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Paul Nicholson
Nashvegas TN
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Thursday, May 17, 2007

stop learning, you're in my way

Warning: this is about a steamed as i've been about any issue in a while.

Yet another story you'll see on the front page of the City Paper and i can't find anywhere from the Tennessean:

The Nashville Public Library ... this week approved a toughened version of the library system’s loitering policy, explicitly prohibiting people from “congregating” inside library buildings if perceived as unsafe or intimidating and preventing truants from loitering in public libraries during school hours.

The new policy, in addition, explicitly references gangs, prohibiting “the display or possession of gang symbols or paraphernalia, gang recruitment, gang initiation, gang fighting and gang intimidation.”
Now, unless i'm wrong, "unsafe or intimidating" behavior, as well as truancy was already against the rules in pretty much any public building. Perhaps more so in libraries.

But these new rules seem, well, stupid.

Heaven forbid that teenagers would feel comfortable around a library, or want to hang out there. We'd never want them to feel like the library was a place to spend time after school. Once school is out, we full expect them to wander out on to the streets, and hang around the bars in 5-points down the road, not hang around a place of learning where there is good lighting, visibility and security cameras guarding the area. Learning time is clearly over once the school bell rings. Oh - and if a student is involved in gang activity, we want them to stay away from the library and on the streets. We don't want them to rub off on the librarians or other good citizens that are in the library and taint them. Imagine if the librarians started being recruited by gangs.

Just stupid.

What really blows my mind is that this policy change came about as a result of a few kids hanging around the East Branch library after school. They come across from East Literature High and hang out (it is directly across the street). This is an extremely visible, populated area. I've been around there when school gets out some days. I live near there. Lots of people around.

Commander Bob Nash of the East Nashville police precinct said in the article:
"When East [Literature] lets out, some of the students were going over to the library waiting to be picked up or just to congregate … and sometimes they would kind of block the doorway — I don’t think intentionally, but some people found that uncomfortable. They’d have to walk through a whole group of kids, so we’ve been trying to help them"
and his response regarding the speculation of gang activity:
"there has been some speculation of some a gang presence outside the library but nothing confirmed"
The article goes on to say that:
"According to NPL, teenage roughhousing at the public libraries has not become a huge problem"
"At the downtown library, high schoolers have begun gathering more frequently this year in the youth section. They have caused no severe problems although have sometimes been warned to quiet themselves."
Oh no! We better just shut down the whole library system right now!

So because some stuck-up person doesn't feel comfortable walking through a group of kids hanging out at the library - we're going to tell the kids to go elsewhere? What?!

Maybe i'm wrong, but every good teacher or librarian i've ever known (i come from a family of teachers) was willing to deal with cleaning up a little graffiti and asking kids to be quiet occasionally if it meant getting kids in the building and having a chance to get them excited about learning or reading. I know a lot of the kids aren't there to read and study - but wouldn't we rather have them in the library on the off chance that someone could have a good influence on them. It is certainly better than the alternatives like the mall, clubs, bars, or just out on the street.

In response to this post (Update: this is the woman that home-schools her kids, but got herself appointed to the school board, and was then voted out by the public in East Nashville as quickly as possible):
Should we always ask for good behavior from students? Of course.
We already did that. If kids are creating problems, there are already rules and policies in place to ask them to leave. With these policies, we are telling kids they can't come in to the library if they are still wearing clothes that could be associated with gangs. Why?

This article clearly states that they have just had a handful of isolated complaints from a few patrons. Not the staff. Not the police.

It is the job of parents and teachers and librarians and the everyone in the community to help these kids. It is not the kids job to stay out of our way and teach themselves.

This is a horrible policy and should be rescinded immediately.
They should be begging these kids to hang out at the library.


Anonymous said...

These are probably some of the same "adults" that hang out in front of buildings billowing smoke - intimidating and offending me. I think they should be banned!

We could just ban teenagers from all public spaces. Or we could follow Mark Twain's advice, who advised parents that when their child turns 13 they should put them in a barrel, close the lid, and feed them through a hole in the side. When they turn 16... close the hole!

Seriously, kids are not a problem to be dealt with, they should be loved and nurtured and taught. Not ignored nor certainly banned from our public places unless they are really a nuisance.

The policy leaves a lot of room for a definition of "unsafe or intimidating behavior". A reasonable person would not consider standing by the door intimidating. Let's hope those who interpret the policy are reasonable people.

Anonymous said...

That's horrible. I used to go to magnet school back in the good ol' days and we did the same thing, only I we hung out around downtown businesses waiting for MTA buses.

Those businesses and their patrons never had any problems with us. I can't imaginie library patrons having a problem with it. It sounds like a librarian complained because (s)he doesn't want to deal with people.

I really like your blog and I'm glad you joined http://www.NashvilleNoise.com
Based on your blog entries, I can tell that you will be a valued member of our online community. I hope to read more of your writing (preferably on Nashville Noise) soon. :)

~Tao Jones

Amy Nicholson said...

that makes me wnat to burn my library card. Not really. Just rediculous. Where these people never high schoolers?