Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Management Lessons from History

I love history, historical fiction, period dramas, and old movies. Recently I've been looking to them for management advice and techniques.

One of our biggest issues is (as mentioned in previous posts) the large numbers of teenagers. It's a good problem to have but 100+ teenagers in the library can be overwhelming to staff and other patrons. Normally (as I have to explain to some cranky old person* at least once a week) it isn't that any one person is too loud, it is only that there are a lot of people.

Sometimes it is that one person or one group of people are being too loud. If we can not easily identify which kid is the lynch pin and repeated general warnings do not work, we go to one of these techniques.

In the original meaning of decimation, a group of Roman soldiers were punished by drawing lots. One out of every ten was thus randomly selected to be killed. Horrifyingly, he was executed by the nine not chosen.
My form of decimation is a little more humane. If a group is consistently loud and will not quiet/calm down despite repeated warnings, then they get one last warning that the next time some of them will be asked to leave. We then go down the line and count them off (usually by 3's) and kick out a random group (either the 1's, 2's, or 3's). It's surprisingly effective. We only have to do it once and kids then learn to be calmer when we ask them. (We don't ask for perfect silence just a degree of calm and no shouting.)
And as my sister pointed out when I told her this method (after she finished laughing) you can make sure that the number you choose "randomly" kicks out that lynch pin kid. She knows me really well.

I am Spartacus!
If decimation doesn't work, we try this. If they won't be calmer and can't stop hitting/screaming/throwing furniture, just kick out the entire group. Yes even the kid who hasn't been doing as much. It's the same as crucifying everyone if you don't know which is the real Spartacus. We know only one or two kids is tossing the volleyball over the shelves, but we're going to punish everyone. No, it isn't fair. But it does teach you to walk away when you see behavior like that. And in this city, the police can arrest you for hanging around known gang members. Sadly guilt by association is a real thing. We don't use this technique much, but it is very effective when we do.

Two quick techniques to deal with large numbers of teens in the library. We use them sparingly, but they work. In a future blog post, I'll write about my recent obsession with medieval history and the result (hint I'm getting very protective of my sovereignty over my domain).

Happy Reading!

*I wrote this in a cranky moment. A week later and the combined noise of all the teenagers got to me and I snapped. It can be overwhelming and I'm inured to it. It's not only cranky old people who complain, just mostly.

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