Nobody really wants to talk about poop, pee, blood, and other things you don’t want to find in a library bathroom but guess what? That’s what we are gonna talk about. Why are we gonna talk about it? Because even though we’ve had an amazing summer at our library (visitors and circulation are up!), I will forever remember the summer of 2017 as THE SUMMER OF BATHROOM ISSUES.
Compared to large urban libraries, I know that our issues in the bathroom are quite small. In my time in New Jersey, we had to deal with a patron who loved to chug vodka and leave the evidence hidden in the ceiling tiles. I can’t tell you how many times we dealt with used needles when I was in Maine. And in Tennessee, I remember alcohol and prescription medication bottles being the things we found the most. Here in Titusville PA we mostly deal with poop, pee, & blood, either on the floor, the toilet seat, or the walls. But here’s the thing: it shouldn’t matter what you’re dealing with in the restroom. All of this is unacceptable. And for some reason, its been happening more frequently here at my library. What’s going on in the world? Where is this acceptable? Is there something that we’re doing wrong? I ask myself these questions a lot. I think about poop, pee, and blood more than a normal person should.
I’ve had to remind myself a lot this summer to remain positive. Maybe they just missed the toilet? Maybe they’re embarrassed about what was very clearly an accident to them? I don’t know what causes these things to happen, but I do know that in order to continue working in libraries I’ve gotta stay positive. As the director at my library, I’ve gotta also remember to keep my staff positive. Of course we’re allowed to have a moment or two where we want to give it all up after we find a wad of toilet paper that has very clearly been peed on and then stuffed behind the toilet (for three weeks or so). In the long run though, we’ve gotta do our jobs, remain positive, and always remember that we’re doing work that is good work. Nobody wants to deal with this kind of stuff, but sometimes we have to so we do it, we have our little grumble, we remind ourselves why we’re in the library biz, and we move on.
To end, I’d like to share something very positive that came out of this. Yesterday a patron found something in the restroom that needed to be cleaned up. He asked me for some paper towels and I obliged, but I asked him if I could help. Here’s what he said to me:
“There’s a mess in the restroom. You don’t wanna see it and I don’t mind cleaning it up. I work as a janitor so I am used to this. And y’all have been so nice to me that I don’t mind helping you out.”
Despite all of the poop and pee that we’ve come across this summer, this interaction sums it all up: stay positive and be kind to everyone. Do your job and do it well.
Interested in more talk about messy bathrooms and all things icky about libraries? I suggest Matt Finch’s Code Brown: Design Thinking & Beyond feat. @jeromical / Part 1
It never ceases to amaze me how people can behave 😦 Did the library not have a book in that they wanted? It really makes you wonder what their home looks like, doesn’t it?
You wouldn’t believe the number of times someone has clogged the toilet, had it overflow and just bailed. We only find out when the next person goes in, or the water starts seeping out under the door. The kicker is that there are plungers in both bathrooms, clearly visible next to the toilet.
I think I’m in love with the patron you mentioned. He sounds wonderful!
J we had the same issue at my past rural publi library 📚 but we implemented THE KEY and it all faded away. Bathrooms are locked (we have 1 M & 1 F bathroom) and any patron needing to use the restroom comes to the front desk and asks for the key (just like at gas stations, stores and some restaurants). This creates accountability and ownership. Also much safer for children and women as one on at a time. We had duplicate keys in case we need to get in. Never had a bathroom problem again 👏😊👍