Image [cc] NiceBastard

As a librarian, I have been asked to stop people from “Red Flagging” the office newspaper (taking it in the bathroom) — Slate’s Dear Prudence does a nice job covering this issue in today’s post. I love that Prudie suggests that the person not take drastic measures to solve the situation:

I hope your plan is not to put a Post-It on the paper with the warning: “Marie was reading this while relieving herself. The EPA has been alerted and a removal team will arrive shortly.”

There is a running joke among librarians that the most asked reference question is “Can you tell me where the bathrooms are located?” What many of us leave out is that the person asking the question has today’s newspaper tucked neatly under his arm. In fact, we usually have to deal with someone that comes back a couple hours later and plops the sports section down on the reference desk and says, “here, I found this in stall number three.” (and you thought the life of a librarian was glamorous.)

So, I thought I would ask what would you do if you saw someone ‘red flag’ the newspaper (or, what you expect the librarian to do when you tell them that Partner ‘X’ just red-flagged today’s New York Times):

  • Pretend that you never saw them do it
  • Place a Post-It Note above the newspaper stand identifying the culprit by name and which section he took
  • Don’t worry about it, because since you have an iPad, you don’t read newspapers anymore
  • Buy your own personal copy of the newspaper from now on
Note: You might notice that I keep using the male pronoun… according to my female librarian friends, this is completely a male problem… although someone did mention that it may just be because women are much better at concealing the newspaper when they enter and leave the restroom. 
  • Anonymous

    Years ago I worked in a corporate setting where the newspapers were placed on wooden holders, 2.5 feet long. Each morning a certain attorney would take the paper – ON THE STICK – into the bathroom. He would return it about 15 minutes later – ON THE STICK. It boggles the mind to think of the logistics of him in the stall with the stick.

  • Anonymous

    At my old firm one of the many copies of the local paper would be left outside the men's room doors. I was always rather disgusted by the acknowledgement that this was an acceptable thing to do. I didn't realize there was a "name" for it!

  • Anonymous

    A few years ago we had this very problem with an attorney who would come in, take the paper of his choice and be gone for twenty minutes. Often the paper was damp when it returned. We started with a sign by the papers that said "Please do not remove newspapers from the library." Didn't work. We did end up putting a bright pink sticky note on his favorite paper that said in all caps, DO NOT TAKE NEWSPAPERS TO THE BATHROOM. That seemed to do it.

  • While Prudence might do a "nice job" of advising the complainer not to make a big stink about the problem, I'm kind of baffled that she doesn't at least acknowledge that taking the office newspaper back and forth between the office lounge and the office toilet is–in a word–rather disgusting. Either she thinks that a newspaper is not a likely vehicle for wayward fecal matter, or she doesn't think that fecal matter can contain disease carrying microorganisms.

    More appropriate nom-de-plume (sp?) is Poo-dense, I think.