The Library Dilemma

Gabi Kamran

Staff Writer

The other day, as I sat in the library’s Quiet Room studying, two students rose from their chairs and grabbed a whiteboard marker. They scribbled something on the board and quickly left the room, each trying hard not to laugh.  When I turned to get a clear look at what they had written, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Written on the whiteboard in large, red letters were the words “Mr. Kates is gay.” I sat there stunned, unable to comprehend the act of disrespect that I had just witnessed. This was definitely not the first time I had seen students insulting our school librarians, and there was no reason to expect that it would be the last.

Conflicts between students and librarians are far from uncommon at Milken. In fact, they’ve pretty much become the norm. Every day, the cycle repeats: students don’t use their inside voices, they get shushed by Mr. Kates or Mr. Tyler, one student talks back to the librarians and gets kicked out of the library. It’s almost as if messing with the librarians has become a sort of game among Milken students. By why is that, exactly? Why is it that students who would never disrespect their teachers feel so entitled when it comes to our librarians?

“I think that students feel a lot of ownership in the library and that this is their space,” David Kates, Librarian, said. “It’s the place where they can take a break from their classes, study, play video games — really just let loose. So when Mr. Tyler and I try to provide a space that is quieter and less chaotic so students can study, some students are upset by that. They feel like we’re infringing on their rights.”

Some students feel that the librarians take “providing a quiet space” a bit too far, to the extent that students’ freedom in the library is excessively limited.

One sophomore said, “The librarians are just too strict. All they do is say ‘sh’ and bother the kids. Students have a right to go into the library when they want, not when the librarian says so.”

Students may have the right to a certain level of independence in the library, but many feel that students cross the line in dealing with the librarians.

“I think kids at Milken are pretty respectful in general, but when they want to act out they find adults who are more vulnerable, like librarians, and let it all out. They end up being overwhelmingly disrespectful,” a junior said.

What does this disrespect say about Milken students? Is it acceptable that we leave our Milken values outside the library doors? It’s time to figure out a solution to these daily Student vs. Librarian showdowns.

In the words of Mr. Kates, “Respect is the key. Adults have to respect students, and vice versa.”


  1. Gabi,

    Good article that I hope sparks insightful discussions. I want to emphasize, though, that almost all students are respectful of librarians and act very mature in the Library. Students must understand that a librarian’s job is to create an environment where students and faculty can be most productive. I find that the students most bothered by noise in the Library are the least able or willing to speak for themselves. We must develop spaces that allow users to be good citizens. Respectfully, Mr. Kates

  2. Gabi,

    Great handling of a sensitive issue! You did not “stand idly by.” Thanks for raising these questions and making a difference in our community.

  3. I was pleased to see this article published. I totally agree that people take advantage of the librarians and are very disrespectful. I must add though, that I have experienced times where there are ridiculous rules in the library. Once, I was told to leave because i was standing. Supposedly standing meant I wasn’t doing anything purposeful, when in fact, I was explaining an assignment to a classmate. Also, I understand that the library should be kept clean, but if I am in my free period, extremely hungry, and it is freezing outside, I think I should be allowed to eat my snack as long as I don’t make a mess. It does bother me when kids leave tons of trash all over. The other day I saw a student shove a wrapper in between books. When I asked them to take it out and throw it away, they looked at me like I was insane. I think the library rules need to be rethought, and students need to understand that they must respect any human being, no matter who. Lastly, I think it is a bit far of some students to say “we have a right to go to the library when we want.” I don’t think the librarians shut us out because it is fun. They are just trying to keep everything safe under control

  4. I agree very much with the previous comment.
    While I completely condemn the ridiculously obnoxious disrespect I see towards the librarians, I will say that many times I think it is provoked by absurd rules. (I am not at all trying to justify the disrespect, only offering some context).
    Obviously, some kind of change is needed if this is such a prevalent problem at Milken.
    I propose the following:
    -Talking is allowed in the library (not too loudly though.) And yes, laughter IS allowed at a considerate volume. There is no need for absolute silence when we have a QUIET room that is meant to be silent…. If we were allowed to talk a little bit in the library, people would not feel the need to go be noisy in the quiet room.
    -Standing up to briefly ask someone a question or even to chat momentarily should be allowed. Almost everyone genuinely comes to the library to work and if we need help with some homework or want to relax for a minute by sharing a funny anecdote with a friend, we should be granted that right.
    -Quiet room door and other doors should not be locked. It is sooo irritating to have to knock every time we need to grab something or ask someone a question. I understand that it is meant as a measure of traffic control, but it is unnecessary and makes us feel like babies.
    I really feel that these ideas should be considered. We are generally not kids that mean to be rude and break rules, but it is very frustrating when the library limits us so much. If we were granted more freedom and a more relaxed space, I truly believe that the students would benefit and it would save the librarians a lot of time and effort.

  5. I think that this incident should not have been brought up this publicly. I agree that it was completely wrong for the students to write that on the white board but, it shouldn’t really be this big deal because they were joking around and being immature. Mr. Kates is an incredible librarian and i think that this whole thing should be dealt with Mr. Kates and the students rather the whole school.
    Thank you

  6. I’m curious to know if the reporter interviewed the students that inspired the story and why they choose to have such disrespect for another person. Also I am curious to know if those students are anti-gay. Learning respect starts in the home. This indicates they were not brought up to have respect for others.

  7. The Milken library has to be the loudest library I’ve ever observed in any high school in all my years in education. This includes four different high schools where I’ve worked full-time, plus dozens more during my years of subbing. It’s no one person’s fault, but until expectations are set and consequences are carried out, things will remain the way they are.


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