Monday, April 14, 2008

Happy National Library Week!

I Love the Library But It Ain't What It Used To Be
© 2008 Leighann Lord

When I was three years old, my mom and I would walk to my local library every week for story time. I sat Indian style (that's what it was called then) in a sunlit circle with other little kids as the librarian read us a story. At the time the library seemed impossibly huge with multiple rows of wooden shelves lined with books. It was well lit, quiet and cool, and no one spoke above a whisper. It was a place of peace and learning. I imagined this is what heaven would be like. Heaven has changed.

I stopped by my local library one weekday afternoon and it was absolute pandemonium. School age children were running around yelling, screaming, swinging from the proverbial chandelier. The librarians looked on with helpless resignation. I was appauled. Acting up in the The Library is like misbehaving in church, and the library is the church of the literate.

I was reminded of a story about
The Maplewood Public Library in New Jersey where the conduct of visiting middle school children was so disruptive and outrageous that it was forced to close it's doors between the after school hours of 2:45pm to 5pm. The parents were outraged, not with the egregious, catalytic behavior of their little angels, but with the drastic response of the library. How can we expect children to learn to take responsibility for their actions, when their own parents seem so adverse to the very idea?

But in a very real sense parents' hands are tied. They're afraid they'll be reported to the authorities, their children removed and the family forever tied up in the system. Any teacher will tell you that looking at a child the wrong way will get them fired or at best reprimanded. Real repercussions only seem to come at the hands of law enforcement and by then it is too late. Modern society seems incapable of distinguishing between discipline and abuse, so we have abandoned the former.

I hear the apologists among you muttering, "All kids act up when their parents aren't around." Yes, but it used to be that the presence of an adult, parental or otherwise, was enough to keep a kid on the straight and narrow. But gone are the days when an icy stare would have a corrective effect. My mother had a look that was colder than liquid nitrogen and would freeze out any notion of devilment.

There was a time and a place to cut the fool, and it certainly wasn't the library. When I was a teenager the main branch was my after school hang out. While doing homework my friends and I spoke in hushed tones, passed notes and covertly (and quietly) scoped out the cute boys. We thought we were quite the bunch of bad asses. And we were: Dean's list, honor roll, marching band; Drum corp, baby! What?

The library was my after school refuge from the folks my age who were allergic to learning and passed by the building as if it were invisible. But now, the battlements have been breached. The miscreants run amok and the rest of us try to schedule our visits before school lets out. Sadly, I find myself in league with former New York City police commissioner Lee Brown. To paraphrase: beat them; beat them all and let God sort it out. Or something a little less drastic: bouncers and a guest list? But instead of having to know somebody, you’d just have to know how to act.

Thank you for reading The Urban Erma.

Please feel free to subscribe using the orange link at the top right side of the page or visit again soon to find out about news, Leighann's TV appearances, live stand-up comedy shows or to join the mailing list.

No comments: