I was just going to add this to my "No, It's Not So Wonderful To Have All These Kids In Here" post, but figured it would get lost.
Today something I have long feared would happen happened. This is really long and venty and I am SO glad I am not my boss.
Some background: our itty bitty branch library is across the street from the elementary school.
Almost all the youth programs in our area have been cut (inspite of the fact that we keep reading how so much money has been poured into our city from the state for just such programs--we have our guesses about where the money is going, but no one wants to say so out loud) and so--we are pretty much it, save for two drastically reduced programs at the local community center and at a local celebrity's "youth center."
My boss has both an accent and a speech impediment and the kids love to get her riled up so they can imitate her when she gets mad, which is often.
Our library is of the store front variety and has four glass front doors--only one allows people to come IN from the outside. The other three are kept locked from the outside, but for fire purposes can be used as a quick escape. Kids who have been suspended get their buddies to push the doors open so they can sneak in when our backs are turned. The general notion seems to be that, since boss and I are white, we are so stupid we cannot tell one african american child from another. ( Sometimes this is sort of true: by three thirty on a half a school day, all 11-14 year old boys wearing grey hoodies over over sized jeans and the same sullen expressions on their faces look alike, whether they are white, black, hispanic, asian or martian. And I'm not kidding when I say that. ) Two of the doors are in the center and two are at the extreme left and right of the front wall.
OUr cars sit in the parking lot below a concrete walkway which sports a railing.
I think that covers everything. Oh! Seating is such that we have only seats for about 30 people and at any time we have from 40 to 50 or more. We've removed some of the seating near the computers to discourage congregating. Unfortunately, the older kids have now taken over the area meant for small children and hide there. It's all one room, but some of the book shelves create more privacy than should be had.
It was a half school day in our little neck of the woods. Because we are low on staff (one support staff member is out on maternity leave, my boss was at a morning meeting and that would have left just two of us on desk to deal with 30 to 60 kids around 1 p.m.) we shut down for lunch at one p.m. and put up a sign that we would re open at two p.m.
This stirred up a lot of discontent among the masses who gathered outside the front door and let us know their discontent loudly and with adjectives their mother's would not want to hear them say. (But most likely say a lot themselves.) Boss had returned from her meeting and let them in. There was a mad dash of approximately 15 kids for the computer sign up sheet, lots of cursing, calling each other "stupid" and "b***h" and so forth. (These kids not only have no respoect for us, they have none for each other, either. They try to get each other in trouble for fun. It's really sick.)
To make a long story short, three boys who have been suspended until June sneaked in. Our part-timers saw them but wouldn't say anything because "it's not their job." (I know it's only minimum wage, guys, but it IS part of your job.)
In no short order:
1) Boss caught up with two of them and told them to leave and of course, they wouldn't. Boss said she was calling their parents. (Calling the police does no good because the kids know the police won't show up for at least an hour so they play it out until the last minute.)
2) Then boss saw the third kid and told him to leave as well. They all started imitating her accent. Support staff said nothing. (This is the crew that always says stuff like "There was a way to do that and she did it wrong." But they never will say what they think the right way is.) I am obliged to help boss round up the miscreants.
3) There was a lot of screaming and shouting and finally Male Support Staff (hereafter known as Boy) gets off his duff and helps me shepard a bunch of the misbehavers out the door.
4) And at this point boss made what I consider to be a huge tactical error. She tried to get the other kids to tattle on the trouble makers. All this does is get the kids on the side of the trouble makers--even if they are mad at them. They treat it like a day at a sports event. So they are a great audience for the trouble makers.
5) Boss's second error: she decided on a lockdown and decided to throw everyone--adults as well as kids as well as serious students--out. On the one had, I don't blame her. Things were so crazy youcouldn't tell who was a problem and who was not.
6) Bad Kids started cussing, claiming we don't like them because we're white, overturned two revolving book shelves and threw magazines and books around. We managed to get them out and the door locked, but....
7) Boss had called administration and said the kids were trashing the library (at this juncture they weren't, really...according to Queen--who thinks she could run the place better--they started turning book cases over when they heard Boss say they were trashing the place). Boy and I managed to get them out the front and locked the doors. But...
They had set the other doors ajar. As soon as we locked the front door, they went to the far left door, came back in and swept two shelves of books to the floor, trashed the encyclopedias, overturned desks and chairs. We pushed them out that door and locked it and....
9) They came back int thru the right doors, tipped over a display case and broke it, swept DVD cases from the shelves and threw magazines around before we got them out that door.
10) The biggest trouble maker (who doesn't come up to my shoulder) climbed onto the railing of the concrete platform and, with the encouragement of his buddies, leapt big feet first on to the hood of boss's car, leaving two prints behind. (A few weeks ago he tried to attack boss in parking lot, but she laid on the horn of her car and scared him off.)
Honestly, I can't even tell you how many kids were involved: it didn't look like individual children. It resembled a beast with several heads, arms and legs, most of it in faux army fatigues.
Boss was shaking and nearly in tears. (First time I've seen her like that.) She called the police (again) and the Library Director. We were not allowed to move anything so that the director could see the mess.
Director arrived with someone who is in charge of city security. He thought it was funny as did his companion. He kept interupting boss every time she tried to explain what happened. Director kept telling his to let Boss finish.
The upshot is, although tomorrow is our day off, we may also be closed the whole weekend unless there is a security officer on duty. Security Guy (or whatever he is) kept saying it was a bad idea to shut the library down because it would send a bad message to the community. Director said to him she didn't want to send a bad message, but it was about time the community got its act together and started doing something about their children.
MEANWHILE, Queen and Boy are kind of telling Security Guy out of earshot that most of the problem is Boss and if Boss would stop picking on the kids, they'd stop picking on her. I sat there staring straight ahead and wishing all the vandalism had happened AFTER I was scheduled to leave. (I was supposed to get a couple hours off because I did some lengthy outreach programs on my own time this week.)
The upshot--if it can be called so--is that, we will open only if there is an officer on duty for the whole day. If not, we will work at other branches or we have the option of taking a sick day. (I have 115 sick days saved up...guess which option I will take?) Boss is so shook up she doesn't want to return.
Director asked Boss to take some time off. Boss pointed out that she is taking two weeks off this month but "Don't you dare leave Lily here alone. They will crucify her, too."
Provisions are being made. The sad thing is: when Boss isn't here, we have some discipline problems, but nothing like we have when she is here. Part of it is that she can never leave well enough alone. Sometimes I think she thinks she's heading off trouble before it starts...instead, she's creating new problems. The thing that the kids don't realize, though, is that she is a very warm, generous lady despite her clunky and insensitive exterior. Over the last several years she has tried to get many programs started for them--which they trashed or blew off. She's been to the schools and the community groups to get support to help the kids and got lots of empty promises and inaction. She's the first person to give money if someone needs help and she used to give a lot of the kids (whose parents locked them out of the house) money to go buy lunch. She coordinates with the few remaining camp groups in the summer and knocks herself out trying to find programs to interest the kids without blowing our miniscule budget. In return for this she is mocked and disrespected and she's had it and while I don't like how she handles the situation, I can't say that I would be handling it any better myself. Indeed, were I in her shoes, I would be writing this from behind bars as I would have picked up the baseball bat we keep for emergencies and had some batting practice.
What is really needed here, I think, is a very strong male presence. It's been said (by many of the community leaders) that the librarians really sould reflect the community and by that they mean, we should look like them. Sorry. Time and again an effort has been made to hire a black librarian to oversee this branch...and when the candidate sees the place they immediately turn down the job.
We know that the behavior has nothing to do with race, color or national origin. We understand that it's an economic thing and a parenting issue to some extent. What do you do when you call a parent to come and get her unruly 13 year old son and she says "Call the police and have him arrested, it'll do him some good"? In my mind this is lousy parenting. And the police aren't going to come and arrest her son 24/7 just because she doesn't want to leave her house.
I'm sorry this is so long and whiney. The cat isn't here to stop me tonight. (A whole 'nother story there.) I needed to let off some steam about all the sides. It seems like the director is trying to take us seriously, but the man who can help us thinks it's a big joke and some of the staff is severely sabatoging boss's credibility and refusing to back h er up.
I don't even know whose side I'm on anymore, other than my side.
Thanks for listening. And say a prayer for my boss. I was really afraid she was going to pop a blood vessel and stroke out today.
Lily "So Glad I Don't Have Kids" Such