The police came to the library today.
After what I posted yesterday, I just want to say that 99% of the people who come to our library are great people, or at least very normal people, and I don’t mind at all helping them if they need it because that is my job and that’s what I love about it. It’s just that other 1% that can really bug you unless you just brush it off as people who are a tad bit extreme in their behavior. Even the knitting lady, though I don’t think we will be best friends any time soon, is a very nice person. She comes to the library a lot, and she usually brings her two girls and stays with them, which is more than I can say for a lot of parents who are not so involved with their kids’ whereabouts and what they are doing. I am so in awe and respectful of the handful of moms and dads who even stay with their teens in the teen section, where unruliness can and does happen sometimes.
Lots of parents just drop their kids off at the front door and leave. I’ve had to stay after hours with kids whose parents weren’t here yet to pick them up on days when it was too cold for them to walk home or to wait outside. I even gave a middle schooler a ride home one night, which probably wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had, but I just felt sorry for him.
If I were faced with that situation again, a child here after hours with nobody to come get him, I would call the police and let them give him a ride home. The police in this town are great…they know the problems we have as a public library and are more than willing to help when we need them, which isn’t often, but it happened today.
James, who is our circ clerk and mans the desk all day on Saturday, noticed a man using the internet who was bundled up to the nose in his winter coat and scarf. He had a baseball cap on, and a stocking cap under that, so all you could see of him were his eyes. James looked at him, then looked at what he was doing on the computer (which is a librarian no-no, but that’s another post.) James was very disturbed and distressed, to say the least.
I was at lunch at the time. so James told the other library assistant, Crosby, what he had seen. Crosby was sensitive to James’ distress, so he approached the man to ask that he not look at that because there had been a complaint. The man complied without a fuss. The story did not end there, because James, being new to the whole library scene, could not get it out of his mind. He remained so agitated that he said he felt like slugging the guy, which is so out of character for easy-going James that it started to distress me, too.
Crosby told James that if it would make him feel better, he could call the police and have them come and monitor the situation. Crosby would not have done that himself, nor would I, but Crosby suggested it just so that James would calm down. The police showed up right away, two of them, and to make a long story short, were very interested in the man. They had received other complaints about him, and decided to see if he had a record. He did, for assault and weapons violations. They frisked him, detained him to talk for a half hour, then sent him on his way.
Even so, with people like James on the job, the library has to be one of the safest places I can think of to be. This kind of incident has only happened to me once in the ten years I have worked here, and that was today. The man was not doing anything illegal, just distasteful, and since he was using a public library where children could walk by and see what he was doing, Crosby approached him about it. He is a little worried that Marilyn, the director, won’t be so appreciative of what happened, because the ALA advocates strongly for privacy in a library setting. I’m sure we’ll all talk about it this week.
The police were appreciative that James had called them. They wrote up a report and added it to the file they have on this man, so that perhaps if he does end up breaking the law at some point, they have information they can use.
Every workplace, especially those venues that cater to the public, like libraries and shopping malls, will have rare days when circumstances seem uncontrollable. If your kids need books, come to the library with them, like the knitting lady. Sit on a chair and read picture books to them. Show them where to find books about dinosaurs, or play games with them on the computer. Teach them that the library is not the place to play tag in the stacks or see how many kids can sit in the same chair before it breaks.
They will grow up and leave you someday. Maybe they will join the Marines and leave home as soon as they graduate from high school, and you will count yourself blessed if they make it home for Christmas. Make every minute count while you have the chance.