If you are in an area that is lucky enough to have a library, think back to the days you spent there as a child. Instead of maxing out credit cards, you were maxing out your library card. Browsing the same picture book section repeatedly every week in the hopes that they would have something that you hadn’t yet read. Making friends with other children, and often even befriending the librarians. Never getting late fees because you moved to the next stack of books so quickly, or always getting late fees because you found yourself reading the same story over and over because it was just that good.
Flash forward a few years, and you’re reading more grown up stories. Getting lost in chocolate factories, having sleepover clubs, and getting into mischief with Mary Kate and Ashley, all within the confines of that one building. Heck, maybe your parents even dropped you off for a few hours like mine occasionally did, and let me tell you, those few hours are one of the childhood memories that I remember most fondly.
Unfortunately despite my continued love of reading, libraries became somewhere I spent less and less time the more I got older. Perhaps it was due to education obligations or maybe it was even because my so called friends didn’t think it was a cool place to hang out. All I know is that I stopped going altogether.
Throughout my late teens I tried to recapture that feeling I used to have, except after my mental health took it’s toll, things started to look a bit differently to me. If there was someone else in the YA section, I’d go and pretend to look at a different genre that I wasn’t remotely interested in, in the hopes that they’d leave soon as my anxiety would be going through the roof. Or, there’d be the days that a big group of teenagers would decide to hang out in the library to mess around, despite not having a remote interest in it’s contents whatsoever. Instead of spending hours in there, I’d return my books, pick a couple of new ones out and promptly leave.
I know now that I’m not cut out for libraries. I struggle with OCD, and in all honestly because of that, reading a book that lots of people have already read, makes me feel really weird. Moving onto what this post is actually about however..the previously mentioned groups of disrespectful teenagers.
A couple of nights ago, my boyfriend and I were looking for ways to kill time before we needed to catch our bus. We walked past the library and even if I don’t use them, the appeal of seeing lots of books in one place is just too much so we headed in. Just beforehand though, a group of around six teenagers were on their way out. One had a cigarette that was ALREADY LIT hanging out of his mouth.
I didn’t think anything of it other than my anxiety telling me to quickly walk past and get into the comforting atmosphere of the library. It was almost closing time by this point so the librarians were just hanging about and talking. I was picking up on their conversation every so often but was too busy looking at all the recently added YA titles. However, when I heard them talking about the teenagers that had just walked out, I immediately started paying attention. They were shaken up, and I mean heavily shaken up. To the extent that one of them was trying to persuade her husband to come and pick her up because she was too scared to walk home.
Apparently about an hour before, the group had walked into the library like they owned the place, just being generally loud and disruptive. I know this sucks, but unfortunately at least here in the UK, libraries are often used like this. It’s horrible, but expected. What’s unexpected however is what allegedly happened next. They proceeded to antagonise the librarians, getting quite personal and even used the names on their name tags to do this. I don’t know about you, but I feel like that’s such an invasion of someone’s privacy. Use their first names all you want if you’re well acquainted/using it in a polite way, but to take someones name and be rude to them is disgraceful.
THEN to finish it off, they began to unplug all of the computer systems in the library and became disruptive to the people just browsing the aisles.
From what I heard, the librarians threatened to call the police and they left, but I believe the police were indeed called and further action was going to be taken by getting in contact with their school.
This whole thing upset me for a variety of reasons.
- No one should have to go through this in their work place EVER. I don’t understand what makes someone feel like it’s okay to antagonise staff, but I’ve seen this happen in other places as well.
- I don’t want to generalise, and often it’s probably not the case, but I know that a lot of us readers deal with mental health issues on a day to day basis. It’s a big possibility that the librarians themselves also have this issue, and if they don’t, they are going to feel anxiety whenever a group of teenagers walks through that door in future. Even if that group is perhaps full of the nicest kids you’ll ever come across.
- It furthers the ‘all teenagers are thugs’ stereotype even more, which is something the UK is really struggling with at the moment.
- Libraries are our safe haven. They’re our big, open, cosy reading nooks that everyone can enjoy. They’re meant to be peaceful, quiet and relaxed. Somewhere you can dip in and out of worlds in. Somewhere you can drop your children off and know they’re going to be safe and happy. Somewhere that you can make bookish friends if you’re feeling particularly confident. The thought of a bookworm going to a library only to get harassed is so upsetting to me. Libraries are our place, and to think that someone might struggle to go out but gathers the confidence to go to one, only to get that knocked back down by strangers is horrifying.
I don’t know what can be done about this, or if anything even can. I mean, are we going to have to start having bouncers guarding the doors into libraries? It’s ridiculous. All I know is that I have a voice, and I wanted to share this with you because I know that you’ll understand and care.
Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.