(No, not the annoyingly catchy Robin Thicke song…)
While there are a lot of cut-and-dried library policies, there are ones that aren’t so obvious.
- If a teen signs up for a library card without a parental signature (permissible after age 12), and his/her parent wants to see what the teen is checking out, do we release the child’s checkout records? What about all those warnings about patron confidentiality?
- If a teen is checking out a lot of books on suicide or drugs, do we inform the parents?
- What if we think a child is being abused, but we don’t see it firsthand? We’re not mandatory reporters as teachers or doctors are, but shouldn’t we get involved by informing someone?
- Porn isn’t illegal to stream/look at on our computers. (Child porn and anything along those lines, yes, absolutely, but regular porn – don’t email me! – is okay.) Do we tell patrons that they can’t look at porn if someone else complains, even though porn is freedom of expression? Do we move the porn-watcher? Do we move the complainer?
- What about disruptive, delinquent, violent patrons? While we’re supposed to implement warnings and bans “at our discretion,” one staffer’s discretion may say that a patron should be warned, another banned for a few days, whereas another would say a week. Who makes the decision? And what if the patron has mental or substance abuse issues? Do they get a pass for those? Where does discretion end and spite begin?
I have good sense, and I think I’m quite good at using it. My conscience/gut/little voice in my head usually doesn’t steer me wrong. And I don’t disagree with most of the policies I’ve learned about, because I agree that rules should be made in the spirit of safety and education for all. Common sense should rule the day, as should a clear head and knowledge of the rules.
I’ve been very good at following rules. But there are some that I’m not sure I can and should follow.
A story: Back in my school administrator days, I once had a middle schooler come to me suffering an asthma attack. She couldn’t find her inhaler, but another student had an inhaler with the same medicine she used. However, the rules said that students couldn’t take another student’s medicine under any circumstances. I was supposed to sit by and say, “Sorry, I can’t give you any medicine,” which would have been easy to do had she not been gasping for air right in front of me.
After a few minutes of panicky thought – or so it felt at the time – I administered the medicine to her anyway, and she immediately began to get better. I’d done something that was wrong, according to the rules. But I couldn’t just sit there and watch her not breathe.
At what point does one cross those blurred lines?