In a decision aimed at easing a longstanding issue, teens in sixth grade and older must now present a student ID card in order to avail themselves of services at Flossmoor Public Library.
The move comes after years of complaints by library patrons that some young people who congregate in the upstairs Teen Space are loud, disruptive and disrespectful, according to library Director Aaron Carlin.
Carlin said that on weekdays anywhere from 40 to 70 teens, predominantly Parker Junior High students, enter the library after school. Because there are so many students, their groups tend to spill over into the Youth Space, sometimes displacing the very young children and families for whom the area is designated.
“They’re hungry and restless; they’ve been sitting in school all day. Then they get around their peers and start talking in an area that’s not acoustically well-designed,” Carlin said. “It gets really loud and disturbs other teens and adults who are working, reading and studying.”
Dozens of complaints have come into the library about the issue and the library’s board of directors has discussed the ramifications of the problem at its meetings, Carlin said.
“Over the years, it’s really caused people to not come to the library or leave immediately as soon as the students get here. So we’re experiencing a loss of patrons,” he said.
Carlin provided this breakdown of issues involving teens at the library in 2017:
- January: Several reports of disruptive behavior
- February: Several reports of disruptive behavior
- March: Several reports of disruptive behavior
- April: Four individual students ejected
- May: Forty individual students ejected, four groups of unknown numbers of students ejected
- June: One group of unknown number of students ejected
- July: No incidents
- August: Three ejections (Aug. 24 was the first day of classes at Parker Junior High)
- September: Twenty-five individual students ejected, two groups of unknown numbers of students ejected
- October: Twenty-one individual students ejected
- November: Thirteen individual students ejected, one group of unknown number of students ejected
- December: Thirty-eight individual students ejected, one group of unknown numbers of students ejected
The new ID registration policy seeks to remove the anonymity associated with those who repeatedly cause disruption to the library, Carlin said. Anyone can walk inside and sit down, so staff members had no way to identify teens who were exhibiting bad behavior.
A teen who is being disruptive is given two verbal warnings. If the bad behavior continues, they are asked to leave the library for the remainder of the day.
“If they exit the library peacefully, they’re free to come back the next day,” Carlin said. “If they don’t exit peacefully, if they throw a fit, curse and are disrespectful to staff, we give them a seven-day suspension. If they come back and misbehave again, it becomes a 30-day suspension.”
Now staff members will be able to better track those individuals who are behaving badly, and potentially contact their parents to notify them. Carlin said he hopes the simple act of installing the new procedure will instigate some more accountability among the teens.
“We’ve been working with staff to address behavior and disrespect. We have made progress, but because of the acoustics of the space, there’s only so much progress we can make,” Carlin said.
“We understand it’s a divisive issue. Many people who are negatively affected by this problem want to be able to enjoy the library peacefully. And the young people need to be able to have a space where they can be themselves and be with their friends, and the library should be that kind of space.”
Carlin said the library communicated the new policy to school administrators at Infant Jesus of Prague and Parker Junior High schools, asking them to send a letter home to parents. Library administrators are also seeking out solutions to dampen the acoustics in the Teen Space, so the sound doesn’t carry as far.
In the meantime, Carlin recommended parents have a conversation with their teen about what behavior is expected of them at the library and what consequences they face if they break the rules or act disrespectfully.
“It would be especially helpful to library staff if parents supplied contact information to us so they may be in the loop if we need to address a behavior situation,” Carlin said.
He added that any parent or person with questions, concerns or suggestions may always contact him at 708-798-3600 or via [email protected].