According to this story on the London Free Press, the main branch of the London Public Library in Canada has been using classical music to chase teen loiterers away from its front entrance. The teenagers have been a persistent problem for years:
Margaret Mitchell, the library’s director of quality improvement said loitering crowds of teenagers have any problem at the Central branch for years… people complained the entrance was often blocked to pedestrians as young people hung out smoking and socializing. That made entry difficult – even intimidating – for some, especially the elderly. Mitchell also said that the sidewalk doesn’t belong to the library, so library staff have no right to ask people to move along.
The library solved its problem by blasting two pieces of classical music from the library’s outdoor speakers – a section from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Voi Che Sapete from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Within the first day, library workers noticed that the teenagers had for the most part dispersed.
Although I find the story entertaining, I’ve never been thrilled with the prospect of using music as a torture device whether for something as innocuous as chasing away teenagers or as horrific as coercing confessions out of prisoners. I’d much rather use music as a way to bring people together. I also think that this new story feeds into the stereotype that all teenagers and young people hate Bach and Beethoven. I grew up among many children who love classical music, and I’m privileged to teach students who hold classical music close to their hearts.
When it comes to music, beauty is definitely in the ear of the beholder. Depending on who happens to be standing outside of the library, you could chase people away with music which lots of people find annoying such as country, pop, Tibetan throat singing, or black metal. I know that if I was the one standing outside of the library, if you put on Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”, I would run away screaming.
The news story had an interesting take from one library patron who was skeptical that the plan would work in the long term and felt that the children would find a way around it. If the library must use classical music to scatter the teens, they might have more success with three pieces which even classical music fans might find grating:
- Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass
- Pierrot Lunaire by Arnold Schoenberg
- Five Movements for String Quartet, Op. 5 by Anton Webern
What pieces do you think would help disperse the crowds in front of the library?