This post includes a link to a DNAInfo story about bathroom tissue theft at the Morrisania Branch of the NYPL.
Obviously, the larger issue isn’t really toilet paper, unless you’re the unfortunate lady in the video below. At any library, some people will sneak out with circulating materials they haven’t checked out, which is a bit more serious. Either the toilet paper theft has become a twice-hourly thing, or the staff thinks they can get a handle on it by cracking down. Crackdowns don’t always work with circulating materials because some of the thieves are professionals who stay one step ahead of the system. Any amateur might steal T.P., though, and amateurs are easier to stop.
Libraries don’t always live up to their reputations as civilized refuges, which comes as a surprise only to people who never go to the library. Many of those people think of librarians as stuffy matrons who spend their days hushing patrons and looking for books to censor. If I thought of libraries that way, I’d never visit them, either.
For the record, in the real world there are quite a few librarians fighting censorship. In addition, many of them have given up on hushing patrons because they’ve declared defeat.
If you live in a city where library patrons are especially disruptive, you can empathize with the more responsible patrons as well as the staff. I live within a few blocks of the San Francisco Main Public Library, and visit the building occasionally. I use my peripheral vision, though. The Main’s uniformed security staff stays busy.
Although the SFPL Main is the nearest location, I arrange to pick up reserved books at a branch. The atmosphere is calmer, although that branch has its moments, too. I’m glad I wasn’t there on the day someone kicked out the glass in the front door.
The DNA Info story suggests anyone caught stealing toilet paper from the Morrisania Branch in the Bronx will be barred for life from the whole system. This got me thinking, possibly too much.
I’ve heard of only one person who has been barred (by a judge) from the SFPL, and that was because of book vandalism which had a hate crime motive. Initially, he was charged with a felony. The order of protection had an expiration date on it, but secretly some of us hoped the book vandal didn’t notice that part.
The one order of protection I’ve heard about which applied to a hospital patient was very specific. He was forbidden to walk or drive a car near the hospital, but during a medical emergency he could be delivered to the ER by paramedics (Maybe a walk-in was okay, too, if the patient was sick enough. I’m trying to recall one news story from memory, since I can’t find documentation of how the judge in Alameda County, CA dealt with the hospital case in question).
Court-ordered protection for government-owned buildings can also be specific. If the building is taxpayer-funded and visits to the building are necessary for us to exercise our civil rights, restraining a disruptive person can be more complicated than if he’s being ordered to stay away from a convenience store. I don’t know whether the laws differ in each state, or if a U.S. Supreme Court ruling has clarified the limits.
(Again, apologies for failing to cite a source. I’m thinking of an activist who was barred from some parts of the San Francisco City Hall building — but not others — after taking an inappropriate photograph of an elected official in the men’s room. The judge’s order was complicated, but I can’t find a record of it).
Technically, the NYPL is not a city-owned institution. It receives tax money, but it’s my understanding that it’s a private non-profit. Source:
Fun Facts: The public libraries in Queens and Brooklyn are separate from the NYPL. They are also private non-profits which receive tax money to serve the public. Source:
But I digress. The DNA Info story got my attention because of the library theme, not the toilet paper. If you’re interested in reading a book on the recent history of this vital New York City institution, I recommend Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate And the Fight to Save A Public Library by Scott Sherman.
The video mentioned earlier is in this link: