with someone and that's not because we've never had
> a
> > regular patron who smelled, strongly, of any number of unpleasant things.
> > There's no law that says you have to bathe with such frequency that you
> > pass some kind of sniff test.
> > (Full disclosure, I'm speaking from what could be viewed as a
> hypocritical
> > space. We do have a small sign on our window and at the main desk stating
> > that we are a "Fragrance Free Library" and encouraging patrons not to
> wear
> > strong fragrances. This is something I was encouraged to post by HR years
> > ago due to some issues best kept confidential. It is not, in my opinion,
> in
> > any way enforceable, nor is it policy, nor would I ever consider
> enforcing
> > it, nor do I particularly want to continue to keep those signs up. They
> are
> > a bit of a sore point I have yet to reexamine but no one at my library
> will
> > ever be confronted about how they smell, regardless of what that signage
> > implies.)
> >
> > Loud, abusive, threatening and insulting language. Okay, but insulting?
> > Insulting to whom? I asked my Deputy Director if she'd be insulted if I
> > called her "maam". She would. But would we kick someone out for it? We
> > would not. ;)
> >
> > Finally, inappropriate clothing? That's incredibly vague. I think you can
> > say no shirt, no shoes, no service. Can you say inappropriate? By whose
> > standard? Is it okay to show my ankles? My knee? Must I cover my head? Is
> > it my rainbow button that offends? My Blue Lives Matter hat? I mean, how
> > many times have you seen an article about exactly this sort of thing
> > happening on an airplane? It never ends well for the airline and they're
> > not even a public space. I have no desire to find myself or my library
> > being dragged on Twitter.
> >
> > Carrabassett has another policy, Library Rules, on their website. I
> didn't
> > have any problems with that except that they feel a little old-school
> > confrontational, a little too much bold print. It's a document that
> manages
> > to scream "be quiet" but was much more like what I'd expect. It sets up
> the
> > "librarians will shush you at every turn" sort of atmosphere but that's
> > fine if that's what you're going for. We just don't do that at my
> library.
> >
> > All of this was meant to say, I wouldn't want a policy like this and if I
> > had one I would do my best to ignore it, both because I fundamentally
> don't
> > agree with it and because I think enforcing it could cause far more
> serious
> > problems than it would solve. However, it's not to pass judgement or say
> > any of us have full control over our policies. If my Board ever proposed
> > such a thing, I would say what I said above. I've done so before and I
> > think it's the kind of thing we shouldn't shy away from doing. You don't
> > want to get into a shouting match or be any more unpleasant than I've
> been
> > here but telling the higher-ups why something is a bad idea has, in my
> > experience, always been a constructive conversation that churned out a
> > better policy.
> >
> > James
> >

James Rathbun
Library Director
Baxter Memorial Library
Town of Gorham
71 South Street
Gorham, ME 04038

Telephone (207) 222-1190
FAX (207) 839-7749

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