Last week, I had to politely ask a couple of senior citizens to leave the teen space area of my library. I have to do this a lot, but this particular incident made me mad because the adults became quite huffy about being asked to leave, asking rather rudely if they were disrupting the teens (who were using one of our gaming consoles).
Our teen space has the same rules as the children's department. If you do not have a teen with you, you cannot loiter in the teen space, much like the fact that you can't just hang out in the children's department unless you have a child with you. For some reason, patrons are okay with this rule in regard to the children's department but not with the teen space. Maybe, at some point kids get old enough that hanging out in their section as an adult makes you less of a creeper. Except that it doesn't.
Adults are allowed to browse the books in the teen space. A lot of adults love YA books (myself included) and the library wants to foster that love. But there's a difference between browsing the YA books and hanging out in the teen space to have a Bible study meeting while kids are trying to play video games. Especially if you have run of the whole rest of the library to do your business.
What really chaps my caboose is that this disregard for the teen space translates to a disregard for teens. Can teens be rowdy, disrespectful, noisy, and smelly? Hell yes they can. Are all of them? No. Do we still welcome the ones who are into the teen space? Yes we do. Teens are still learning how to be adults - social cues and deodorant included. My library wants to give them a space where they can do this with freedom from judgment. Yeah, they get told to be quiet if the noise gets to be too much and they're held to all the same rules as our adult patrons. But teens need their own space because so many adults would rather give them the stink eye than share theirs. And to relegate them to the children's department is telling them they're still little kids.
Were those ladies disrupting the teens who were playing video games? Not outwardly, no. But by plopping down in the teen space despite the signs that tell them they can't, they were sending the message that our space is our space and your space is also our space. To me, that's unacceptable.
Despite all this, I do feel awkward kicking adults out of the teen space, especially when there aren't any teens there. Explaining to a person that their very presence makes teens feel unwelcome, even if they're just sitting and reading, is uncomfortable at best no matter how you word it. I even had an argument with a patron once who claimed he had to sit in the teen space because he wouldn't fit in any of the other chairs in the library and I was discriminating against his disability. But I keep telling myself that if the tables were turned and we had a seniors only section where teens dared to enter, the seniors would be up in arms.
Not a whole lot of teens come into my library. When they do, a lot of them want to get on the computer or play video games. I'm just happy that they're coming in. Even if they never check out a book from this library, I'm a proud teen advocate and I'll do anything I can to make them feel welcome and keep them coming into my library.