Okay. I think it's official. If I had a dime for every time I hear some variation on "How wonderful the kids are using the library and getting knowledge" I could afford to retire.
It happened again today. We are up to our kiesters in kids (approximately 11 to 15 years old) There are at least fifty of them at any given moment. They are in small groups, talking to each other so loudly we can hear every word and know all about their business. We ask them, politely and repeatedly, to keep their voices down. Until we get tired of listening to ourselves be ignored and start raising our voices--at which point, we become "mean" (often followed by the "B" word).
Those that aren't in the groups are all congregated around the computers shouting at the screen and at each other. Or they are hanging around the desk checking the computer sign up to see how much longer they have to wait.
It's not like they are in here reading, doing homework or using the library as a center of learning. They are eating, cursing, throwing things, hollering and, in the case of the computers, they are in ch at rooms, playing RuneScape, setting up MySpace accounts which must be pretty bad since they congregate to snicker over them. They fight over who gets to go on the computer next.
And what do the people who come in and see this behavior say to us "How wonderful to see so many children using the library! You must have excellent after school programs."
Well, we have tried to have excellent programs, but the kids won't attend them because, God forbid, they might miss their turn on the computer to e-mail the friends they are currently talking to and cursing with. (Or, if there is the off chance they will get food or free goodies, they might come, grab the swag before they were supposed to get it, and leave).
We do suspend kids and we do talk to parents and we have security when security feels like showing up...but mostly it's us against them and eventually we all get so stressed that things deteriorate into shouting matches between us and the kids OR we have to lockdown and throw everyone out, as the Maplewood N.J. library has been doing.
And thru it all, there is, inevitably, some clueless adult who says "Isn't it nice that they're hanging out here and not in the streets?" "Oh, how wonderful they want to be with you."
I used to smile and say yes. Now, we just look at the adult and ask if they'd like to have all these kids in THEIR homes and not get paid for baby sitting. Their smiles falter then.
We do everything we can to engage the kids' interest, but if they aren't going to get free booty or if they will miss a turn on the computer, or if it means following the rules and behaving responsibly, they aren't interested. And heaven forefend they actually pick up a book....
I'm getting rattled right now. I just had to vent. (I have to admit I'm also cranky a bit today since I found out my once a week gig at another, peaceful branch has come to an early end and that was what was standing between me and insanity.)
Thanks for listening. I get to go shut off computers now. YAY!