Wednesday, September 21, 2005

When is it OK to ban someone from the library?

Whew, this is hard.

Deep in my heart I believe that library service should be provided for all. At the same time, how do you make other people behave and take responsibility for their actions?

Today I did one of the hardest things I am called upon to do. I banned someone from the Library.

This young man has been an Internet regular for quite some time. A few weeks ago his behavior started to change. He began "chatting up" some of the staff. [Ironically this has been a thread on NEXTGENLIB-L for about the past week.] He was told to stop doing this. He then started asking very personal questions of staff (women staff), and did not stop doing so after several requests. He has also been following one of the other regular Internet users (a young woman).

Today, I talked with him and banned him from using the main library building for 3 months (until December 21). With me, he was acquiescent. I tried to get an address so that I could send him a letter to outline specifics and his right of appeal to the Library Board, but he refused that. I am glad that the police officer, whom we had called, was present. Now, even though he is banned from one building, we have three other branches open, and he can go there.

Where do you draw the line? Part of my responsibility as an employer is to provide a safe workplace for the staff. That is the line which this person crossed. In my career I have only "fired" three people. Once was many years ago, someone who was nearing the end of probation and was not meeting the standard of performance. The other two were in the last couple of years, and both were because the staff members fired (one a man, one a woman) were sexually harassing fellow staff members.

This spring, I encouraged then drove a staff member to the police station to swear out a complaint against a patron who was harassing her. It put an end to that ugly situation. And he was banned from using that branch.

So...grump. And this was after we had a false fire alarm in the building this morning, just before we should have opened to the public. Ugh


  1. Oh dear. Well you do what you have to do.

  2. You're a lot more accepting than where I work. We've got a list of folks who are banned indefinitely for various reasons: repeated intoxication; harrassing staff; theft; folks who have medical issues that make their presence a health problem to patrons or other staff; and so on. We give out one day bans several times a week (mostly younger patrons who are asked repeatedly to modify their behavior and/or noise level); repeat offenders get a month. There's a library across town that doesn't have or need security, and seldom has problems with patron behavior like we do. Location, location, location!