How do I keep those durn' kids off my lawn?
September 23, 2009 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way to control skateboarding on public grounds while being fair to skateboarders and not causing them to feel persecuted?

I browsed the archives first, and came across this:
Why prevent skateboarding?

This particular question seems to come from the perspective of the skater. Recently I've started working for a public library where skateboarding is a concern. Our parking lot draws local skaters, and it eats up a lot of staff time asking them to leave. In fact, if I remember myself from my teenaged years, the constant badgering probably makes them want to do it even more.

The branch manager has asked for a 'no skateboarding' sign on a few occasions, but upper management wants to phrase it in a more positive manner before they pay for signs.

Our branch is about a 1/4 mile from the middle school, which means our building is a hot-spot for kids from 3 o'clock to around 5. The best solution to the problem would be to have a skatepark within distance of the school, but that probably won't happen given the current economic climate, and the general conservative nature of our community.

We don't even mind the boarders so long as they're using their boards as a means of conveyance; but they tend to congregate in one spot in the parking lot to do tricks and hang out. This, of course, creates a huge liability for us if someone ever got hit by a car, and is dangerous for the boarders.

The first solutions that come to my mind are: creating an informative program that gives out our policies while offering something entertaining for the kids (good luck on getting attendance though), just buckling down and yelling at the kids every time they break the rules (engenders bad feelings, and might make the problem worse), putting in no-skate measures (probably too expensive, also might make the problem worse).

I was wondering if anyone has any creative solutions for the problem, or has ever had to deal with a similar situation.
posted by codacorolla to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The most effective idea I've seen is to make the area unattractive to kids for a hang-out. Have you considered piping in classical music?
posted by unixrat at 7:44 AM on September 23, 2009

Get in a couple of films about the origins of skateboarding, and have a skater's night in your library. If you can get any other skate related material for the library so much the better.

Allocate a small section of your carpark to the skaters and encourage them to scavenge for materials and tools to build and decorate their own ghetto skate park.

Then pick the two most charismatic skaters and ask them for their help in making sure everyone stays in the skate park area and not the car park area.

Pitch this as a movement for encouraging youth use of the library.
posted by emilyw at 7:52 AM on September 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

Perhaps a sign reading "NO WEAK OLLIES". Then you can come out and point to the sign when they start to congregate. I think that would be using humor to diffuse the confrontation effectively (and hilariously IMO).

Couple this with some wall space inside the library for skaters to park/hang their boards (check with your local skate shop for the best way to do this). This way you are demonstrating that you don't have a problem with skateboarding, but that you have to deal with the reality of liability issues, etc. You could go even further and find a friendly skater in the group to act as liaison - he or she can recommend some books or videos for the library to carry, etc.
posted by mikepop at 7:52 AM on September 23, 2009 [6 favorites]

Are they actually impeding traffic or are they in a less used corner of the parking lot? Are they really a legal liability or is that a fear of staff that want any excuse to get rid of them? I'm in a public library too (but our skaters aren't in the parking lot, they are in the fountain and side steps so we leave them alone) and any time I have had to deal with a group of teens I first observe the group dynamics, identify the "ringleader", and approach that person individually including soliciting their opinion and work out a compromise. Any subsequent problems I bring only to the attention of the leader (reinforcing their place in the pecking order) and modify our agreement as necessary. The ringleader also usually gets special privileges from me (use of staff phone, extra time on computer) as a carrot rather than a stick. Needless to say, all of this is done respectfully, adult to adult.
posted by saucysault at 7:54 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wanted my organization to print up a sign that said, "Skateboarding is Not a Crime, but Vandalism and Property Damage Are." They demurred.

Unfortunately, there is, at best, unintended property damage when there is skateboarding on a lot of public property. At worst, littering and vandalism. There are ways of making the area less friendly to skaters, like skatestoppers, and other things.
posted by Danf at 7:55 AM on September 23, 2009

Wouldn't any wording that implies any tolerance for skating or similar activities create a more serious liability situation for your organization?

My thought would be to create a message that targets any kind of loitering, not just skateboarding (although kids aren't stupid and they'll probably make the connection). You could put up "No Loitering" signs and a big, eye-catching sign advertising whatever youth programs and events you offer.

Also, you could ask local police for help--they could probably bike/walk through when kids are likely to be loitering and tell them to move along. That way, you're not the bad guy.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:01 AM on September 23, 2009

I'm no lawyer by any means, so let's keep that in mind while I write this.

It seems to me that the main issue here is safety and liability.

Where in the parking lot are they hanging out? Is it a part of the parking lot where cars generally travel? Or is it a corner where they're relatively safe?

In addition to the sign ideas from above, what about something like "The library is not your mommy. If you get hurt it's your fault. If you hurt someone else we're not going to help."

If there is a location where a skatepark could be built, then why not hold some fundraising events so that the thing can be built?
posted by theichibun at 8:03 AM on September 23, 2009

Best answer: I'm not a library administrator or an expert in skate prevention. I am, however, an ex-skater with kids of my own who are starting to get to about that age, so I have some sense of where these people are coming from.

"The first solutions that come to my mind are..."

What about combining these two approaches? Instead of passing out flyers and trying to get them to come to your policy discussion meeting (yech) go out there and engage the group directly. But instead of engaging them on behalf of the insurance industry and trying to shoo them off with a broom, engage them as though they're members of your community on their own terms. Maybe your public library actually offers services these kids care about, and hey, they're already at the library, which frankly is a huge win in and of itself in terms of community outreach and is only one step away from kids being inside the actual library doing actual library activities. Get the kids involved as partners now, and maybe -- if these specific kids aren't total asshats -- you'll be able to work out a solution with them before it turns into signs and calling cops, and maybe you'll do something to benefit them.

Skaters are going to hang out and do tricks somewhere, why not there instead of the 7-11? Generation after generation, support for public libraries erodes. Somehow I don't think "no skateboarding" signs and yelling at kids is going to engender a lot of fond childhood memories of the public library system.

So yeah: talk to them and see what they can come up with. Ask them to be involved in the solution, rather than treating them like a problem straight off the bat. They're not just skateboard kids -- they're the future approvers of your library bonds.
posted by majick at 8:04 AM on September 23, 2009 [5 favorites]

What are signs supposed to do? Is a staffer going to go outside and point to the signs? Would that be any different than what they do now?
posted by smackfu at 8:12 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

In addition to the sign ideas from above, what about something like "The library is not your mommy. If you get hurt it's your fault. If you hurt someone else we're not going to help."

The problem with a sign like this is that you are admitting that you know kids are doing things that could get them hurt on your property and are ignoring it. Since minors generally need parental permission to waive legal rights, the disclaimer probably isn't valid (although I'm not a lawyer so I could be way off on that). Also, depending on where this library is located, skateboarding may be considered a Hazardous Recreational Activity, which would mean that the government would consider it to be inherently dangerous and free the library from at least some liability.

The bottom line is that skaters are going to skate somewhere. That's what they do. Telling them about how great the library is and why personal injury lawsuit liability is a big deal won't change that. If skaters want to skate on your property, you're not going to be able to come to some kind of a bilateral agreement with them that doesn't involve them skating somewhere.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:22 AM on September 23, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. I'm not our YA librarian (I'm in a technology role), but this has given me some ideas to bring up at the next staff meeting. To clarify the situation a bit more:

- Our proximity to the middle school, and our general understaffedness, leads to some tension between our regular group of teens and our staff. I'm coming into the situation about 2 years in, and when the library was first built there was some serious bad blood between our teenaged patrons and the library. Things have gotten better, as far as I know, but behavior, noise, and loitering are all continuing concerns. The general staff policy for in-the-library behavior issues is two strikes: we give a warning for disruptive behavior, and then ask the person to leave if they persist. Apparently there was a more liberal policy before that didn't really do anything to maintain order, and the kids had the run of the building from 3 until 5.

- The skateboarding usually happens in fairly busy parts of the parking lot, and 3 to 5 (the times that these kids are out of school, but before their parents pick them up) are also busy with car traffic. We've had older patrons complain as well. I like the idea of roping off an area designated for boaring, but I can only assume there'd be insurance issues.

- I think that a skateboaring program, if pulled off correctly, could seriously work. I'm going to look into local board shops, and maybe see if we could arrange something. One thing I'm keeping in mind, though, is that I'm not the YA librarian, and I don't want to step on any toes since I'm relatively new to the branch.

Excellent replies so far though!
posted by codacorolla at 8:22 AM on September 23, 2009

If there is a location where a skatepark could be built, then why not hold some fundraising events so that the thing can be built?

This, but with a slight modification:

If there is a location where a skate park could be built, then why not encourage/help the kids to hold some fundraising events so that they can build it?

If someone from on high designs and builds a skate park and plonks it on some disused land nowhere near anywhere, your skaters will probably stay in your car park.
posted by emilyw at 9:45 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Could you rope off a couple of parking spots and designate the area for skaters only? Make them their own "hang" spot. You could make it really neat-o by getting library workers to decorate colorful signs that say:
"For sk8ers only"
"We (heart) our skaters"
"Skaters totally ROCK"
"Boarders are SUPER keen!"

Balloons would be groovy, too.

They might be more inclined to see things your way.
posted by Acacia at 12:43 PM on September 23, 2009

If you encourage (or even don't actively discourage) this activity & someone incurs an injury you're exposing your organization to huge liability issues. Remember that it won't be the kids who come after you, it'll be their parents. I've had to deal with this (albeit in a retail environment) and the only way to stop the behavior was to involve law enforcement.
posted by torquemaniac at 1:31 PM on September 23, 2009

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