The main branch of the Sudbury Public Library has decided to deal with a small number of disruptive individuals by banning all teenagers from their facility during weekdays, according to a Sudbury Star article.
The background is that a small number of young people have been, in the words of manager of libraries and heritage resources Claire Zuliani, "quite disruptive. They have little respect for our property and our staff. To the point where some of our staff are afraid to come to work."
Okay, fair enough, that needs to be dealt with somehow, though I think reports about fear of youth, who often get unfairly stigmatized as dangerous, should be examined with a bit of a critical eye. And as Sudbury Secondary student Kyle Chapados is quoted as saying, "But it's not fair to the rest. How many were really causing these problems? There seems like there could be a better way of dealing with it than just banning all students."
Exactly. An individual is a problem? Ban them from the library for a year, then. But, no, Zuliani insists on using rhetoric based in youth as a class being a problem. For instance, she says, "We've had kids break into cars." Do you know that it is these same kids who have been disruptive inside? Has someone been charged and convicted? If so, how is a ban going to convey something that conviction for breaking into the car has not done? If not, how do you know it was a kid? Or are you just assuming that it is a young person? She even uses the inflammatory language of "take back our library," again keeping in mind this is used in the context of all youth being banned from the place during certain hours. Lovely.
Apparently, youth who are using the library in ways of which management approves will be allowed back in at some point, but it is unclear when or under what conditions. The people who will be most affected by this will, of course, be the vast majority of young people who use the library space in non-disruptive ways. The article says that Zuliani expects that the ban will teach young people some respect, which is ridiculous. It will probably teach the handful of people who have been disruptive very little, and it will teach the rest that libraries hate teenagers, or maybe that public space is not meant for youth. Which are just great lessons for our public libraries to be teaching.
I think it would be great if a group of youth were to address this by taking some direct action. Get a group together, both teenagers and older folks. Go in to the public library en masse, sit down silently and start reading. Be polite, follow whatever code of conduct they have, but refuse to leave. Have someone fax the media just as your group is entering the library. Have supporters outside with signs saying things like, "Youth are not the problem" and "It's my library too," and have spokespeople outside to deal with the media when they show up.
And if you need some help figuring out the logistics, I know some people who have some experience with that sort of thing.