Annoyed Librarian
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Banned from All Libraries

The strangest news in libraryland last week had to be the story of the young man in Racine, WI who was caught openly masturbating in the Racine Public Library. “As a condition of [his] bond, he was told to ‘stay out of all the libraries on the face of the earth,’ according to court records.”

There’s a lot that’s strange and unpleasant in the story, besides just the fact of some 20-year- old deciding that a library was the best place for him to do this particular business. It seems he was taking the “sexy librarian” theme to its logical, if inappropriate, conclusion. Perhaps the Racine librarians are just that sexy, in which case he could argue that it was instead their fault.

Being told that he now has to stay out of all libraries on the face of the earth is comical in itself, but especially bad for the young man if he has a librarian fetish. If that’s the case, he’ll have to find a workaround. Regardless, depriving anyone of the benefits of libraries is cruel and unusual punishment, which means he’ll have to find some libraries that aren’t on the face of the earth.

The geographically closest possibility might be the underground library at the University of Chicago. Here’s a lovely diagram of how it works. He could try to become one of the underground robot workers. And if he were surrounded by robots, they would be much less likely to turn him in for the occasional masturbatory work break.

If big cities scare him, there’s a small public library in Minnesota that’s mostly underground, at least according to the Wikipedia article. For more research, there’s a whole article on libraries built underground. Unfortunately he’d probably have to use a library to get the article.

The biggest problem would be getting through the door. So it would probably be safest if he wants to travel to the Big Apple and use the Underground Public Library of New York. The entrances aren’t part of any library, and once he’s down in the subway tunnels in New York, his public masturbation habits won’t stand out nearly as much as they would in the Racine library.

Another much less likely scenario is to go into outer space. If there’s a library on the International Space Station, it’s probably digital, but if he could hitch a ride up there it’s a possibility.

Enforcement of this particular band would seem difficult. I hope the judge contacted the Library Police arm of  INTERPOL, because it’ll take that kind of international coordination to be effective. Right now they’re mostly involved in recovering overdue fines worldwide, but keeping track of a public masturbator is probably easy enough.

We could also try to be sympathetic to the guy. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that most of us have had sex in a library. We just had the good sense not to get caught. I mean, take a look at him in the picture accompanying this article. The slightly scared eyes, the pudgy little cheeks. Doesn’t he look like a guy who could benefit from reading a few books?

Maybe Racine could take a little pity on the guy and set up a little box outside the library, big enough for a few books, but small enough he can’t crawl into it and pleasure himself. Or people could put up one of those “little libraries” wherever he lives.

Let’s redeem this poor guy if we can. Reading would be a much better public hobby for him that his current activities.

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Comments

  1. Snoozy says:

    What a story to start my work week

  2. Abbey T. says:

    The “underground” library in Minnesota (Walker branch of Hennepin County – i.e., Minneapolis) is actually undergoing renovations and such right now. As such it isn’t, in fact, a library at the moment. Sorry, wanker, but that’s one less library *under* the face of the earth for you to use for your needs.

    In all seriousness, I think this judge’s ruling is stupid. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t approve of public masturbation in the library, but to ban someone from “all libraries on the face of the earth” is: a) ridiculous; b) unenforceable; and c) excessively punitive. Was a time frame put on this supposed “ban”? In 20 years, when he’s (hopefully) changed his ways and become a model citizen, etc. etc., will he still not be allowed to enter the hallowed ground of any library? OH PLEASE.

    • Jamie says:

      This is a condition of his bond, not a permanent ban. It’s a pretty common condition for bond that the offender stay away from the type of place where the offense took place — school, library, etc. until the trial.

  3. Ruth says:

    Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to think that most of us haven’t had sex in a library.

    • Hank says:

      There’s still time, but I agree that ‘most’ is not likely, though it is telling.

  4. Skipbear says:

    Ok, but maybe if he can afford a a cup of coffee he can have at it in Barns and Noble or Books-a- million he can still have a good time pretending to read if they give free refills.

  5. Bonegirl06 says:

    I seriously doubt that most of us have had sex in the library (I’d be interested to do an anonymous survey on those stats!), unless the feeling of getting caught turns you on….

  6. Development Arrested says:

    I wonder if this young man is on the autism spectrum. We had a young man coming in to use our library for this purpose since he was banned from using his home computer for this reason.

    Obviously, there’s plenty of other reasons someone would think to do this in a library, but reading this start I first wonder what the reason underlying the behavior is. In my brief history as a library worker, I have observed that most people working in a library lack the knowledge of how to work with anyone that is not “normal” (or at the least “library normal”… you know what I mean, I know you do). I wonder how much training librarians get in this both in school and out. Like it or not your job will most likely involve public service. When you agree to work with the public, you should agree to whole public and not the people you like.

    • Development Arrested says:

      I will say that I re-read the article and see no evidence that the library staff reacted in anyway that was not courteous, so I apologize for jumping to conclusion before I had the facts.

      I still don’t think that undermines my point and would be willing to have a discussion it if anyone else would.

      Mostly, I would like to know how patrons with special needs were addressed in your MLS program and ways that you feel this could be improved.

      In a public (and an academic!) library, librarians will work with patrons who are homeless, mentally ill, or on the spectrum. Sometimes our own staff will have these same conditions. They are not always the most pleasant people to work with, but that’s (part) of our job.

    • @Development Arrested, terrific observation/idea. I hope librarians look into this mental health vis-a-vis libraries issue and publish the results. Generally speaking, of course, not just limited to this single incident which may or may not be related.

    • I Like Books says:

      “I wonder how much training librarians get in this both in school and out.”

      In school– basically none.

      Out of school, maybe, but libraries are known for not investing heavily in that sort of training.

    • Development Arrested says:

      Ilikebooks, I appreciate your candor. That’s what I was afraid. Maybe someday though…

  7. elena schneider says:

    This is my hometown. It’s a sleepy little bedroom community located on Lake Michigan. Very picturesque but not much newsworthy comes out of it, I mean its smack dab between Milwaukee and Chicago who have lots of crazy stories. So they needed something, right?

  8. AL, you are very funny and very clever. Not on the face of the Earth!! Funny!

    Forgive me, but I too took an interesting look at this same story. In my case I made it into a hypothetical law school exam question. There are elements of torts, criminal law, and constitutional law.

    Further, I noted the library has a history of problems. Might it be an “attractive nuisance”?

    Also, dig that the library has an acceptable use policy that does not allow obscenity, but at the same time it says no librarian may judge what is obscenity. So it’s like having cops on the streets to enforce speed limits but not allowing them to use speed detectors claiming only the inventors know how to best use them.

    So, all you law students out there, get cracking, you only have four hours to answer the questions:

    “Banned From All Libraries on Earth for Masturbating in Racine Public Library That Allows Unfiltered Internet Access; Law School Exam Question on First Amendment and Criminal Law in Public Libraries” (Link is under my name above.)

  9. Midwest SciTech Librarian says:

    So he’s banned from the Kinsey Institute Library as well? Granted, he might be more the object of reseach than to be conducting any of his own…

  10. It’s rare that I feel compelled to come out from under my rock and say anything (I think in commenting on this blog, we only encourage him/her on to more obnoxiousness, but hey, we all have our life’s work) but in this case, I just have to.

    1. Annoying Librarian: I am going to assume that this entire post is one of your tongue-in-cheek attempts to stir the pot.

    2. Racine courts: How the heck is the bond’s language in any way legally binding or acceptable in a court of law?

    3. But really, really, my main beef is with commenter Development Arrested: where on earth (the face of, underneath, or above) do you get off pondering whether or not this person falls in the autism spectrum disorder? What part of the article or the picture indicated that? What does this alleged (and arguably deviant) behavior have anything to do with autism? Why would you make that connection?

    (And for the record, for those that might lump them together, autism is not a form or type of mental illness. It’s a developmental disorder. If Development Arrested and company are calling for us to have more extensive training and preparation with serving these diverse populations, perhaps they should spend a little more time learning about them.)

    • Development Arrested says:

      I responded to you below but replied to the wrong post. I will explain why autism jumped into my mind a little better. We had a young man with autism caught doing the same thing. You have to understand, that everyone with autism has the same sexual urges as the average person. They just don’t always know the appropriate expression of these urges. “What does this alleged (and arguably deviant) behavior have anything to do with autism?” I just did a Google Scholar search from Autism AND “Sexually inappropriate behaviors” and got 365 results. So, I would say from a very cursory search the answer is “A lot.”

      Obviously not everyone with autism does this. I was never arguing that everyone with autism does this. I think I struck a personal chord when I was just trying to talk from a logical perspective. I apologize.

  11. me too says:

    The guy’s a pervert. Librarians (Development Arrested) need to stop making excuses for perverts. If I had a kid with me and she’d been exposed to that, they’b be digging pieces of a baseball bat out of the guys skull. When are you pinko librarians going to grow up and understand that we don’t have to accommodate every behavior and perversion in the name of inclusion and tolerance.

    • Way Barra says:

      Watch out, we got a badass over here.

    • Development Arrested says:

      “But really, really, my main beef is with commenter Development Arrested: where on earth (the face of, underneath, or above) do you get off pondering whether or not this person falls in the autism spectrum disorder?”

      I will respond. I think if you read my post it was clear. I had a similar experience with a patron (that left a huge impact on the way I see the world), and I generalized. Generalizations aren’t always bad. Sometimes, generalizations lead to jumping to conclusions. This time it lead to the opposite. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that he was a pervert worthy of our scorn, I wondered, “Hey, what else might be going on?” Autism was one thing I thought. Mental illness was another… which will bring me to point two.

      “(And for the record, for those that might lump them together, autism is not a form or type of mental illness. It’s a developmental disorder. If Development Arrested and company are calling for us to have more extensive training and preparation with serving these diverse populations, perhaps they should spend a little more time learning about them.)”

      I’m sorry that my argument seemed to conflate them, but I feel the issue here is your reading of my argument. Although people with autism are not mentally ill, many nonetheless experience “mental health related issues.” As you said, it’s developmental. Developmental disorders rarely just affect one domain of development. I may be taking an elective in mental health next semester that would involve a service learning project working with young adults was Asperger’s Disorder as they transition from high school to college, so I will be getting more extensive training, but I appreciate your concern

      The fact that you are deflecting to my faults as I am trying to have a logical discourse, shows me that it wasn’t worth my time to type this out. I wasn’t casting stones at sinners. I was just trying to show you my perspective as outsider to the library profession. If you don’t want that perspective that’s okay by me.

      I knew I was in trouble in this discussion when Dan was agreeing with me (no offense Dan!).

    • No problem, @Development Arrested. Librarians have been dealing with these or similar problems for a while, and it’s about time people try to figure out how best to address the issues instead of leaving it up to the librarians themselves. As for myself, I have been writing about these issues for a while. It be nice if ALA was addressing these issues instead of SafeLibraries, perhaps by asking library schools to include appropriate instruction.

  12. Development Arrested says:

    Yeah, it’s obvious here that no one really wants to talk about ways to improve the institutions they represent. Have fun becoming irrelevant!

    • me too says:

      We are not trained in the mental illness field and I am sick and tired of having a library full of people who need help that library staff are not able to provide. When you talk about us becoming irrelevant, it will be because “regular” people stop coming to our libraries because they are afraid of the kind of people who are more and more becoming fixtures in our libraries. Some are mentally ill, some are thieves, some are drug users, some are perverts, some are pedophiles and some are just plain evil. That is what is going to put us out of business. I’ve worked in libraries for the past 30 years and even in small town, libraries are becoming jungles. Moms aren’t going to bring kids to storytime or vote for a bond when our libraries are full of people masturbating, talking to themselves, fighting, hitting and spitting, smell like death and are obvious disease carriers.

    • Development Arrested says:

      “smell like death and are obvious disease carriers.”

      People like you are the reason that God doesn’t talk to us anymore.

  13. me too says:

    You don’t get it. I may have used a bit too much hyperbole for you. The people who keep us relevant are more and more AFRAID to come to our libraries because we have become the home for all the fringe people in our culture. It’s a public library, sure, but it has become the dumping ground for social services and every other government agency that has given up or can’t fund adequate care for many of these people. I repeat, I have not the training nor do I have the desire to spend the rest of my career dealing with social issues that our state and federal governments have abandoned to us. I don’t believe God intends the public library to be the home, hospital, bathroom, shower and bedroom for all these folks. I’m just telling it like it is. Do you actually think our job is to get trained in the mental health field so we can better help these folks? I’m a friggin librarian not a miracle worker. I don’t want to be a miracle worker. I don’t want to deal with people every fucking day of my life who don’t have a clue what planet they live on. Sorry if that upsets you and God. Perhaps you could create some kind of nirvanna for these folks at your library. I can’t.

    • Charlemagne says:

      I agree. My urban library is essentially the daily hangout for the homeless. I have nothing against homeless as people and I think more needs to be done to prevent it, but these are the people who destroy the library for everyone else. They are lined up at the door before we open and go back to the shelter at closing time. It is killing us because we are not equipped or capable to be social workers or a homeless shelter. There are, in fact, social workers and homeless shelters in existence for a reason. We have (seemingly weekly) heroin overdoses, an upstairs bathroom that is apparently the local gay-sex hangout, people who walk around talking to themselves, people masturbating at the computers, people fist fighting over computers, exposing themselves to staff, prostitution, bathing in the bathrooms, drug dealers; and that’s just the normal stuff.

      Though it isn’t an official policy, the staff warns parents who bring in children because pedophiles are known to target the library. Also, it kinda sucks when you have to check for seminal or menstrual fluid and vomit before you sit down at a desk. I know we aren’t unique in our experience as an urban library.

      The overwhelming majority of the research requests we get are over the phone. People who are not part of the homeless population do not visit the library. They do not feel safe here and they have stated as such. People would rather not get the information than come in to the facility. Last week we had someone (who had never visited before) ask immediately upon entering our area if the library in the suburbs could answer her research question because she was not comfortable in this environment. I wonder how she will vote once a levy comes up on the ballot?

      Look, I know we are all good liberals and feel we are supporting the reactionary conservatives who disdain education if we say anything other than the homeless are a blessing and joy. I’ve found that is what the underlying issue is. But let’s be honest: Libraries are not shelters. They are not designed to be. Librarians are not medical professionals or social workers. We are not trained to be. These resources exist. We have a different mission and skills. Are we supposed to be nurses literally handing out their psychiatric medication to tame schizophrenia? Those who come in with the habits listed above (and throughout this thread) are hindering us from doing our job and making it less likely we will continue to receive community support.

      Look, the homeless patrons are by and large not “decent folks just down on their luck” who would easily create the next million-dollar internet start-up if only a noble librarian would show them the resume builder software. They have these resources at the homeless shelter. The social workers know exactly how to get these people back on their feet and they give them the opportunities. The homeless here don’t need the help from us because anything we could offer is already being offered by professionals. Sorry to say, but they generally want to remain drug addicted and use the public library as their home base, all the while treating the staff like we are their personal butlers there solely to serve them.

      Parading as a homeless shelter is killing the urban library system in America.

    • DevelopmentArrested says:

      Really, I just feel that we owe people respect. I establish limits, hold people accountable for those limits, and treat people with respect. I have worked as a circ clerk for two years with no serious problems. Honestly, I feel that if you are having a ton of problems something is missing from that equation.

      I worked at a rural library with a few homeless people. I am currently working at an urban library that has quite a few more homeless people. As I said, I am a clerk, so I have daily interactions with them. It’s really not that bad.

  14. A major hat tip goes to the Annoyed Librarian and all her commentors for this I just published (link under my name):

    “Parading as Homeless Shelters is Killing the Urban Library System in America”

    Note, it has a list of 5 years of stories I’ve been writing on the homeless in public libraries. At this moment ALA Councilors are attempting to censor other Councilors so I doubt the problem will ever get the attention it deserves from the ALA, let alone the ALA’s focus on non-library but progressive issues. But at least we can discuss it together. Thank you, AL and the Library Journal for providing a forum to do so. Now if we could make this into something formal that actually works to help librarians, that would be terrific.

  15. Kanchou says:

    It’s about hostile work environment for library employees. And this convicts’ behavior certainly creates a hostile work environment for the library employees. There is no need to tolerate it, the reasons doesn’t matter.

    I don’t think anybodies in public libraries setting are keenly aware with behavior issues. For example, in March/April 2009 issue of “Public Library” had an article on.

    http://www.ala.org/pla/sites/ala.org.pla/files/content/publications/publiclibraries/pastissues/48n2_marapr09.pdf

    “Problems Associated with Mentally Ill Individuals in Public Libraries”

    I made it assigned reading for my staff.

    As for what realistically can be done, it really depends on the law of your jurisdiction. For example, if you work in Arizona, it’s imperative to take advantage of the state law that couldn’t had prevented the Tucson shooting.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/13/us-usa-shooting-law-idUSTRE70C6JQ20110113

    “Before Tucson rampage, a powerful law went unused”

    For those in other state, you may want to check if Kendra’s Law(NY) or Laura’s Law is in effect. You maybe able to get those people the help they need.

    And public librarians need to learn from special educations teachers:

    http://www.cta.org/en/Professional-Development/Publications/2011/06/Educator-June-11/The-truth-about-student-attacks.aspx

    “According to Nimer’s report, educators who have been injured may be victimized verbally by insensitive administrators with comments such as: “It’s part of the job. You were trained to deal with this. There is nothing that can be done. You get paid for working with these kids.” After a violent incident, administrators frequently warn teachers and paras that they have to be “careful” about what kinds of complaints are lodged and how far they “push” the issue, because they fear parents may sue over their child being denied the right to learn in the least restrictive environment.

    But teachers and education support professionals (ESP) also have rights. Schools are workplaces regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Under that legislation, says Nimer, school board members, administrators and others must take every reasonable precaution to protect all workers, including teachers and ESP, in a school setting.”

    Library administrators need to take all reasonable and practical steps to ensure library employees have a safe and non-hostile environment. If they spur nonsense like, “but that’s what you signed up for,” use all the leverage under labor law.