|"Oranges" is a CC Licensed photo by Aarthi Ramamurthy.|
I was staring around my office, trying to decide what to write about this week, and my glance settled on the Clementines I brought for a snack. They were just in season, so I've been eating as many as I can before they go away again. The last batch I bought are candy-sweet and delicious.
And that got me thinking. We allow food, drink, etc. in the library where I currently work. The theory is that if we treat the members of our community like adults - trust them to be careful with their soda and french fries and the like - then they'll act like adults. (Also, policing things like that in a library with five levels takes a lot more energy and time than we're willing to give.) Theory and reality don't always coincide, but it does in this case: people who come into my library do exactly what we expect them to do. They are careful with food and drink. On the rare occasion when something is spilled, they almost always clean it up and/or report it to us. The worst behaviors actually come from atypical library patrons - people who are only here on a rare occasion.
I know this wouldn't work at every library, but I also think that letting go of the stranglehold librarians try to have over patron behavior can engender more goodwill than it will cause carpet stains. Trusting people to treat the library well, and communicating that fact (I let freshmen know we allow food and drink in the library and then explain, "You're adults. We're going to treat you that way."), is a great way of helping members of the community to feel a sense of ownership for the building and its contents, to feel like they are part of a community.
So I say, with a tweaked version of a phrase that is frequently misattributed to Marie Antoinette: "Let members of my community eat cake, drink coffee, and consume whatever they want." It's their library, after all.
How about you? What do you think about food and drink in the library? Does your library have a policy against it?