For years, there has been a war in the women's bathroom of the Carnegie Library, main branch. Women, girls, ladies, chicks, gals, whatever we're being called these days, have been writing, drawing, ranting, scribbling, scrawling, doodling and defacing the walls of the bathroom. These walls have been painted on a weekly basis back to basic shades of beige or pea soup green. Unlike the New York City Clean Train Movement, the spotless walls have not slowed down the scribblers in the slightest.
About a year ago or so, the library began posting a single 8 x 11" paper in each stall, asking people to write on the paper instead of the walls. Few obliged, but more mocked the paper, writing on the wall right beside it. Others ranted that asking people not to write on walls is a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.
What's the big deal? Who cares? Why does this matter?
One, the library system is not rolling in money. Two and a half years ago, multiple branches were voted to close by the board and it was only by adding a referendum this past November which allocates a small percentage of property taxes to the library system that those branches were able to stay open. Late fees were raised and other services have been cut. Repainting the stalls and dealing with this crap kills up valuable money and time. The words and drawings are also sometimes inappropriate in an all-ages library, if you know what I mean.
Two, the library recently changed tatics. They painted the stalls black.
Unfortunately for them, silver Sharpies exist.
The black is not popular.
Three, I'm torn on this issue. I love the library and I hate to see it defaced. It's senseless. If these people were so concerned with free speech, they'd get on a computer and start a blog or hell, even a tumblr if they're too lazy to type. On the other hand, I kind of love it.
The stuff they write ranges from passionate and thoughtful to immature and dumb to nonsensical and insane. They write quotes, song lyrics, poems. They have conversations.
And even though blogging works for me, I understand how it wouldn't for someone else. I've written before about how the internet is much less anonymous than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Everything has become yourfullname.com or facebook/therealwhateveryournameis when at one time that was really discouraged. Writing on a wall would feel much freer in comparison.
The only true solution to this problem would be stainless steel stalls, like the ones in the Squirrel Hill library. They have a few scratches, but are otherwise flawless. They could also do what's done in some bathrooms at CMU, which are "Share and Support" walls with notes written on paper and taped up including space for people to leave their advice back.
Curiously, this problem is almost exclusively in the second and fourth stalls. Evens, not the odds.
The situation in the men's bathroom is a mystery, as I am not permitted inside.