Jan 04 2007
On Jan 2nd The New York Times reported on the difficulties faced by public libraries faced with "rowdy students" with nowhere else to go after school. This has led Maplewood Memorial Library, in Essex County, New Jersey, to close its doors on weekdays between 2.45 and 5 pm until further notice. Maplewood is a comfortable suburb mentioned as one of the "Best Places to Live" by Money magazine in 2002, but librarians complain that students, mainly middle-schoolers, fight, urinate on the bathroom floor, scrawl graffiti on the walls and talk back when asked to leave - causing the librarians to regularly call the police for support.
This is a very frustrating situation for all concerned, not least for the librarians themselves who strive to attract young people to libraries. For example, before taking this drastic step the Maplewood librarians had worked hard to engage students via a gallery space for young people's artwork, an anime film festival* and a Teen Advisory Group; the library also came up with clear behavior guidelines prohibiting activities like "hairdressing or grooming of another person" and "refusal to leave the building." (anime is a style of animation developed in Japan, characterized by stylized colorful art and often adult themes).
Other libraries have also taken action: A library in Wickliffe, Ohio, banned children under 14 during after-school hours unless they were accompanied by adults. An Illinois library adopted a "three strikes, youre out" rule, suspending library privileges for repeat offenders; and many libraries are adding security guards specifically for the after-school hours.
Librarians and other experts say the growing conflicts are the result of an increase in the number of latchkey children, a decrease in civility among young people and a dearth of "third places" neither home nor school where kids can be kids
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