Publib Discussions: Public Library Patron Flatulence

 Unconcealed flatulence in Public Libraries

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On Monday Jun 20th the following question on flatulence aka farting and  many, many other expressions  was offered to the PubLib ListServe :

 I have a patron who comes to use our computers fairly regularly to surf the internet.  Another thing he does regularly is to pass gas loudly while using the computer and not thinking anything of it. Does the library have a right to insist that he stop this or does he have a right to perform this “natural” bodily function? He also does not hesitate to belch on occasion. …  He lifts his “cheek” and lets it fly…   Sometimes they just don’t pay me enough.   ~  Sam

Sam did not specify if the repeated offense by the computer surfer was simply noise related or also smell related.  He also did not state a policy on flatulence for staff and trustees. If library staff or trustees frequently expel gas, does it make a noise? 

However, if the issue is merely olfactory inconvenience, Benjamin Franklin in his letter to The Royal Academy of Farting c. 1781 provided some enlightened observations on the occurrence of gas along with a possible solution:

Benjamin Franklin

 It is universally well known, That in digesting our common Food, there is created or produced in the Bowels of human Creatures, a great Quantity of Wind.

That the permitting this Air to escape and mix with the Atmosphere, is usually offensive to the Company, from the fetid Smell that accompanies it.

That all well-bred People therefore, to avoid giving such Offence, forcibly restrain the Efforts of Nature to discharge that Wind.

That so retain’d contrary to Nature, it not only gives frequently great present Pain, but occasions future Diseases, such as habitual Cholics, Ruptures, Tympanies, &c. often destructive of the Constitution, & sometimes of Life itself.

My Prize Question therefore should be, To discover some Drug wholesome & not disagreable, to be mix’d with our common Food, or Sauces, that shall render the natural Discharges of Wind from our Bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreable as Perfumes.

If Ben Franklin had successfully invented a drug that resulted in the patron expelling perfumes, would the expulsion of gas still be considered offending?  If offense is based on  quantity rather than quality of the gas emitted – what means of measurement would be appropriate for setting flatulence limits in a Public Library?

Publib readers offered their own suggestions :

Have you tried the three strikes rule? If you have three patrons in your library who complain about his gaseous behavior, perhaps you can then tell him to stop. Then, if he does not stop, it is your right to remove him from the property if he is being a nuisance to others.  ~ Ford Simmons, MLIS

Perhaps a personalized seat cushion for this person, with an activated charcoal insert??    Just kidding, I guess…. ~ George Hazelton

I just wanted to bring up the possibility that he may have some sort of medical issue (for instance, irritable bowel syndrome) that puts his gassiness out of his control. You may want to consider what you will do if it turns out that he isn’t just being gross and rude, but actually can’t control the need to pass gas. ~ Heather Backman

why dont you just connect him up and use the gas to power the library? ~ Alan Wylie

Are the farts typically the low whistle variety, or more like the puttering of a motor bike? This is just me, of course, but I find that those of a lower register can have a soothing effect, if sustained. And, wouldn’t you know it, they often are sustained. P.S. I find the word “fart” to be off-putting. I prefer “boop.”   ~ Joseph J. Cadieux

Le Petomane performing

Sam, it sounds like you have more to work with here than just his “tooting.” He’s clearly making himself a nuisance, not merely (possibly) having a health issue. He’s driving patrons away from the library with his behavior, which does not make him a benign member of the community. I say start with a short ban with threats of further, longer ones if he doesn’t correct himself.  Brett Rohlwing

We always take the stance that if other patrons complain, the offending patron is creating an unpleasant environment for them and can be asked to stop it. If nobody else complains, you do have a quandary.   Tom Cooper    Editors note: There is historic precedent to pay people such as Le Pétomane to fart.  In absence of complaints – might there even be approval of flatulence as the work of a fartiste ?

Probably qualifies as “offensive behavior” if other patrons complain.  Body odor is “natural,” but we speak up about that in response to complaints.  ~  Darrell Cook

I would even venture to say that you don’t need to wait for a patron complaint. If it’s bothering your staff, that’s good enough.  Manya Shorr

His right to pass gas ends at the end of your nose. If it was a one or two time event, he can be forgiven, but he is intentionally being offensive. Someone with that problem, knows when decorum dictates that he venture into the restroom to relieve himself of the gas.  He is making it difficult for others to use the Library, and thus needs to be asked to leave, and not come back for two days.  If he comes back and repeats his behavior, lengthen the time away. He’ll either get the message, or he won’t have use of his library. Either way, your other patrons (and your staff) win.  Jeff Imparato

Just, of course, proceed with tact. This can be an unfortunate side effect of some surgery ..became a regular thing for my Dad after his gall bladder was removed. Mortified him, so we all sort of pretended it wasn’t happening.It’s a dicey conversation at best, the more so if your patron can’t help himself…  good luck!! Sara Weissman

 A popular culture interpretation of issues surrounding public expulsion of gas is expressed in Fox Television’s animated series The Family Guy:

Public Library Patron Flatulence

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Karen Schneider Tribute

A Tribute to Karen Schneider:  outgoing co-moderator of PubLib

On Sat Jun 18 2011 Publib co-moderator Karen Schneider  announced two major Upcoming changes to the PUBLIB list :

1. Migration of the  listserve hosting from Webjunction to OCLC.

2. Her departure as co-moderator of the PubLib listserve after 15 years of service to the growing Publib community.

Co-moderator Sara Weissman provided Publib with a an overview of some of the many intellectual/  administrative contributions Karen Schneider has made to help develop this dynamic Publib community :

1. PubLib postings by and about Karen Schneider  number over 6000

2. Karen Schneider’s numerous insights include her “Internet Reference Success Stories, job announcements, policy questions  galore, using the Internet for fun and benefit, announcements from ALA and  its many divisions, humorous reference questions, patrons and accompanying  animals, skylights, cafes in public libraries, the homeless, etc., etc., etc. “

3. PubLib subscribers grew from 2,700 to 10,458 strong. 

Nann Blaine Hilyard – Director of the Zion-Benton Library has suggested a fitting, colorful tribute to Karen for her generous contributions to the PubLib community:

To thank Karen Schneider for her years as co-moderator of PubLib, we are going to give her a bookshelf quilt.   If all 10,000 PubLibbers contribute, so much the better—she’ll have a library-filled quilt!  

 By July 31, 2011, PubLibbers are asked to create signature blocks.

Here is how:

  Cut a piece of woven cotton fabric  2.5”  x  5”. 

Any color.

Must be woven.   If there are no sewists in your household or among your colleagues, consider using a a piece from a shirt or a sheet.

No knits.   No textures (no terrycloth or corduroy).

  On that piece of fabric write your name and library or town – however you want to be identified.  (If you use a pseudonym, that’s fine.)

 ♦ If possible use a Pigma brand pen.  (Scrapbookers, quilters, and artists in other media use them.)

Alternatives:  a gel pen, a fine-tip Sharpie, India ink are all okay.

 ♦ Any color of ink is okay.

*DO NOT USE* a Flair, a fountain pen, or a ballpoint pen.

Signature block with margins

Keep a 1/4 to 1/2- inch margin all around the block.   Do not write in the margin (that’s the seam allowance). 

Send the signature block to: Nann Blaine Hilyard, Zion-Benton Public Library, 2400 Gabriel Ave.,Zion, IL  60099 BY JULY 31, 2011.  

If you want to enclose a couple of bucks to defray the cost of fabric, thread, and batting that Nann will use create the quilt, that would be great. 

  Note:  Nann will bring Pigma pens and pre-cut 2.5” x 5” fabric to ALA Annual, so if you’ll be there, find her!   

Nann Blaine Hilyard, director
Zion-Benton Public Library
2400 Gabriel Ave.
Zion, IL  60099
847-872-4680x 110
847-872-4942 fax
www.zblibrary.org.

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The Publib Archives

The Publib archives from the Webjunction listserve are available here: Archives Please note: HTML is stripped out of archives. Compose in plain text or richtext.

A Tribute to Karen Schneider 

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