The causes and effects of eating in the library
Every year at the library’s freshman orientation, the librarians tell the story of one student who accidentally tipped over their water bottle. The water seeps down into three whole shelves of books, leaving them permanently damaged. This accident is just one of many of food-related incidents in the library caused by hurried attempts from students to get work done. Students at AHS sometimes feel the stress to finish homework, work on a project, or print assignments while feeling the biological need to eat during lunch, but should American’s students be allowed to get work done and eat if it causes damage to the library?
“I know eating in the library isn’t cool, but I’ve been caught only because I was at meetings the entire lunch and had an assignment my group forgot to print. I was not going to go through both my fifth and sixth period class without food,” said one AHS student.
Many students have similar stories, but what is convenient for students is a great inconvenience to our two librarians, Ms. Do and Ms. DiFranco.
“We have a lot of kids eating in different areas in the library, and they don’t throw away their trash, so who’s left to pick it up? It’s just the librarians,” says Ms. Do, one of AHS’s two librarians. She also cites that custodians have many places to cover, so food could be left in the library for an extended period of time.
In a survey circulated recently, both people who eat in the library and those who refuse to do so had ideas on how to resolve the problem.
“I would not recommend just telling people not to eat, I would teach them not to eat. Have library privileges revoked, and—if you don’t want to make example of people—have a place to show the results of eating in the library,” said one student who claimed to eat in the library. In fact, many others also believed that more severe punishment was necessary.
The librarians do have a system in place that focuses on making up for the wrong that students have done instead of just handing out detentions or restrictions from the library.
“We do not like to be punitive; that’s not the kind of vibe we want to give out. Unfortunately, we do hand out detention slips. Kids can make it up by cleaning, they can hand out copies at the copy machine in the morning, work at lunch and sometimes after school to help out. If the infractions continue, it gets sent to AP, and they might get detention or Saturday school,” says Ms. Do.
However, others take a different approach, one that does not include the original goal of getting students to abstain from eating in the library.
“If you want to prevent eating in the library, make a designated area [where] you can eat and use the facility at the same time; indeed, this allows the possibility for pests, but an open policy that allows for eating in the library will make it not only a more accommodating facility, but a more purposeful facility on campus as well,” says another student.
Having a dedicated space for eating would confine the mess to a specific area and allow the space to be better monitored by the librarians, but a solution like this seems unsustainable.
“Although we have a pretty big library—we have over 2000 students—there’s only two of us, so the ratio is really disproportionate. We wish we could have a designated spot, but the only potential we had was at the doorway, but then kids would block the doorway. Physically looking at the library, that’s not possible,” says Ms. Do.
While the solutions American’s students bring up may not be possible, the library has prescribed their own solutions.
“We encourage the students to eat ten minutes before coming in because the eating and the talking and the socializing and the work take a long time, and sometimes in those other acts, the kids are distracted too,” comments Ms. Do.
The real solution seems to be the hardest to achieve. If students had better eating habits and cleaned up after themselves, the librarians could consider a more open policy.
The solution is best stated by Ms. Do: “If one person just picked up their trash, it would save a lot of headaches for a lot of people.”
Ms. DiFranco, librarian at AHS, found this moldy sandwich on a shelf. It noticeably damaged the books around it. P.C. Ms. DiFranco