or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Sex…@ your library

   January 25th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Oversize books corner So, I'm making my rounds just before we close last night, and what do I find? A condom and wrapper. Hooray.

I know it's a fetish of sorts, and I've heard of libraries having trouble with patron fornication. Even another library I worked in had incidents (before I was there). But this is the first time I've come face to face with it, so to speak.

I talked to some of the other staff about it today, and we all agreed that yes, the place where the condom was found is a very secluded, blind corner, and yes, we need to address this. One of the other librarians asked if I could show her exactly where I found it, and when I took her back there - guess what we found? Another condom.

Luckily, thankfully, although both were opened, neither were used (although we didn't look too close). It could possibly be just kids getting excited about playing with something taboo, even if they're not using them for their intended purpose.

But it's pretty clear this is completely inappropriate library behavior, and so we're looking into how to stop it. Here's what we've come up with so far:

  1. Put up a security camera (which is costly, and would also have to be monitored to be effective)
  2. Put up a fake security camera (and hope the presence of it is intimidating enough)
  3. Make desk staff get up at least every thirty minutes and "patrol" (which is something we should really be doing anyway)
  4. Redesign the layout of the stacks in this area, to improve sightlines (which actually isn't feasible, considering all our shelving is bolted into the concrete floor, and aligned with the ceiling lighting)
  5. Remove the shelves from this area that make it so secluded (although, my first thought on that is that this would just give more space down there for who knows what)
  6. Wall off this corner entirely, and make it into a storage closet

I think the final solution will be a combination of a few of these. Definitely #3, probably #5, and maybe either #1 or #6. Sigh. Never a dull moment.

(And don't even get me started on oversize books in general - they seem to be problematic in every public library)

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