Getting a Red Card!

We have been really struggling with some of our teen patrons. Mostly it’s just regular old teen rowdiness which is OK and expected at times, but there’s one group of girls who have really started dropping what we call the “F-bomb” in the library….and I mean loudly and inappropriately.

One day, it got so bad that we had to ask a group to leave and as one of the staff escorted them out, they regaled her with a string of expletives that would embarrass a sailor. We had to do something.

So, here’s our plan: it’s the old soccer “red card” system modified. First, we’ll use a gentle verbal warning and explain that we’ll be doing “strikes” or “penalty cards” after that. We tell them we would prefer NOT to do this but we’re finding it’s the only way to get a handle on noise and inappropriate behavior (we also have small signs to this effect in each work station). If the same person (or group) goes to the next level, we pass out a yellow card that says, “Please be considerate of others around you.” … The next level is an orange card that says, “…Strike Two is for behaviors that are not appropriate in the library.” And finally, the RED CARD, that says, “Please leave the premises for the rest of the library day.” This red card will also generate an internal incident report and hopefully a name to start building documentation.

Here’s the funny part: so far, in two weeks, we have only handed out one yellow card… most of the kids who were asked to leave that one day have not been back. On the day we started the plan, I spoke to one of the ringleaders and explained what we would be doing. I told her that she had to understand, no matter how angry a person is, one cannot attack library staff verbally. It’s simply not right. When I asked her if she would speak to her grandmother or aunt that way, her eyes got very wide, “No way!” she said.

Well, let’s see how it goes.

How do you handle truly offensive behavior in your library (whether adults or teens)?



  1. Annette Said:

    Hey Irm – when I worked at HdG – over 10 years ago now, we didn’t have that problem – the worst that ever happened was that Pat had to stop a group once by simply using the word “LANGUAGE!” and they stopped. However, I did have noise issues, and I found that approaching the ringleader did work in that particular case.

    I remember asking the boy if he would help me with something – away from the crowd. I told him that I really just wanted him to understand that the noise in his group was disturbing others and asked him if he would help me out by explaining to the others. He gave me a grin, and returned to his group saying, “Y’all gotta shut UP!” That was pretty much the end of it for that incident.

    Things seem to have changed a lot across the board since then, though. Not sure what I would have done with a barrage of “F-thisses and F-thats.”


    • irmbrown Said:

      Finding a ring leader is always the key. I’m hoping our one girl “is” the girl.

  2. Jackie Said:

    I’m glad that you addressed problem behaviors here on your blog. I like that these warnings give you a paper trail, and also that they develop better communication with staff in the branch. Sometimes, when I get on the desk, I am not aware of who has been a problem. My only concern with this method is that you are giving the problem patron too many warnings. After one warning, if appropriate behavior is not restored, then the next step should be asking them to leave. The other two steps may only serve to further bother other library patrons. We are continually addressing patron behavior here at Aberdeen, and at times is is a challenge to keep the library friendly and inviting to everyone. Keep up the good work.

    • irmbrown Said:

      Well… it’s just too noisy in the branch to be so “strict” as to go with a single warning. if I did that, I’d be tossing people out left and right. It’s all subjective. We try to monitor the relative buzz in the place and go from there. But thanks for sharing.

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