boy: n. 1. Noise with dirt on it.
Most of the kids who come into the library are delightful patrons. Some quietly browse on their own or timidly ask for help with hushed voices. Others are less quiet, but have an enthusiasm for reading I can't really complain about. But there are some kids who simply cannot seem to contain their disruptive impulses, and find ways to make library life difficult for everyone.
It isn't always boys being disruptive, but this week there have been three who have drawn the ire of all staff here at our little branch.
"Hector" is a lad whose family recently returned to town after an absence of a couple years. I almost didn't recognize him when he started coming back, since he had grown so much, but his impish behavior gave away his identity instantly before he even presented his card.
He has little interest in our books, but he likes his screen time. He borrows a lot of DVDs and uses his maximum allotted computer time every day. He also tries to con us out of extra time, and bounces from librarian to librarian looking for someone who will buy his story. We're all on to him, though.
He also likes to listen to music when he is on the computer. Sometimes he sings along, badly, and we have to remind him that everyone else can hear him. He also likes to hang his headphones around his neck with the earpieces aimed out like little tinny loudspeakers so we can share in his musical tastes. He needs frequent reminders that this is also unwelcome in the library.
Yesterday, when he grew bored of trying to scheme a way around our computer use limits, he went outside. Good, right? Fresh air and exercise! But no, he decided to entertain himself by standing next to the road making the universal arm-pumping motion for drivers to blow their horns.
Right outside the library!
I cannot fathom why this child has so little awareness of the people around him. He seemed surprised when I asked him to stop because people could hear the constant horns from inside.
Today, "Isaac" was also trying to encourage cars to blow their horns outside the library with the same arm-pumping motion, and even tried to enlist one of the usually well-behaved girls to stand on the far side of the road to get the attention of drivers going both directions. Apparently being obnoxious is contagious.
To be fair, "Isaac" has been a bit of a boundary-pushing troublemaker himself for some time. He currently has some long-overdue books he can't be bothered to return, yet he wants to hang out at the library anyway. I would have been mortified to discover I needed to return something that was weeks late, but this lad doesn't seem to care.
He is less noisy in general, but likes to ring our bell for service as we are walking to the desk and making eye contact with him.
He is lucky we can't slap him silly.
"Jon" is the quietest out of the three noisemakers who inspired this post, but he is another notorious computer use abuser. We still have our computers in quarantine mode, and half the stations are shut down to maintain social distancing per district policy. He has no card of his own despite being offered many applications requiring only a parent or guardian signature. He used to borrow his mother's number and use her time before requesting an additional guest pass. We discovered this con and ended that tactic, but he also tries to get other kids to request guest passes on his behalf.
He also tries to play online games with "Hector" and "Isasc," and is constantly hopping from his station to each of theirs to coordinate gameplay. Needless to say, this is all quite disruptive.
The library is not supposed to be an after-school daycare center, but that seems to be our de facto role nowadays. Shorter school days due to COVID-19 precautions mean longer hours of dealing with kids at the library. Some have parents who work during the day, and others likely just have poor home lives. Still, this isn't in the realm of approved library use, and we librarians are explicitly not in the business of childcare. It's an awkward situation. I am doing my best to remain calm and civil with the kids as I explain our rules for conduct, and I try to encourage them to think about respecting the needs of others instead of just being the LIBRARIAN WHO MAKES THE RULES AND DEMANDS OBEDIENCE. We will see over time how this works out.