Even the smallest harrumph can become very public
February 24, 2015 10:10 AM   Subscribe

"constable means honor"

Nice find. Thanks for teaching me something about my home town that I didn't know.
posted by anastasiav at 10:15 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

"You not take shit forty-five minutes."
posted by sacramental excrementum at 10:18 AM on February 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

> Petrovich will say to them: “You know, man, how many times I talk to you? Four or five times? You out.”

I'm surprised the security guard has the authority to do this. Excluding anyone from the library for more than 24 hours where I work involves navigating multiple levels of bureaucracy and paperwork complicated enough that I think it's probably meant to be a deterrent from starting the process in the first place.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:18 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Holy crap this is my public library! I see this guy almost every day! Always wondered what his story was.

The Portland (Maine) Public Library is both wonderful and a little sad. It's one of the last refuges for marginal and vulnerable populations, whether we are talking about immigrants, minorities or just children. It's a safe communal space that isn't trying to extract money from you and I'm not sure I'd be sane without it.
posted by selfnoise at 10:28 AM on February 24, 2015 [21 favorites]

I have a lot of respect for anyone who would desert a military that their family has participated in for generations rather than participate in genocide.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:38 AM on February 24, 2015 [35 favorites]

sacramental excrementum: ""You not take shit forty-five minutes.""

You forgot the MetaFilter:
posted by Splunge at 10:58 AM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm surprised the security guard has the authority to do this

It sounds to me like he doesn't really ( “That guy who I issued a suspension for today might come back tomorrow”), and that's why they are giving him police power.

Nice story. I wish everyone in a position of authority had his attitudes.
posted by exogenous at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2015

Petrovich sounds kind of awesome. Most of the security guards that staffed the public libraries that I worked at, back in the day, weren't much good. They were from security contractors that stuck their most marginal people in libraries; they were in such bad shape that people would walk through the security gates with un-checked-out CDs and DVDs and set off the alarm, and be long gone before the guard even got to their feet. One guard was essentially lost to us when she discovered the solitaire program on one of the public access computers.

The main exception was a guy in Brooklyn named Noel. Noel was a great guy, but had a bit of a temper when it came to dealing with obstreperous members of the public. Once he caught someone trying to break into his car, and ran back into the branch to grab a billy club--in a so-so neighborhood in NYC, near to some really-not-great neighborhoods. (The sign at one of the subway stops that I passed on the way to work had been raked by automatic gunfire along its entire length, and wasn't replaced for the entire year I worked at the branch.) I hope he's still alive.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:22 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

As someone who is quite possibly getting her library science degree and is fascinated w/the workings of everyday library life, thank you so much for this.
posted by Kitteh at 11:26 AM on February 24, 2015

> Keeping the building safe and comfortable while at the same time truly public can be a precarious balance.

If you replace "can be" with "is always," this is pretty much the single biggest issue in the day-to-day life of a public library.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:34 AM on February 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

The library has rules about personal hygiene, and Petrovich winces when he talks about some of the offenses, but he’s swift and tender in dealing with them. “I try not just be jerk in the job,” he says. “Try to help people. People need help sometimes.” A few years ago a female library patron pooped on the floor. Petrovich got a trash bag to wrap around her waist, and then guided her to the security office for some clean clothes.

Man, he sounds like a really kind and caring person. Thanks so much for this.
posted by sciatrix at 11:54 AM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Excellent lunchtime reading, to forget the stresses of the morning workday! And he sounds like a good guy working for the public good.
posted by Pocahontas at 12:26 PM on February 24, 2015

I don't know the specific situation in Portland, but it pains me to see security guards being given the power to hand out criminal trespass violations at a public library. Maintaining safe, open, welcoming public spaces is always difficult, but making it easy for staff to shunt these cases off to the justice system is unlikely to end well for the marginalized folks who are most often identified as "problem patrons," however nice this particular security guard may be.
posted by twirlip at 1:37 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

This guy seems like a nice guy with good values, but at the same time, this:

Petrovich will often put his arm around misbehaving patrons and corral them to the security office to chat. It’s a gentle and vulnerable gesture, and people seem to respond with concession and openness.

Seems like it's about half a step away from the cases we studied in Torts about false imprisonment by security guards. People conceding to being touched and moved by someone in a police-like uniform may involve vulnerability, but it isn't generally on the part of the security personnel.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:35 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I want a Petrovich at my library. (We don't NEED one; we're much smaller. But he sounds like a great guy to have around.)
posted by sarcasticah at 3:53 PM on February 24, 2015

A friend of mine who switched from a DA career to a career running a library said something along the lines of it being easier to successfully prosecute people who committed crime in his library.
posted by plinth at 5:04 PM on February 24, 2015

Interesting to read this just after the story about the Chicago PD "black site".

Petrovich sounds like he comes from the "Andy Griffith" school of policing. Which is not a bad thing, although it makes me wonder if his style is simply unworkable outside of the library? If so, that is sad.

Also: he sounds like he'd make the basis for a wonderful series of detective novels. An Eastern-European version of Francis Xavier Flynn.
posted by doctor tough love at 5:19 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

dtl: I'd read those novels in a heartbeat.

Hooray for Petrovich! He sounds like a man with an uniform that knows what it means to protect and serve the community.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:48 PM on February 24, 2015

<anecdote>Last week, I was asked by the librarian to move from my normal refuge in the the children's section...
L: You have to have children to sit in the children's section.
Me: Yep. I do. Just not with me.
L: Well the new policy is they have to be here with you. Can you please move?
Me: Sure. What section of the library smells least like a homeless person, besides here?
L: *shrugs*

I think it's shitty that indigent people have nowhere else warm and open to go daytimes. Largely, this has reduced my relationship with the public library to run-in-to-pick-up-and-check-out-see-ya-later. Which I'm maybe not the only one.</anecdote>

posted by j_curiouser at 11:08 PM on February 24, 2015

I am a L. As The Card Cheat points out above, balancing safety with making the library welcoming to everyone is a constant challenge for public libraries.

The decision to limit access to the children's section to people with children (which, by the way, is probably not a decision that the frontline staff person you spoke with had a hand in) was probably made in the interest of children's safety.

You say that it's a shame (well, you say 'shitty,' but part of public library work is saying things back to people in a nicer way than they just said them to you) that indigent people don't have anywhere else to go, but then you say that you don't want to be around them (well, actually, you say you don't want to be in a place that smells like them, but, again).

If your library is like most, it does have rules about things like patrons' hygiene. If there's an individual person whose hygiene is bothering you (whether that's because of body odor, excessive cologne/perfume, or just someone who reeks of weed smoke), a quiet word with library or security staff is often effective.

We public library workers are trying to keep a space that's open, accessible and welcoming to everyone, and that means people might have to make some compromises. This kid doesn't get to have a loud speakerphone conversation, this lady has to keep her paranoid schizophrenia more or less under control, this man can't take a nap, this librarian can't speak quite as frankly as I'm doing now, and this library patron might have to share a room with a homeless person.

(The section that smells least like a homeless person, by the way, is the staff area--we keep a bunch of lotions and scented soaps and Febreze and stuff back there. The section that smells second least like a homeless person is the one that's the furthest from the newspapers, computers and comfortable chairs. Try Large Print, or the foreign-language section.)
posted by box at 6:08 AM on February 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

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