The Carnegie Public Library recently repainted their bathroom stalls and added a pleasant “Please keep our library beautiful sign,” or something to that effect. There had been graffiti covering the walls before the most recent repainting in a series of graffiti fighting repaintings. I say, they’re destroying what’s beautiful.
Some graffiti is gang related. I won’t deny that. But this is different. Bathrooms in public spaces–and sometimes even in private ones–become public spaces. They’re covered in graffiti. The comedic and common in television depictions of public bathrooms show writing of “Mikey wuz here” and “For a good time call Suzie 555-5598.” This does not reflect reality. Bathroom stalls have become sacred spaces. Confessionals. People use these spaces, these walls, to share. You have people who write things that they hear, phrases that inspire them. People write down worries and concerns. People write down advice. This creates a place of anonymous social change and connectivity. A place people feel safe to have these discussions, and since no one is directly communicating to anyone else, there is no fear of immediate judgment. This is what’s great.
I propose that the Carnegie Library, and other similar institutions facing this situation, instead find a removable substance they’re okay putting on the walls. Giant magnetic sheets, for example. Then, people can write on them without anyone getting too upset. These can later be displayed as testaments to how the library is not just a place people can physically and intellectually come together, but emotionally as well. It will remind us that libraries aren’t just about books, but they’re about community. Community isn’t just about your neighbors, it’s about a sense of connectivity with the people around you.