Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Come with me to the Kasbah...

or the library, depending on what your idea of fun and romance is. Some days, the library is a place of torture for me but that's because I work there but I won't bore you with all the torturous events that happen in my day (although at times they can come out pretty damn funny).

Today's topic on the library begins with an event at the library.. so bear with! I'll tell the story first and then present you with the issue.

Circulation Desk at Hampden (where I work!)
Background: We have a young man with Downs Syndrome who comes into the library regularly (every other day or so) who checks out about 5 movies or so. His items are frequently late because he doesn't have the mental capacity to measure time properly. He lives with his mother who seems to have mentally diminished capabilities and the last time she came in and I spoke to her she had also been drinking (or maybe she is mentally diminished because she is often drunk, I don't know...). She accused us of not allowing her son to check out because we hate mentally handicapped kids. I tried to speak to her at the time about the possible options but she was too drunk to listen and stormed off. The option I wanted to talk to her about was seeing if he could be considered homebound so that his fines could be deferred and his items would not have the same due date. Unfortunately, like I said, she was not capable of listening.

Fast forward: Tonight I walked out to the desk (see above where it's calm and quiet. Tonight? Not so calm or quiet) where the same woman was talking to the circulation clerk (who I supervise). I overheard the circulation clerk saying, "Okay, so we'll put a 3 item block on his card which will limit him to three items when he comes in." Skerrrch!!!! You'll do what??? We aren't allowed to block anyone's cards unless they have fines that exceed their limit and WE do not do that, the computer does that or unless they need to bring in their proof of address. I didn't say anything (although now I wish I had)  but I went back to speak to a friend who happened to be working at my branch who is also a lead clerk. How to solve the dilemma?

An hour or so later: After speaking to the person in charge of Homebound cards, we were able to give the young man a Homebound card giving him more time to get his items back to the library and keep him from getting fines (as long as he gets them back). I haven't yet decided whether to speak to the mother about it... my circulation clerk certainly made an big error by saying we could do something that we could not do but I believe that the way we handled the issue may keep her from coming back to the library and harassing us about his card (I hope). He's an adult, I'm not sure I need to call and explain to her, I need to give it some thought (you can weigh in here if you want).

So having gotten everything straightened out, finally, I informed my clerk that they could not put blocks on anyone's card blocking them from checkout or limiting their checkout (except for above stated reasons which they do know). Even a child's.

What is this you say???? the clerks ask. (although they should have known this already!)

Hampden Library (my branch)
Well, I will explain (and  now you can argue with me about it if you choose): In the young man's case, he is 20 years old and has the right to have a library card even if he is mentally handicapped. If he has a Colorado ID, his mother has no say in how many items he checks out. If she is paying his bills, she can certainly refuse to pay his fines which effectively blocks his card and he can no longer check out (this however was not what she wanted done) I believe that the only way that she could force us to treat him like a minor child (in other words not give him a replacement card without her permission), would be to have legal papers saying he was incapable of functioning at higher than a 10 year old's (or younger) mental capacity (in other words she would be taking legal responsibility for all fines, etc. just like with a child). We do not have that on file at the library.

However, problem....
Central Library (where the bigwigs live)

In the case of a minor child (under 14): When a child gets a card we do not put blocks on their accounts either because the parents are the ones who decide when they are able to get a card, We don't! Some parents get their infants cards! (And they also use their infants cards as though it was their  own!) When a parent gets the card, they have the right to keep the child's card on their person. If they decide to let the child come to the library alone without adult supervision with their library card, they cannot expect us to parent their child. It is not our job.

In the case of a minor child (over 14): (Here's where it gets really tricky. This works somewhat like it did with the Downs Syndrome kid.) If a kid is 14 or over and has a school ID they can get a library card without their parent's permission. This gives them access to information at the library for homework which they might not have if they wait around for parents who are too occupied for their teenage kids' school assignments. However, the kids may still accrue fines (if they're irresponsible) and if the parents are unhappy with how the kid is using the card, there is no law that says the parent has to pay the fine. Even if it goes to collections it will be a ding on the kid's credit, not the parents when they hit 18 (this is really unfortunate for those kids whose parents have racked up fines on their cards-- and I have seen a few). Thus, the kid is blocked from using the library. Problem solved. They can then clear it up when they turn 18. Or not.

So what do you think? Denver Public Library bases their policy (albeit a bit tricky) on the Freedom of Information Act. Even little children have the right to access information (within limits). When they become teens or if they have Downs Syndrome, they can get information without mom and dad's permission.
What do you think??? 


  1. Wow, that's a lot to take in and process. I think I better go pay my library the 50 cents that I owe in late fees! On a serious note, I never would have guessed the process could be so complicated with all these different scenarios. I also think it's great that you can give the young man the inbound card, which should solve the problem. And I hope his mother gets the help that she obviously needs. Crazy stuff!

  2. Ahhh, public libraries. They bring a special sort of 'enjoyment' for employees, right? I've heard some true horror stories about unpleasant bodily substances being deposited in book returns chutes, etc. Or maybe that's just in my city...

    I work in an academic library where it's ever so slightly less gross, but we still have our moments.

  3. I think you did the right thing giving your young patron access without penalties. If he's proven capable in the past of bringing items back, then giving him the flexibility to do so a little late seems reasonable. And since he's in there so often, you can gently remind him about any overdue items.

    If his mother's such a harridan, I'm sure he appreciates your kindness.

  4. You have to follow the rules set out by your particular library whether you agree with them or not. Is there an age limit at which a child is allowed to use the adult section of the library? It's kind of worrysome that young and impressionable kids can access information that they are maybe not ready for without their parents permission.

  5. I think you have a lot of cahones posting about your work like this. What if a co-worker reads it and says, "Danette is blogging about us and talking about our clientele especially the down syndrome one and how her mother throws a tizzy fit every time she comes in."

    I also agree that rules should never be broken for any reason. Whenever a rule is broken anywhere, a ninja lops off the head of a kitten with a sword.

    You would be wise to remind the woman with the mongoloid spawn about this FACT. And tell her of all the kittens who have had their blood spilt. Not even Chuck Norris is so cruel.

    Check that video out Danette and get back to me. It is single-handedly the greatest moment in T.V. history Ever and brought to us courtesy of Down Syndrome. I cheer you on from the advocate stand.

    That is all.

  6. Lyn: It is fairly complicated. And I did confirm today with the head of my department that the mother would have to have power of attorney in order to shut his card down even if he was really mentally delayed.

    Trisha: I have a story that I could tell you but I can't possibly post it here or on your blog! OMG!!!

    Kitt: That's exactly what I'm thinking. And I think the rest of the staff is good with doing that also.

    mybabyjohn/Delores: Ah! There's the rub. If kids come alone, there are no limits on what they can do at the library. No patrons are allowed too access pornography on the computers, fortunately (although they still do, but at least can kick them out) but if parents let them come alone, they can check out whatever is available. This puts the burden on the parent to either make sure they are supervising their child or... don't get them a card.

    Michael:It would be a risk talking about the people I work with if it were not for the fact, ummm, perhaps, maybe, the ones involved were perhaps, madeup, yeah, made up! That's what happened! I write fiction remember Michael?? ;) Made it up from beginning to end and any resemblance to factual events, well that's just a strange coincidence. You are sooo gullible!

    I'll check out that video!

  7. Fox News said all liars live in Colorado.


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