Library ethics and Tourette’s Syndrome

With words too profane to express here, I found myself facing a person with potential Tourette’s syndrome in my academic library today.  While I was stunned at being called a racist while I walked by in passing, I had no idea what else was in store.  Unsure what to do but comfortable with searching for my answer, I took to the internet and my databases to research what other individuals have encountered related to this problem.  As for library journals, no one seemed to have faced this issue.  The internet did provide one result but of little use to my situation.

To  make sure the issue wasn’t just unfiltered frustration, I spoke with the patron about checking his language.  The patron’s reply of not having said anything left me wondering, how do I even know if a person has Tourette’s or is just abusing the situation?  The National Tourette’s Syndrome Association provides a great set of resources to provide more information about the overall disease and dispel myths, such as the common cursing associated with Tourette’s is actually only present in about 15% of individuals with the disease.  Other elements that relate to the disease are ADHD and OCD  behaviors.  Knowing how to identify the disease is definitely key to prevent unnecessary discrimination and to help establish the issue at hand.

Alright, so with an idea of what TS is, how do we develop an idea of how to maintain the standards of the library while not preventing student access to public computer terminals?  What are the issues a post-secondary environment creates for both staff and students?

As a first step, reviewing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides information regarding the educational standards for students ages 3-21, including the issues of setting individual educational programs (IEP), eventual transition to adulthood issues, and how students with disabilities tie in to the other educational regulations such as No Child Left Behind.  If you have a few weeks to lose, you can probably stumble across some useful information, but the casual reader will be easily frustrated by the dense nature of the materials.

As my patrons’ patiences were wearing thin, I decided to ditch the government site and pursue ERIC, the educationally focused database, and found some great resources on how teachers are learning to manage student behavior.  Turton and Rayner provide a good, accessible article on the issue of Tourette’s in the academic sphere and some great, innovative ideas on how to positively create harmony instead of simply expelling or punishing a student without any explanation of what was wrong.  One idea in particular is the reverse mentoring where a peer group meets with a student to help teach him or her about social etiquette while the student mentors or tutors the students in math, science, English, or any other subject of his expertise. Having a session to also train a student on library etiquette with other student staff or librarians could be highly beneficial to both groups. While a temporary patron would not result in such an effort, the community college setting with return users that potentially stay at the same institution for more than a semester may be ideal for developing a library component along with the IEP.

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