Making Sure the Policy Meets Its Purpose

November 29, 2006 at 9:32 am 5 comments

A friend of mine works in a library that is having trouble with a specific group of teens. They were coming in, getting on the computers and causing a ruckus (I love that word) by looking at inappropriate sites, shouting to each other and making the atmosphere uncomfortable for other patrons in general. This went on for about two weeks and showed no signs of slowing down. Obviously, something had to be done. The supervisors decided to take charge of the situation and put forth a policy which they felt would end teen shenanigans once and for all…

Any patrons under 18 must present a school ID or have a library card in order to use a computer.

And the result?

A local private school does not use photo IDs, therefore some of these students cannot use the computers. As with most communities, there is a group of children who are unable to get cards because of their parents accumulating large fines, they are now unable to use the computers. Teens who are “in transition”, have neglecting or abusive parents, homeless, or unable to get their parents signature for whatever are all banned from using the computers in the library as well.

So, does the policy meet its purpose? Even taking the most utilitarian positions on this policy would tell you that a lot more people are negatively affected than helped by its implementation. Ultimately, the result of this policy is simply less teens on the computers and the only way the policy could be considered successful from this is by assuming that all teens are the problem, not just the aforementioned troublemakers.

Speaking of which; if anyone is wondering how the unruly teens are dealing with this policy, not to worry… They all have school IDs and are still having a good time.


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  • 1. Nicki  |  November 30, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    Sounds like a tricky situation! And kids are pretty crafty. I bet KidX with a school ID will check out a temporary card and give it to friend, KidY, who lacks ID… and then KidX will simply use his own library card. Now they are both online!

    As you can see, the current policy does nothing to solve the problem and it only makes it very difficult for a Librarian to turn away a sweet looking kid who just happened to forget his library card but has no ID because his private school a block away does not issue IDs.

  • 2. Liz B  |  November 30, 2006 at 2:44 pm

    Since it’s known that the private school does not use photo ids and a photo id is required, have any alternate ids been allowed that the private school kids do have? Otherwise, it sounds as if the purpose was actually aimed at these students (not wanting the private school kids using public library.). Which is pretty sad.

  • 3. Tyler Rousseau  |  December 1, 2006 at 9:04 am

    It could also be the fallacy of multiplication.

    Some Teens cause problems.
    All Teens have a lot of energy.
    Therefore, cut the number of teens and you cut down the problems.

    It doesn’t make sense but it is commonly used in the fight against teens. People lose focus on the specific individuals and start attacking the group as a whole (by mistakingly applying the individuals traits to the group), and as long as less show up the goal can be seen as acheived.

    btw Liz, how’s that cold? 😉

  • 4. Melissa H.  |  December 4, 2006 at 11:39 am

    This highlights one of my pet peeves: policies that don’t actually address the problem and/or behavior, not the “type” of person currently engaging in the undesirable activity. The policy should be something like “raising a ruckus in the library results in the following reprimand…” (along with a good definition of what “raising a ruckus” entails). Anyone who is violating the policies of the library should be asked to leave the library IMMEDIATELY and if the problem persists from day to the day, the period of “banishment” should be extended. Instead, the library has set up a policy that punishes the innocent and is overlooked by the guilty.

  • 5. Melissa H.  |  December 4, 2006 at 11:41 am

    Oops…typo in my first sentence above. It SHOULD read:
    “This highlights one of my pet peeves: policies that don’t actually address the problem and/or behavior, BUT RATHER FOCUS ON the “type” of person currently engaging in the undesirable activity.”

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