I would like to post one of my favorite stories from my book, While You Do Your Business: A Bathroom Reader that Makes You Laugh in all the Right Places. You can obtain a copy of my book at http://www.gordonwayman.net/
The Chicago Public Library Rules - “Criminals Beware!”
During a recent visit to the Chicago Public Library, I was taken in by a list of rules posted on the wall there. Knowing that these rules would really take “a bite out of crime,” I wanted to do my part for society and share them with you. I present these rules to you as they really appeared, quoted directly with no exaggeration. This is the honest to God truth!
The Chicago Public Library
Guidelines Governing the Use of the Library
Please Do Not:
1. Engage in any illegal activity or behavior
2. Vandalize library facilities, equipment or materials
3. Bring in animals except guide dogs
4. Harass other library users or library staff (physical, sexual or verbal abuse)
5. Eat, drink, smoke or sleep
6. Bathe, shave or wash clothes
7. Remove library materials from the building without charging them out
PERSONS WHO FAIL TO OBSERVE THESE GUIDELINES MAY BE ASKED TO LEAVE THE BUILDING OR BE SUBJECT TO ARREST.
Can you believe these rules? What a way to stop crime? I am sure any potential violator will think twice before attempting to commit one of those infractions. They have the strong arm of the Chicago Library Authority to stop them.
Each rule deserves individual comment, so let’s start from the beginning. First, I am glad the Chicago Public Library used the words “Please do not.” The politeness of the library is appreciated. People do not always say “Please” when they should. I am sure that politeness will go a long way in the “Windy City.” Potential violators may stop their behavior in their tracks if they are politely asked not to. I think that our U.S. Criminal Justice system could learn a lesson from the Chicago Public Library!
The first rule covers everything wrong and illegal. It reads: “Please do not engage in any illegal activity or behavior.” This covers it all. I am sure that criminals would appreciate this commandment. It would also prevent anyone from going before a judge and saying, “Your honor, I just didn’t know it was wrong to shoot the librarian.” Instead, the criminals are told up front with the rules clearly posted on the wall. Anything that is illegal is prohibited in the library. They must conduct their illegal activity outside.
In case one would not understand or recognize that vandalism is an illegal activity, the library clearly mentions this in the second rule. It states: “Please do not vandalize library facilities, equipment or materials.” In other words, do not destroy any of their property. This would include the library itself, any computers or other equipment or any of the books.
I am sure that it is necessary to let people know about the anti-vandalism bias of the library. These days, some people just take these things for granted. In fact, I was thinking about busting one of the computers myself during my visit, until I saw the rule. I immediately corrected myself and remembered that they said “Please.”
The third rule actually made sense to me. It states, “Please do not bring in animals except guide dogs.” I know that some people just think they can bring their dogs anywhere. I am sure that the libraries would be full of barking dogs and meowing cats if it wasn’t for this rule. I was also wondering how a blind person could read this rule. Perhaps they should post it in Braille.
The next rule asks us not to “harass other library users or library staff (physical, sexual or verbal abuse.)” In case one does not know what type of harassment they are talking about, the library specifically identifies it for you. You can’t get physical, you can’t get sexual and you can’t get verbal in the library. If you do, you are harassing the staff or other library users. I’m glad they identified who you can not harass. I guess if you are not on the staff or a library user, you are fair game. I just stopped by to use the bathroom and get a drink of water, so I’m not sure how I would be identified. Am I a library user? I’m not using the book part of the library, but I am using the facilities. I would have to ask on that one.
However, sexual harassment is clearly identified. If one begins to sexually harass the librarian, then she can point to rule number four. “Didn’t you read the rules; you can’t put your hand up my dress!”
“Please do not eat, drink, smoke or sleep.” This rule is not fair! I think there is nothing wrong with sleeping in a library, unless you are snoring. Taking a nap between books does not hurt anyone. I think the constitution should give us the right to sleep in libraries. In fact, just reading the constitution would put most people to sleep. If one brings in a pillow, blanket, changes to their pajamas and sleeps for eight hours, I would understand why that would be wrong. However, sleeping in general should not be prohibited. (I think I will write the library and complain!)
How about eating and drinking? That does not make sense at all to me. How would one define eating? Are they talking about candy or a full course meal? I would understand not bringing in a pizza or something, but “eating” is really a broad term. Drinking? If you can’t drink, then why is there a water fountain in the library? Would you explain that to me? I think the library needs to clarify this rule like they did with the seeing eye dog.
This brings us to the next rule: “Please do not bathe, shave or wash clothes.” Remember this because if you want to take a bath in the library’s sink, you can’t! (After all, I didn’t see any showers in the restroom.) I don’t know about you, but it has always been one of my fantasies to take a bath in a library. And, if you want to do your laundry there, think again; you will have to visit your local laundromat.
The last rule, “Please do not remove library materials from the building without charging them out,” I think this should go without saying. Isn’t this what a library is all about anyway? But, in case one has not ever heard of the library system of checking out books, it is there in the list of rules.
The guidelines end with the statement that if people do not obey the rules they “may be asked to leave the building or be subject to arrest.” It is either or. Either you leave or you are arrested. I guess that if you engage in any criminal activity and then leave, then you are ok. You will only be arrested if you refuse to leave. So, criminals or rule breakers, keep this in mind. If you shoot the librarian or vandalize their property, and then leave, you will not be subject to arrest. You will only be arrested if you stay in the library.
Criminals in Chicago, beware of the public library. They will not take any crap from anyone! They have their own Library Rules!
"While You Do Your Business" by Gordon Wayman
Copyright © 2006 by Gordon Wayman. All rights reserved.