Myths of the Underemployed Librarian #5: You have no authority

I used to think this was true – that because I was PT, I had no real authority to listen to complaints, discipline, or kick kids out.  That is, until I started working at Redondo.  I know that at many library systems, even lowly FT Librarian Is don’t have authority, and that you’re supposed to pass everything onto your supervisor, but sometimes, that’s not what the patron will take and you just have to deal with the issue yourself.  Unless, of course, this goes against policy, then by all means I’ll pass the problem off to someone else…

So here’s what happened last week.  Remember my post about not wanting to be a YA librarian?  And remember that horrible library I used to work at that was scary and violent, Woodcrest?  Well, everything came to fruition last Tuesday.  Now, you have to understand something about RBPL.  It is directly across the street from a HS and it is strict on its rules.  The rules in question in this scenario: you can only have 4 people at a table, no exceptions, and if you are in the adult area, you need to BE QUIET.  your typical shushing kind of library with low tolerance for not listening.

Now, I’m going to give the short story to this ordeal because when I tell it it can get kinda lengthy.  There were 6 (noisy) kids at a table, i told them that 2 needed to move.  They started mouthing off, but 2 moved.  I walked by 10 min later, and there were 6 kids again.  I told them by the time I came back there better be only 4.  I came back and the extra 2 ran for the hills.  The remaining 4, thinking they were geniuses, started making faces at me and mouthing off.  I told them this was their final warning for too many people at the table and for being loud.  They felt I was being unreasonable.  10 min later, I am aware of some noise, so I turn around and what do I see? 6 people at the damn table.  So I mosey over and tell them that unfortunately they have run out of chances and weren’t listening so its time for them to leave the library for the day.  They proceed to accuse me of racism and take their sweet time walking out.  As I’m following them at a safe distance, one girl starts egging me on to touch her to get her to leave – aka push her out the door.  I inform her that there is no way I will lay hands on her and I cannot forcibly remove her but if she doesn’t leave, I can call the police and they can do so.  They balk at this and leave (slower than a snail).

Whew! I think.  That shit was irritating, but at least its over.  Or so I thought.  20 min later, their mother comes barreling into the library, shouting, where is she?!  then calls me out!  asks me to step outside with her.  I wasn’t born yesterday, folks.  I did live behind Gardena HS for a number of years.  I know what it means when someone asks you to step outside.  I convince her to walk to the circ area, where there are witnesses and people who can call for backup.  When we get there, she starts going nuts.  Yelling at me, accusing me of harrassing her children because I’m not having a good day, saying there’s no policy to back up my actions, telling me that her children recorded the incident on their phones and have posted it to FB (I’ve tried looking for the video on youtube, but no luck.  And I don’t know the kids names so I can’t look there — which I’m pretty sure would not be a good move anyways), and on and on and on.

While she’s yelling at me, she is pointing her finger in my face and approoaching me.  At one point our faces were about 4 inches apart, which is when I went oh f*** (like the storybooK!) in my head and started backing up.  I wasn’t gonna get busted for physical harrassment as well as verbal!  So, luckily, a clerk came to my aid and ushered us into an office (which, since I’m new, I dunno if I can go in there…), and told me she called the librarian in charge.  The librarian in charge came down and tried reasoning with her, but she refused to talk to him since the situation was between me and her and he had nothing to do with it.  She told him that this was a public library and you can’t kick out minors, etc. etc. and that if we don’t want people visiting, we should privatize the library.  Finally, he got her to let me speak (for about 2 sentances) and then our library director came in.  The director told them that recording is prohibited in the library (apparently the kids were filming this altercation for posterity as well), which set the kids and the mother off on our fearless director.

After another 5 min of yelling, the director got her to let me say about 2 more sentances before the woman started physically approaching me again.  The director backed me up (which was a shocker that NEVER happened at Woodcrest), saying that I was well within my rights to ask them to leave due to their behavior, and she was now asking them all to leave due to their current behavior.

I was shocked! and awed! and happy! and scared shitless. lol.  A manager backing me up?  Telling the patron that maybe I was right?  I loved it!  My leg stopped shaking.  The whole time i kept a calm demeanor, with my hands clasped near my chest where everyone could see them, but i couldn’t control my left leg – it was shaking uncontrollably our of fear, stress, who knows.

But let me tell you that it was wonderful hearing someone back me up in a stressful and scary situation.  Had this happened to me a year ago, I might’ve gone into the admin area and cried after it was all over.  I probably would’ve gotten hot ears and my face turned red, revealing my emotions, but I kept it under wraps.  Overall, aside from being irritating since I had to fill out an incident report, I was calm and collected, albeit a little worked up.  But having that support – especially as a part-timer was gratifying and wonderful – and helpful in knowing what kind of support I have in dealing with future teen issues, which have been on the rise in our library – and all the librarians wonder to what extent are they allowed to take control of the situation.

Now we know.  We’re treated like fairly functioning adults.  Will wonders never cease.

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One thought on “Myths of the Underemployed Librarian #5: You have no authority

  1. You rock! I am sorry you have never worked in an environment where you would be backed up for a situation such as this. That speaks volumes about the other position you had. Kudos to you for keeping your wits about you and it would have totally been ok to cry after – sometimes you gotta let out all that energy. Doesn’t mean you are weak or “hysterical.” So proud of you and the other employees who got involved. Shame on that mom for being such a great example of how not to behave in public. geeez.

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