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.”