Children: Please Remember, The Library Is No Place for You

Hi Readers! This poster comes to us from Ann Sattley, author of  the book and blog Technically, That’s Illegal. In case you can’t read the fine print, it says, “Please remember that the library, though a fun and entertaining place to be, is a busy public facility and all public places do present hazards for unsupervised children.”

Aside from the extraneous “do” (which I thought was confined to stewardess-speak) and referring to the library as a public facility, which somehow makes it sound like a giant john, this is a bald admission of the mainstream outlook today:  Children should never be any place in public unsupervised, as they are at risk — and you’ve been warned.

It might be “fun” and “exciting” to be at the library, but kids should wait until an adult has scads of free time to be there with them, or just live without library time. Who needs all that reading anyway? Kids might get the wrong idea from books like From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and start having “adventures.” I shudder to think. – L.

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94 Responses to Children: Please Remember, The Library Is No Place for You

  1. Diane March 22, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    Wow. I’d have gone nuts if I couldn’t have gone to the library alone as a kid. This is just silly. I think this is really about annoyed librarians and noise, not child safety.

  2. Shauna March 22, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    I think this notice may have more to do with Librarians who already work long, hard hours, having to watch over children who have not been taught how to behave. They’re already short staffed as is anything that’s supposed to benefit the population as a whole, and trying to keep kids in control, who haven’t been taught to respect adults shouldn’t be expected of them.

  3. Jet March 22, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    I would be oh, so tempted to leave a flyer underneath that says, ‘Yes, I would be completely comfortable allowing my well-behaved 10 year old to play or read (where appropriate) in the mall, the library, a public park, my parked car (barring extreme temperatures), or outside under the old oak tree. If you’re not, then your child needs more instruction on appropriate behavior and what to do in an emergency and you haven’t been doing your job as a parent — preparing your child for independence.’

  4. Heather P. March 22, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    The library in our former city had signs all over the place: CHILDREN UNDER 13 MUST BE IN VISUAL CONTACT WITH A PARENT OR COSTODIAL ADULT AT ALL TIMES. Or something like, anyway.
    I’ve got 6 kids. Am I supposed to drag the 9, 7, and 6 year old into the bathroom when the 3 year old needs to go? How about when the 9-year-old has to go, do I bring in the crew?
    I just kept an eye on the two youngest (and most likely to be destructive). If I’d been confronted, I’d have asked them the same question.
    I plan on making a nice family trip to the library in our new town to get cards and show the kids the shortest route. Then during the summer they’ll be able to ride their bikes there without me.

  5. Donna March 22, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    You are correct that librarians should not have to deal with children who do not know how to behave in the library. So kids who do not know how to behave in the library should lose their solo library-going privileges. When exactly did we get this mentality that, if ONE child misbehaves ALL children must be forever banned?

  6. Lynn March 22, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    As a librarian (although not in a public library), it’s really about a frequent misperception that the librarians are there to supervise and keep an eye on kids (whether they are well behaved or not) to ensure they are safe. So the contrast to the mall is apt. If kids are at the mall by themselves we don’t assume someone there is responsible for them in place of the parents. But people do assume that about libraries.

  7. Jane March 22, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    I feel like I post this comment every time there’s one of these stories about a library… But there actually are good reasons not to send a child under age 11 or so to the library alone. Libraries in general, and especially in high-crime areas, tend to be hangouts for people with drug problems, mental illnesses, and the long-term homeless. (They are climate-controlled and have free water fountains and restrooms.) Most libraries’ policy is that everyone is welcome to use the library- so the pervs and criminals who get thrown out of other businesses come to us. Adult staff members regularly get sexually harassed by patrons

    Please don’t send a child to the library alone unless they’re old enough to stay very alert to their surroundings.

    In our urban library, numerous people have been arrested for looking at kiddie porn on the computers, and one boy reported that someone tried to molest him in the restroom.

  8. Renee Anne March 22, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    I can understand certain ages being required to have an adult with them (like my 16-month old son who would rather pull all the books off the shelf and chew on them than actually read)…but I don’t think that children need to be monitored to the point that they can’t do anything. Then again, that, too, is a general statement. I think it should come down to the parents knowing what their children can and cannot handle. My 4 year old niece, for example, should not be left to muck about in a library, even if I (or mom) are just upstairs…she’s too much of a brat and would get into trouble. Her older brother, no problem. Unfortunately, the library staff don’t necessarily know every child that walks through their door so they have to make policies that seem a little stifling. It’s just sad that it’s had to come to that :(

  9. CrazyCatLady March 22, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    I have been leaving my 9 year old and 12 year old at the library every week for about 1.5 hours while I take the youngest and myself to an appointment. I did check to see what the age limit was (7) and told the librarian that I did not expect her to babysit, and if she needed to turn them out due to bad behavior, that was fine by me. (We have a plan for that…they are to walk down the road to the public park and wait for me there. If they are not at the library, I expect to find them at or on their way to the park.)

    The alternatives are to either leave them home alone, which is fine, but not very rewarding watching Japanese cartoons, or let them sit int the waiting room unsupervised while I do the appointment. Sitting in the waiting room is boring, and more likely to result in behavior issues.

  10. Michelle March 22, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    My 13yo and 14yo step-kids recently went to visit their mom. We were all excited about the fact that she had moved to a very small town, where the kids are able to walk almost anywhere they want to go (unlike here, where everything is very spread out). They went to the library a few times, and were not only well-behaved, but made friends with the librarian. Then I guess the librarian suddenly realized that they weren’t accompanied by parents, and the kids were informed that “children aren’t allowed in the library without their parents.”

    We’re talking about responsible, well behaved *teenagers* who actually *want* to spend their afternoons reading in a small town library, but they can’t because apparently that’s not safe. Ridiculous.

  11. Heather G March 22, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    You know why the only kids most people see are misbehaving? Because the well behaved children aren’t as noticeable. Should librarians be expected to supervise children? No. Should all children be required to be with an adult to be at a library. No. The ones who are a problem should be dealt with without blanket policies treating all children heathens.

    I’d love to see the sign say “We are not here to supervise anyone. Adults or children who violate our rules will be removed from the library” Done. They’ve made clear they aren’t babysitting your children and those who create problems can be removed without punishing everyone for the misdeeds of the minority.

  12. Jennifer March 22, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    Why yes, I would leave my children alone at a shopping mall.

  13. hineata March 22, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Actually, yes, I would, and regularly do, leave my kids at the mall by themselves. Where is this library, that I can leave my kids there too?

    When did libraries become such temples of stupidity? Just recently, a notice went up in the kids section of our library proclaiming that the toilets there were reserved for children, and that adults had to use the facilities (consisting of one lone toilet, hopeless for women of a certain age!) downstairs. I choose so far to completely ignore this, and use them anyway if I happen to be in that end of the ‘facility’. There has never been an incidence of child molestation in this particular library, so the rule is just another example of ‘playing it safe’. Safe from whom? Herds of stampeding women trying to use the toilet? Men – gasp – trying to do the same?

    Libraries are supposed to be repositories of thought. It’s a shame the collective IQs and thought processes of the people administering these ‘facilities’ appears to have plummeted…..

  14. skl1 March 22, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    I feel that librarians should be free to kick kids out of the library if they misbehave. And kids should be allowed in the library (alone) if they behave.

    I do understand that there are security issues in some libraries, but the sign was not about that (I don’t think).

    While I agree that the library isn’t there to take care of children who can’t or won’t properly use the library, I do believe that working with children is part of a children’s librarian’s job. When I was a kid, somehow the children’s librarian managed to do her job cheerfully despite the area being full of unsupervised children like myself. (Almost no parents accompanied their school-aged kids in those days.)

    Having taken my kids to the library story hours as wee tots, I have to say that it seems weird to me to think of parents always being with their kids through these kid-centered activities, especially as kids get old enough to sit and listen on their own. I wonder how it is psychologically to always have Mommy at your side to make sure you can keep up with the singing and hand-clapping and easy crafts and so on. Seems to me that is a great way to breed wusses.

  15. KarenW March 22, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    Again, I feel so blessed to live in one of the few cities left in this country with some sanity regarding kids. The official minimum age in which kids can be unsupervised at the library is 9. I had thought that was kind of old, but apparently the age is 13 in some places, so I guess we have it good.

  16. Ms. Herbert March 22, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    I’ve posted this before. I think the Harris County Library policy should be put forward as an excellent policy. I love love love the first line. http://www.hcpl.net/about/problem-behavior-policy

    E. Unattended Children

    Children have the same rights as adults to be in the library. They must follow library rules of behavior. If appropriate the parent or guardian may be called. If a child’s behavior necessitates them leaving the library, and this leaving could pose a risk to the child, the local law enforcement agency may be called as well as the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (TDPRS), 599-5555.
    Suspected child abuse or neglect must be reported to the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (TDPRS), 599-5555.
    In order to alleviate the problem of unattended children at closing time the following procedures may be used.
    Before closing inform children of the time of closing and ask them if they need to make arrangements for transportation.
    If necessary repeat this procedure.
    Bookmarks and flyers may be requested to inform parents of this problem. See examples.
    Write a press release. See example.
    If a child is left unattended after hours the following procedures must be used if the child is at risk of being left unattended.
    Verify if someone is coming to pick up the child.
    Staff members must remain with a child until someone arrives to pick up the child.
    Staff schedules may be need to be adjusted for this situation.
    If possible two staff members should stay with the child.
    If no one comes to pick up the child call the local law enforcement agency. Notify the Assistant County Librarian. Complete an Incident Report Form and forward to the Assistant County Librarian.
    Parents arriving late should be given a letter explaining library policies and hours. See example.

  17. CrazyCatLady March 22, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    The area where I am has had two library incidents in the last two years.

    One case a man was following women to the women’s bathroom and when they went in, turning off the light and coming in. In the 3 cases, two women called 911 on their cells, and the 3rd, a minor, pretended that she had a cell phone and was calling 911. After the 3rd time he never repeated this.

    Last summer at a library near a water sprinkler park, a dad had his 3 kids in the water in bathing suits, then went to the library. While dealing with his older two, a man followed them in and then tried to feel up the 2 year old while the dad was otherwise busy with his other kids. Another patron noticed what was going on and stopped the man, who then left. Police arrested him outside the library when he admitted to trying to get his jollies by feeling up the toddler.

    The first library I would leave my kids at. The second one I probably wouldn’t because it appears that it has more of the homeless or jobless variety of men hanging out to use computers to get their jollies on. The library I leave my kids at is actually next door to the police station. The computers are all up front and very open…no objectionable material there that I have ever seen. It is also pretty small, which is nice in some ways.

  18. Jynet March 22, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Jane, on March 22, 2012 at 09:59 said:

    In our urban library, numerous people have been arrested for looking at kiddie porn on the computers, and one boy reported that someone tried to molest him in the restroom.

    ————–

    I think what this website (and my personal parenting philosophy) is about not making blanket statements that ANY location is perfectly safe, OR perfectly dangerous. That your library (and come to that the main branch library in my city too) is not a library that young children should be alone in.

    That said, the suburban library near my house is a great place for kids to experience some first moments of independence.

    As parents it should be our right to decide if the location is “safe enough” to leave our children unsupervised in. As librarians, it should be their right to ask a disruptive patron – of any age – to leave the library.

  19. Donna March 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    “In our urban library, numerous people have been arrested for looking at kiddie porn on the computers, and one boy reported that someone tried to molest him in the restroom.”

    There hasn’t been a single incident such as that in my local library. Why should the fact that this has occurred at YOUR library impact my ability to decide if it is safe for my child alone at MY library or have any bearing whatsoever on any other library on the entire planet? It makes no more sense than me arguing that your library must be perfectly safe because nobody has ever been molested at my library.

    I allow my child to wander outside by herself in my neighborhood. That does not automatically mean that I think that it okay for every 6 year old to wander around every neighborhood in the world. The same can be said for libraries. Each parent needs to make the decision based on the conditions in their own particular library.

  20. Ann March 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    Great that you feel you can make a choice about when and at what age your children can make a visit to the library or the mall. If you’re reading this blog, it’s pretty safe to say that you’ve got free-range kids, and are used to making continuous assessments over relative risk.

    The problem is with parents who make a blanket assumption that the library is a ‘safe place’ (without doing any assessment of whether that library is or is not safe); and leave kids alone assuming that the librarians are there to babysit them.

    Reality check: these are *not* free-range kids.

    Reality check: the librarians are there to help kids find books, develop research skills, and learn to use the wonderful resources available. If they spend their time ‘parenting’ abandoned** children, then they don’t have time to give appropriate help to the kids who need it.

    And, yes, there have been incidents (even in safe, little old New Zealand), of kids being molested in the library. Libraries are a community haven for all people – including some that you would not want your child to be meeting unchaperoned.

    But, much more regularly, something just goes wrong (anything, from not getting to the bathroom on time, to losing their lunch money, to having a run in with other kids), and the parents are not contactable.

    Kid melts down totally, and the library staff are put in an impossible situation. Do you call the police, just because you have a kid in tears? Well, yes, if you can’t get in contact with a parent/caregiver. (And belive me, you *often* can’t). And then you get stick from the parent for ‘over-reacting’

    Most Librarians run a rule of thumb. No pre-schooler should be alone in the library (might be alone in the kids section, while Mum goes to the loo, helps another child – or even (gods willing) finds a book for herself). Primary school kids are OK for a couple of hours (e.g. after school or while Mum goes to the dentist). Older than 14 – it’s up to the kid.
    Outside those parameters, you’ll be taking a good hard look at the situation, and talking to the child/parent about what’s going on.

    A perspective from an ex-public librarian (now a Mum of a free-range kid)

  21. Ann March 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    Oh. And, as a public servant, you can’t just ask a disruptive child (in the library on their own) to leave. You have to hand them over to a responsible adult (either parent/caregiver, or the police).
    If they get hurt, hit by a car, molested (or whatever) after being ‘evicted’ you could be personally criminally liable for negligence (not to mention crucified by the media).

  22. Cass March 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    Love the image at the end.

    I have the fondest memories of being left alone in a supermarket to read. The golden books stand was conveniently located in the fridge section. On arrival I would head straight to it and wait for mum to pass by as she finished her shopping…. I imagine this arrangement suited my mum too!

  23. skl1 March 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    We don’t really do shopping malls, but I do let my kids go hang out at the kids’ section of certain stores that we go to. I started this when they were 4.

  24. Donna March 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    “Most Librarians run a rule of thumb. No pre-schooler should be alone in the library (might be alone in the kids section, while Mum goes to the loo, helps another child – or even (gods willing) finds a book for herself). Primary school kids are OK for a couple of hours (e.g. after school or while Mum goes to the dentist). Older than 14 – it’s up to the kid.
    Outside those parameters, you’ll be taking a good hard look at the situation, and talking to the child/parent about what’s going on.”

    Outside of preschoolers (which I agree should not be left alone anywhere for more than a few minutes) why base any decision on age? Many elementary kids are perfectly happy reading in a library all day. Some 14 year olds are going to cause trouble if left alone there for 5 minutes. It all depends on the kid. If a child is not causing trouble, butt out. It’s not your job to parent a child and determine that they are spending too much time in a library and need to do something else. If the child is causing trouble, melting down and peeing their pants, the child/parent needs to be talked to about the situation regardless of age.

    That said, if that were, indeed, what most libraries operated under, this conversation would likely not come up. In reality, libraries on the US often prohibit elementary, and even, young middle school children from being in the library alone ever.

  25. Ben March 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    I’ve gone to the library on my own and I am glad I had the opportunity.
    And people are wondering why reading levels are going down in kids…

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  27. Ann March 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    It’s based on age, because, technically, in NZ, a child under 14 is not legally allowed to be unaccompanied/unsupervised by an adult (or home alone). [I bet this is true in lots of US States as well…]
    It’s not only libraries that have to manage this, but also McDonalds, and swimming pools (among other areas that kids might want to go to).

    And 2 hours is about right for after-school reading/homework, etc. (library generally closes about 2 hours after school gets out, in any case).

    Of course it doesn’t fit every child or every situation. And that’s why it’s a rule of thumb – talking to the child/parent if the situation is outside those parameters, and checking what is going on.

    And, um, no – you just can’t butt out, and ignore a situation where you believe a child might be neglected (and I and Childcare authorities both classify abandoning a child for 8 hours at a public library, when they clearly do not want to be there, as neglect – the child might not be disruptive, but is clearly not happy).

    Free range is great, but we can’t just assume that every parent is watching out for the best interests of their child. Sadly, in some cases, they are not.

  28. Linda March 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    I disagree with the statement that “many children are happy to read at the library all day.” Our patrons see the computer and will happily do that all day. Too bad about those pesky limits so everyone can get a turn. Once they’re off the computer, they are at a loss. My kid loves to read and the library is candy store to him. Still, more than an hour and a half and he loses all of his good sense. (My 10, almost 11 year old. Our library standard is 9.)

  29. Ben March 22, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    Ann, on March 22, 2012 at 17:24 said:
    It’s based on age, because, technically, in NZ, a child under 14 is not legally allowed to be unaccompanied/unsupervised by an adult (or home alone). [I bet this is true in lots of US States as well…]

    Where did you get that idea from, Ann?

  30. skl1 March 22, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Well, I would agree that leaving a child at a library all day is ridiculous. When I was a kid, I walked myself there after school when I felt like it, chose my books, and was on my way. I doubt that I was ever there more than a half hour.

    I think it’s fine for kids to go there after school to do their homework or free reading/writing/drawing, IF they follow library behavior rules. If they cannot, they should be shooed out, after which they can walk to the park or playground or pool and get the exercise they obviously need.

    I think kids at the library would not be as much of an issue if kids were also free to walk the streets or walk to the park / playground or have unscheduled “playdates” during afterschool daylight hours.

  31. TaraK March 22, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    Know your town, know your kids. Our library is very clean and has no obvious “vagabonds” hanging out there. We live a short walk from it and I regularly let my kids go (two at a time, safety in numbers, stay together) without me. My eleven year old has even taken his four year old sister. Can all 11 year olds be trusted with their younger sibs? No. Can all 4 year olds be trusted to stay with their big brothers? No. But I know I can trust my kids to look out for one another!

  32. Julie March 22, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    I am also a librarian and we have a policy that states children 8 and under must accompanied by someone 12 or older. This allows the child old enough to walk or ride a bike to visit the library on their own.

    My staff is very welcoming to all children but we’ve encountered kids that were so disruptive that we’ve had to call parents, usually teens. Or those poor kids who’s parents forget to pick them up when the library closes. We can’t legally drive them home, so we call the parents and if we can’t reach them we have to call the police. We do see child safety as being the number one priority.

  33. skl1 March 22, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    In my area, kids at the library are expected to have a parent somewhere in the vicinity until they are 12. They can be left in the kids’ section alone for 15 minutes, I think. Better than zero, I guess. My kids are 5 and frankly do not need to be alone in a library for more than 15 minutes, but I do think 11/12 is way too old to need a parent around all the time.

  34. jipis March 22, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    A few months ago, I brought my 6- and 8-year-old to the library for our usual let’s-run-in-and-grab-a-few-books-each run. I had to collect some books to return off the floor in front of the passenger seat. I let the kids run in ahead of me. They were inside for maybe 30 seconds on their own. Once I got in and one of the workers saw me with my daughter, she came up to me to let me know I couldn’t just drop the kids off and wait for them in the car. I looked at her confused: Huh?! “Well, when the kids ran in, I asked your daughter where you were. She said you were in the car.” My confused expression continued. I told her that, yes, my daughter was probably correct as I let them run in a few seconds ahead of me. She asked a 6-year-old the wrong question and got an answer she wasn’t happy with. *IF* she had asked if I was following the kids in and my daughter had said that I was right behind them, would she have made a stink? I don’t know. I routinely leave the kids in the kids section while I look for stuff in the adult section. I wonder if *that’s* breaking any of their rules….

  35. cspschofield March 22, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    “Would you leave your child alone in a shopping mall…?”

    That depends entirely on whether I want it to be standing when I get back.

  36. Robin March 22, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    I live in an urban region with very cold winters, very hot summers, and homeless shelters that do not allow the occupants to be in residence during the day; therefore, the library that I work at is one of the primary daytime hang-outs for the local homeless population.

    Most of our homeless clients are perfectly lovely people. However, many of them are mentally ill and not able to receive the medication they need, many are struggling with substance abuse, and almost all have little choice but to use the library for unintended purposes. We have people sponge-bathing, injecting drugs, and engaging in sexual activity alone and in pairs in the bathrooms. We have people sneaking naps in out of the way places who are prone to lashing out defensively if woken unexpectedly. And we have a lot of people (certainly not just our homeless clients) using our computers to access legal and illegal pornography.

    My library is not an exception. As one of the very last truly public spaces in North America, this is a reality many librarians are struggling with.

    Libraries are a place for children, but they’re also a place for adults, and every client has a right to be in our library up until they break the rules. The comparison to a mall is absolute apt, and I see nothing wrong with that sign. If you feel your children are able to navigate encounters with potentially troubling strangers, by all means, let them go about their activities at the library in a safe and non-disruptive manner. However, too many parents have the image of the library as a place filled only with bookworms and with librarians whose job descripiton (perhaps due to the largely female profession) includes supervising children. Neither of these are true, and parents should exercise caution. That doesn’t mean sticking by their kids every second of the day, or banning them from the library, but it does mean having a realistic mental picture of who their kids might encounter, an understanding that librarians have their own jobs that don’t allow them to supervise every child, and a sense of how much their kids can handle alone.

  37. Sarah March 22, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    Robin, I think your comment is right on. I saw Lenore speak last night, and agree with her on many points, but the library is one topic where I cannot fully agree. My area has had too many stories (from the media and from friends telling me their personal experiences) of adults in the library who do not behave appropriately around children. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration in this case. Also, I have to feel for the librarians who are not babysitters, after all. Of course, I would love to be able to let my kids read in the library on their own, but I honestly do not feel safe doing that, and that is very unfortunate.

  38. CrazyCatLady March 22, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

    Robin, you raise some good points. Every parent should go to the library with their kids at different times to see what the clientele is like. That is why I will leave my kids at two libraries, but not two others. One of the two I won’t leave them at is very nice, and I will go with them to that one, but there are a lot of out of the way areas (with cameras, but that is not always a deterrent.) Maybe as I go more often and see how it is, I might decide otherwise. But until then..I go with to those two.

  39. jim March 22, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    I think it varies from location to location… here in Houston we have some great neighborhood branchs where the thought of not leaving a quiet, well-behaved little bookworm alone is silly. The downtown main branch, however, is a huge multi-story facility which, yup, does draw quite a few folks that I wouldn’t recommend as babysitters to put it mildly. But from the age of 8 or so quite a few of my happiest moments were picking up a quarter’s worth of lemon drops at the 5&10 and spending a rainy Saturday or summer day alone with Tom Swift, Dr. Doolittle and Tarzan at my small-town library. Of course, if I had acted up, the librarian would have popped me a good one and then called my mom, so I behaved!

  40. ank March 23, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    Funny, I was just at the library and I am a not about to leave my children 8 hours somewhere, I think people assume worst case scenario, children that can’t behave themselves, etc. But children who are old enough to read and know their manners (and we know if are children are ready or not) can be left alone for a bit of time while I go pick out a book, take another child to the bathroom. I am planning on laminating what was in the back of Lenore’s book so my kids can show it to adults when they inevitably ask “where is your parent!!”

    I’m not lost, I am a FREE-RANGE KID!

    I have been taught how to cross the street safely. I know never to GO OFF with strangers, but I can talk to them. I like being outside and exploring the world. If you are a grown-up, you probably did the same things when you were a kid, so do not be alarmed. The adults in my life know where I am, but if you want to talk to them, feel free to give them a call.

    The number is: _________

    Have a Free-Range Day!

  41. skl1 March 23, 2012 at 12:12 am #

    Well, I certainly would not leave my young kids someplace where I had not looked around first! Nor would they want me to!

    I really think we’re talking about two different things here. (1) a caring parent making an informed choice to let their child use the library without parental supervision; and (2) a parent who is really leaving things to chance for whatever reason.

    If I leave my kids at the library, this is a place I’ve taken them to many times when they were younger. I know very well what the neighborhood is like (suburban), what the clientele is like (studious MYOB types), how the facilities are (very open floor plan and the restrooms are in plain view of the circulation desk), and what kind of behavior can be expected from my kids. Some of the commenters here seem to assume that parents who would let their school-aged kids have some unsupervised library time have themselves never set foot in the library and could care less what happens in there. That may be the case sometimes, but those are not the parents for whom that obnoxious little sign was made.

    Speaking of that sign, on second thought, it might not be completely obnoxious. I think it’s a fair question to ask “would you leave your kids in a store,” because if you would not, presumably that means your kid cannot be trusted to respect others’ property and keep his feet on the floor. IF that is the case, then no, your kid does not need to be let loose in the library. You need to take him in there and parent him, which means teach him how to act responsibly in that environment. And then you can leave him there.

  42. Havva March 23, 2012 at 12:18 am #

    My local library has a brochure about “Kids and the Library” with a line about “don’t leave your kid alone in the library if you wouldn’t leave them alone in a mall.” It was pretty jarring to read. But at least they present this idea as one where there is an appropriate time for this to happen. They say as a please keep in mind that there are lots of people coming and going and we can’t say we would notice if your kid wandered off with someone they shouldn’t.

    I understand and agree that the librarians shouldn’t be babysitting kids. But I think the analogy to a mall is a bit much, especially for our branch. If a kid called out for help there, they would be heard. And unlike Jane’s library, our branch is not a crash pad for drug addicts. Mostly just kids browsing, doing homework, tutors teaching, and adults attending lectures, doing research, or reading the newspapers. Small library, and thankfully the librarians know us. But yes there is a lot going on. So I wouldn’t expect the librarians to notice unless my girl made a ruckus.

    btw @Ann. The US state laws aren’t nearly as strict as NZ, even if neurotic adults here may hold the same opinion. One of the few jurisdictions that spells it out in detail here is Fairfax county, and they are just guidelines. They are fairly similar to your general guidance on kids in the library… except they say under 8 isn’t okay (they are on the strict side):
    http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dfs/childrenyouth/supervision_eng.htm

  43. skl1 March 23, 2012 at 12:36 am #

    Hey, I just did a search to confirm Ohio laws on leaving kids alone, and it turns out there is no set age. It’s a subjective matter based on maturity – is the child safe, does she feel safe, and can she handle an emergency. How have I been misled all these years? Of course my kids are not old enough at 5 to be latchkey kids just yet (nor do I need them to be), but it’s good to know that if I feel they are ready to hold down the fort for a while, I don’t have to wait until some arbitrary age (I’d thought it was 12).

  44. justanotherjen March 23, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    I’ve been in our local library here once (we’ve lived here a year and a half). I can’t imagine NOT leaving my kids there, lol. The building is smaller than my house and half of the place is kids section with lots of books, toys, comfy chairs, a table with crayons and coloring books and other fun stuff. The other half is smaller and crammed with the adult section, a couple chairs and the 3 computers (which are right in front).

    That place, though, is not a place to go for quiet reading. When I was there the librarian was discussing books with a patron. And they were pretty loud.

    But what I liked is no one batted an eye when I left my 4yo and infant in the kids section to go look at books on the other side of the library. I told the 4yo to keep an eye on the baby and to not get in any one’s way. There were a couple other small kids there coloring (presumably with the mom discussing books). I wandered around a few minutes and then the 4yo was at my side. I just looked at her and was like, “if you’re over here with me then who’s watching the baby?” She’s like, “he’s over there in the stroller.”

    I just rolled my eyes at her and went to get the baby because we had to go any way. After that we went next door to the town hall to pay a bill. The office is tiny so I left the stroller and baby out in the lobby and went in to pay. Of course the entire wall was glass but I had to stand there quite a long time while the lady finished a call. The 4yo ran in and out, making faces through the window at me. The baby just slept. Several people came and went (no idea what they do, the courts and stuff are in the building but it was very quiet) and just smiled at the baby in the lobby.

  45. Havva March 23, 2012 at 12:56 am #

    skl1, you might want to check your local regulations as well, just in case.

  46. Susanne March 23, 2012 at 1:11 am #

    When I was a kid (early 1970s-I was in the 6-8 yo range), my mother and I would go into Boston for the day. When she was ready to do some shopping on her own, she would leave me at a bookstore across the street from the department store. I’d sit on the floor and read, completely unaware of the passage of time, until she returned about an hour later. Nowadays, I think a parent who did that might be arrested, even though the city is much safer than it was 40 years ago.

  47. Ann March 23, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    My guess is that the librarians don’t want to be “babysitters” which I can understand, but it would have been so much nicer if the note had said something along those lines like, “Please remember that the librarians are not babysitters. We welcome well-behaved, responsible children who you feel comfortable leaving alone, but younger children should be supervised.” The current note basically just says, “Your kids are in danger. They will be kidnapped from the library if you aren’t next to them every second.” That’s just unnecessary.

  48. RM March 23, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    Not really related to this post, but you might enjoy this exchange on a local chat board …

    http://www.astorians.com/community/index.php?PHPSESSID=3a8e26fb3b00dcb11e89350b97f836ed&topic=22384.0

    The horror! The horror! A mother jogging in plain sight of her baby’s stroller while the baby naps! So many things could happen! They happen all the time!

    (at least the cops who were called about it had the sense to ignore the complaint)

  49. skl1 March 23, 2012 at 1:32 am #

    RM, that would have been hilarious if it wasn’t for real! Makes me wonder why that complainer had two hands free to post that question. Who was holding onto HER kids? Because as we all know, just having them in the line of sight with the ability to go tend to them is not enough.

    “Call 911 immediately! That child is in danger!” In danger of what??

    And what’s the world coming to when moms take care of their health??

  50. Emily March 23, 2012 at 1:39 am #

    My mom started leaving me alone at the library when I was eight or nine years old, and before then, I could certainly be trusted to go and find my own books until she and my brother were ready to leave. Then again, I was a reasonably well-behaved and quiet child who liked to read, and the children’s and adults’ libraries were in separate buildings until I was maybe eleven years old (I forget when they were combined into one, but it was around then), so my first experiences being left alone were at the children’s library, and I’m sure the front desk staff would have thought it a bit strange to see adults coming in without kids, so it was unheard of for sex assualts to happen in the children’s library. Still, doesn’t anyone else think it’s wrong to be effectively imprisoning the innocent majority (as in, all young people, and sometimes women as well) for the guilty few? I was raised in a fairly overprotective family, and even they thought the library was a safe place.

  51. Donna March 23, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    “It’s based on age, because, technically, in NZ, a child under 14 is not legally allowed to be unaccompanied/unsupervised by an adult (or home alone). [I bet this is true in lots of US States as well…]”

    Where the heck did you get this idea? I’m not from NZ but we hear enough “New Zealand is wonderfully free range” stories for me to believe that this statement is completely false. In fact, in the much more helicopter US, almost no states have such a law. Read down a few threads and you will see a list posted that contains a general approximation of the laws in all 50 states and the answer is NO set age limit for most.

    People seem to have great difficulty in understanding basic concepts in this topic. For example, just because your library is a magnet for drug addicts and homeless, doesn’t mean that every library in the world is also a magnet for drug addicts and the homeless (although I take exception to the idea that the homeless in general are a problem although individual homeless may be). Many, probably even most, libraries in the US are drug addict and homeless free and safe for kids. It is fine to say that you would not leave your child alone in your library because of X, Y and Z occurs there but saying that all children should be supervised in all libraries because X, Y and Z happens in your library is ridiculous.

    Further, all children who happen to be in the library alone for periods of time are not neglected nor are their parents looking for you to babysit. Some kids just enjoy the library. If you don’t know the difference, regardless of age, maybe a child’s librarian is not actually the job for you. By all means, if you have a child left in the library for hours who appears to be unhappy about it, check it out whether the child is 5 years old or 15 years old. Something is going on, even if not directly related to the library. If you have a child who is misbehaving in the library, talk to the parents whether the child is 5 years old or 15 years old. Other patrons deserve a nice place to visit. If you have a child who is happy, quiet and well-behaved in the library, thank your stars that there are still some out there and leave the kid alone. See no age requirements necessary.

  52. pentamom March 23, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    Why are we even talking about leaving kids at the library all day? Does anyone think that’s seriously what anyone has in view here?

    People who do that (with children younger than teens, at any rate — older kids might legitimate need to study or research for most of a day) are neglectful/irresponsible parents who are trying to use the library as free babysitting. But that’s hardly what anyone here is talking about — we’re talking about how it should be up to parental judgment and case by case eviction of troublemakers, not blanket rules, if kids are left on their own in the library long enough to engage in activities appropriate to the library.

  53. laura March 23, 2012 at 3:03 am #

    Seattle public library lets their patrons look at porn on the computers. Freely. I will admit, they have “screens” on the computers, but if you happen to walk by, and glance at the right angle, you can see exactly what the viewer is seeing, in all it’s “full glory”.

    I work in a university library, and let me tell you, I am frightened for some of the female students that use the library. We get many homeless in the library using the computers/internet and rarely using the actual collection. Many of these guys have to be reminded not to look at porn while they are here. We also have had to call security numerous times on masturbators who like to watch female students from a few rows away. They get tresspassed for a year, but they always come back.

    What people outside of libraries don’t seem to realize is that libraries (especially public ones) are cesspools of human nature. There is good and there is bad. There is one person in my town who is known by many, and this person has been permanently banned from all the city and county public libraries for propositioning young boys.

    I am pregnant with my first. I live in a bad area of town. I would rather have my child walk unassisted to and from school (2 1/2 blocks) than let them hang out in a local public library by themselves.

    I love this site, and what it stands for, but public libraries in this day in age, with all the computers and access to technology and such is not the place for unattended children.

    Just my $.02.

  54. pentamom March 23, 2012 at 3:04 am #

    The comparison to the mall is ridiculous because the example is of leaving your kids at the mall to do things not appropriate to the mall, whereas “reading” IS appropriate to a library.

  55. pentamom March 23, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    laura — your assessment applies to “libraries” in the same way it applies to “schools” or “neighborhoods.” Some are perfectly fine for kids. Others are not.

  56. laura March 23, 2012 at 3:06 am #

    Just to add. When I used to work the public service desk, I would randomly check the names of the local homeless using our internet. Over 50% of them were level 2 or higher registered sex offenders, who were not supposed to be using the internet anyway.

    I informed my boss, who told me it was a breach of their privacy.

  57. Ramona March 23, 2012 at 3:17 am #

    This probably has more to do with what the library has been experiencing. I grew up in a large town and the library near my school would get an influx of us every day after school. Some parents just used it as daycare, and the kids pretty much ran wild. It’d be impossible for the librarians to just shoo out the troublemakers and remember which kids were which. So they put out a blanket policy (even had a speaker come to our school for a special assembly about it) that no kids would be allowed any more without a parent along. This was the 1970s, so it’s really nothing new.

    I suppose it’s politer these days to say stuff like “For your kids’ own safety” but really, it’s because they don’t want to be giving out free babysitting.

  58. Ann March 23, 2012 at 3:51 am #

    Um, yes it is the law in NZ, that you can’t leave a child under 14 years alone/unsupervised at unreasonable times or unreasonable conditions.

    Here it is:

    “Leaving child without reasonable supervision and care

    Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $2,000 who, being a parent or guardian or a person for the time being having the care of a child under the age of 14 years, leaves that child, without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child, for a time that is unreasonable or under conditions that are unreasonable having regard to all the circumstances.”
    Summary Offences Act 1981 No 113 (as at 19 March 2012), Public Act

    The courts make the assessment over what’s reasonable, and I don’t have time to go through the case law right now ;-)

    We think that about 2 hours alone in the library is right for the majority of kids. After about 2 hours we’d talk to the kid/adult and make sure everything is OK. If it’s not we’ll be calling the parent/caregiver or the Police (if you can’t get in touch with anyone else).

    Of *course* if you have a 10 year old whose idea of heaven is to spend all Saturday quietly reading in the library, you’d check that s/he was OK and leave them to it. [Actually, they’re probably a regular patron, and you know them well ;-)]

  59. Havva March 23, 2012 at 4:16 am #

    Ramona – “I suppose it’s politer these days to say stuff like “For your kids’ own safety” but really, it’s because they don’t want to be giving out free babysitting.”

    And I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to give out free babysitting. Every place does and should have standards. And they shouldn’t be held hostage to a person of any age who won’t follow the rules.

    But just because you experienced some blanket punishment doesn’t mean it is a reasonable way to deal with people. My husband and I and several of our friends suffered through that non-sense as well. It is all to often predicated on the notion that kids are nothing but wild irrational animals incapable of reason.

    Honestly I think this blanket punishing of everyone for the crimes of the few are probably part of why so many kids seem so uncivilized. The blanket punishments don’t teach the kids who are misbehaving what is expected of them. If anything it teaches all kids that they are expected to behave like wild creatures at all times. And if that is the expectation, and the consequences of being wild are the same as being civilized… why not be wild? At least the wild ones have fun until they get caught.

    Now I have seen one blanket crackdown that went well. It was done in response to a specific, very serious accident, caused by illegal activity. Almost everyone was involved. An interim blanket ban was put into place while new rules were considered. There was a lot of communication about considering new rules and in the end everyone agreed that there wouldn’t have been a problem if the existing rules had been followed. The ban was lifted and the existing rules were enforced by the very people who previously broke them (because no one wanted the ban to come back).

  60. Linda March 23, 2012 at 4:40 am #

    Our patrons LOVE free. Love it. Who doesn’t?

    If we said, we trust your judgement about your child, we would spend nearly all of our desk time tracking down parents of abandoned children or dealing with CPS.

    I appreciate that this group of parent readers know their children and understand what is appropriate but you are vastly overestimating your fellow parents. I live in a relatively middle community, hard working folk who are doing the best they can. They are not bad parents. Not really. But if they thought they could drop off their kids and then disappear for six or eight hours so they can work, they would. Childcare is expensive. Free is awesome.

  61. thinkbannedthoughts March 23, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    The funny part is that when I was 9 my parents DID leave me alone at the mall, the park, the movie theater (a dark place probably filled to the brim with pervs…)
    Not to mention that when I go to the library with my kids no one wants them upstairs in the adult area, even on their best most quiet behavior. So if I’m not allowed to leave them downstairs in the kid’s area for ten minutes while I run up to get MY books that means I have to make two trips or endure ugly looks and angry glares from adult patrons and library staff alike.
    Grrr….

  62. springdoor March 23, 2012 at 5:15 am #

    My question is, what age limit defines a child? Technically you aren’t considered an adult until age 18, so if a 13 year old wants to go to the library to study, do they have to be supervised?

    We should be teaching our children to respect what isn’t ours. It saddens me that a library felt the need to post a sign like this (which I’m sure very few of the people it pertains to actually read).

  63. Donna March 23, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    “a child under 14 years alone/unsupervised at unreasonable times or unreasonable conditions.”

    At unreasonable times and unreasonable conditions makes this a FAR cry from “a child under 14 is not allowed unsupervised” which is what you said originally. I hope your library is not so dangerous as to be considered “unreasonable conditions.” If it is, you need to understand that that does not apply to all libraries. And, unless you work at a 24/7 library, it is not possible for kids to be there “at unreasonable times.”

    “We think that about 2 hours alone in the library is right for the majority of kids. After about 2 hours we’d talk to the kid/adult and make sure everything is OK.”

    Who are you to judge what is right for kids that are not yours and you don’t know?!?! You are the librarian, not the parent. The ONLY criteria should be (1) is the child causing problems or (2) does the child look unhappy, uncomfortable, amiss, etc. If the answer to these two questions is “no” then butt the heck out. I doubt that you have any duty whatsoever to report abuse, neglect, etc by virtue of your roll as a librarian in a public library, but any duty you have does not extend to cases where the child is happily reading in the library. If I allow my under-14 child to go to the library for 3 hours and she is well-behaved, I expect that she can do so without being bothered. It’s a public facility and she is the public. She should not have to justify her presence to you if she is not misbehaving.

    Why are we treating children different then adults? There are no rules saying people over 18 can only be in the library for 3 hours without their presence being questioned. If I am causing trouble, I’m asked to leave. If I am not, I can stay from opening until closing.

    No, I am not advocating kids spending all day at the library. I just don’t think the librarian is the best person to determine when some strange child she has no knowledge of outside the time spent in the library has had enough library nor do I think age is a great indicator of how long a particular child wants to be in the library. My brother hated being quiet and thought 10 minutes was torture. I loved reading and could have vegged there all day. Each kid is different.

  64. hineata March 23, 2012 at 6:39 am #

    @Donna, sadly Ann is right. Little old free range NZ has the strangest law in this regard – the age at which kids are supposed to be left alone. It is mainly there, I think though, so it can be used if the authorities think kids are being neglected, as personally I haven’t come across parents being prosecuted for leaving ‘underage kids’ at home alone – we had two very sensible young girls at the school I worked at who were left at home alone while the parents took the five year old to collect seafood. Unfortunately the house burned down in their absence, (the girls got themselves out, so no worries there). The police talked to the family but did not prosecute anyone, as it was obvious the children had been well prepared for being left alone. So, that’s a longwinded way of saying that the law is more there ‘just in case’ – I am still careful though about who knows that I leave my kids by themselves…..

    Back to the topic at hand – a couple of our smaller local libraries in our area actually do function as defacto homework centres and ‘childcare’ facilities, and the longsuffering librarians put up with this as they prefer having the kids there to having them roaming the streets. I know this wouldnt work everywhere, but the general academic output of the kids who hang out around these libraries has improved, and I take my hat off to these women…..they have bent the rules to improve their community.

  65. Donna March 23, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    Eh..it’s really just a reminder to parents that the librarians are not babysitters. A fact which should be obvious, but eludes many. I’ve worked in libraries before and have never seen a well-behaved child asked to leave by anyone. It’s the unsupervised toddlers and preschoolers running wild and pushing the books off the shelves at random that are the issue here.

  66. Gail March 23, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    They probably hide the “Boxcar Children” series from kids these days. Don’t want to be giving them any ideas. My daughter chose this series from the library when she was about five and we read aloud the entire original series!

  67. Diane S. March 23, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    @ms. herbert – harris county libraries, if I remember right, from a conversation with my husband, used to NOT have filters of any sort on there, and people were in plain view, viewing porn. Of course, I’d like to just smack upside the head idiots who are viewing it in the library though.

  68. Donna March 23, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    hineata – It appears from what Ann posted to be a fairly standard “don’t leave kids alone in dangerous conditions” law to me. Every state here has one as well, often without the age. It makes it possible to prosecute people who do leave children alone in unsafe conditions. It doesn’t make it illegal for kids under-14 to be unsupervised under normal conditions. From what you are saying, it seems to be applied in that fashion as well. It hasn’t been construed to read “all kids under 14 must be supervised at all times” which is what Ann said. A 10 year old home alone after school is fine. A 10 year old left home alone for the weekend while the parents vacation in Fiji, probably not so much.

  69. Diane S. March 23, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    @pentamom – my mom used to drop me off at the library when it opened in the morning, and pick me up when it closed, and I was happy as a clam all day long, surrounded by books. Didn’t bother eating lunch on those days. When my kids were young, we’d go to the library for hours – like all day long. They’d look at various books, and I’d be sitting reading a book in the chair by the window. They’re still voracious readers to this day. One day clean-out was 300+ paperbacks, not to mention hardcovers.

  70. Sherri March 23, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Our local library is a great place for kids to be on their own. The children’s section is in the basement, so there is no chance of the children bothering the adults. They do have a sign that states “unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy”. I’ve always assumed that was a joke. I’ve never left the kids there for a long period of time, but I do regularly send them down to the childrens while I look upstairs, and no one has said anything.
    I remember riding my bike to the library as a kid and spending hours reading on a rainy day. I would love for my kids to be able to do the same.

  71. Sherri March 23, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    On another note, when I got my first library card my parents signed permission for me to have an adult card, meaning I could check out any material I wished. My friends were really jealous.

  72. Megan March 23, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    I spent hours at a time in the library as a kid. We’d ride our bikes across town to hang out there. The only time I’ve ever experienced the wariness of children being alone in a library has been in the past year. We moved to a new town with a small downtown area that contains a three story library. It’s one of the best in the state, but the librarians promptly warned me to be on my guard, both for myself and for my kids, since they often have homeless people who come in to get out of the elements. I didn’t understand so they elaborated by telling me that they’d had icidents where some of these “people” had occasionally followed small children into the bathrooms or tried to approach them while they were in there. Yes, I admit it creeped me out.

  73. pentamom March 23, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Okay, Diane, I take it back. Let’s say that *in general, with some exceptions,* the situation of leaving kids at the library all day long is neglect or irresponsibility. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Your description of your situation indicates it’s clearly an exception.

  74. CrazyCatLady March 23, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    How sad that now libraries are turning kids away, particularly the ones who need it the most, the ones whose parents don’t have time to take them. It is a very elitist attitude that I don’t think that Benjamin Franklin would have approved at all.

    The library where I grew up actually had an after school program for kids to do their homework in the 90s. Kids walked a couple of blocks from school to the library. It was noisy during that time, and most of the kids were certainly there because it was free. But, it was by far not the worst place they could be, and that was what the library staff was trying to help with – keeping the kids off the streets with the drug dealers who hung out near the school. I am not sure if they still have this program or not, I hope they do. There were a lot of kids who needed to be invited to the library, in a manner like this, or they probably wouldn’t otherwise go or be taken by their parents. As I recall, the kids only had to be old enough to attend school to be there without a parent. And the staff, well it was part of their duty to the community, which they lived in too.

  75. hineata March 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    @Donna – wouldn’t it be fun though…..!

  76. hineata March 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    Sorry, having one of those nights, and right now I would happily leave my ungrateful darlings at home for weeks while I swanned off with hubby to anywhere tropical – we haven’t actually had a summer down here, though it was hot for one 2-day spell back in January…..:-(

    Shame that this would border on neglect, rather than free ranging!

  77. skl1 March 23, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    See, the funny thing is, when I was a kid in summer, you went out and played (or went to the library if that was your thing) all day. Nobody knew where you were. They just knew you would be back for dinner. And that was not considered neglect. That was a normal and fun childhood once upon a time.

  78. Jenne March 24, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    Please remember that librarians know–we’ve all seen them– that there are helicopter parents who do, in fact, expect librarians to be babysitters. There are also lots of libraries that have problems with disruptive kids. As a result, hearing about disruptive patrons, hearing about really scary incidents (the 5 year old who was molested right on the other side of a bookshelf from his mom) and living in the non-free-range climate makes librarians put up signs like that. Librarians aren’t creating a climate of fear. They’re living in one, and fearful people are making demands of them.

  79. Donna March 24, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    I’m with you, hineata – although I’d prefer to get off the tropical island to someplace with decent food I don’t cook and something to do that doesn’t involve a beach. Maybe we should swap.

  80. Jenna March 24, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    I don’t expect the librarians to watch my kids for me, but I shouldn’t have to follow my kids around while they’re grabbing a book or two. My 4-year-old is able to pick 3-4 books from the shelf and sit down at a table in the kids’ section to read it while I search for my books, which I’ve trained her to do as well as my 5-year-old, 7-year-old and 8-year-old. Of course I bring the 1 year old along with me. My kids know right where I’ll be if they need me. They’ve been disruptive before and the librarian called out my 5-year-old son on his behavior. I made him go back over to her and apologize and promise to never do it again and he was so shaken up at having to apologize to her that he hasn’t ever acted that way again. And I was standing right there when he did what he did, so he wasn’t even unsupervised. But I live in a place that is quite kid-friendly in most public areas, so I guess I’m very fortunate. People here tend to have 3+ kids in their family and public places, like libraries are accustomed to families bringing in lots of little kids that they can’t possibly expect to stay all together while they’re in there.

  81. hineata March 24, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    @Donna – LOL, maybe we should! There are no golden beaches here, no sun, emptyish roads, lots of odd branches flying around at the moment, but a good fish and chip shop down the end of the street! :-)

  82. Eris de Suzerain March 24, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Dang, the library was my favorite place to be alone as a child! Though to be fair, having worked many years in a bookstore, too many parents don’t teach their kids book etiquette (or any etiquette) which may have more to do with this “NO unattended kids” attitude than anything else. It should be rethough to just disallow unruly people in general. I HAVE kicked kids out of the bookstore, and removed books from their hands (these were kids with parents on premises, letting them destroy things). LIbrarians should be allowed to lay the smack down when needed, then the well-mannered kids could be there and and enjoy their time.

  83. Tsu Dho Nimh March 24, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    I like my local library’s policy for patrons … misbehave and you are kicked out, to wait on the bench for your friends. It is not a badge of coolness to be benched.

    If a small child is unsupervised and acting up, they call a parent to retrieve the child. But I’ve been there on some afternoons when there are lots of small children behaving very well, listening to story time or sitting around and (gasp) reading.

  84. skl1 March 24, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    My kid puked on a book at a bookstore once. I guess I should stay out of the rest of this conversation . . . .

  85. Sera March 25, 2012 at 12:15 am #

    It might just be me, but I’m pretty sure that libraries – and shopping malls too, for that matter – have a legal responsibility to ensure that their patrons, of any age, are safe while using said establishment for its intended purpose. Is the child old enough to be able to generally putz around on their own? Yes? In that case, no parent should be needed as a bodyguard from dangers in the library. The library should not have those dangers in the first place.

    But, then, it’s also quite likely that either some parents are using the library as free babysitting for their too-young-to-be-left-alone children, or the library has issues with unruly, disruptive children and no parent to take responsibility for them and their actions. (The main problem there being, if the library throws the misbehaving kids out onto the street without a parent to turn them over to, they might get accused of child endangerment due to forcing the kids out of the “safe environment” of the library into the “dangerous environment” of the street).

  86. pentamom March 25, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    “(The main problem there being, if the library throws the misbehaving kids out onto the street without a parent to turn them over to, they might get accused of child endangerment due to forcing the kids out of the “safe environment” of the library into the “dangerous environment” of the street).”

    I doubt it’s possible to charge any person who does not actual have direct responsibility for a child with “child endangerment.” Only caretakers specifically entrusted with the child can be guilty of endangerment, I’m pretty sure. If a child is endangered due to the consequences of being improperly supervised, it’s the responsibility of the caretaker who created the situation (e.g. dropped them off at the library) in the first place, not of the person who acts in the public interest to stop the child’s inappropriate behavior. If what you say was true, stores couldn’t kick kids out for misbehaving (or even for coming in more than two at a time, which is the policy some places), and they most certainly can.

  87. Jason March 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    You could see the point of this if parents were leaving their kids alone at Catholic churches.

  88. Marlene March 26, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    This is a bit off topic, but here’s something interesting for all of you to ponder. I have known four families over the years who all raised intelligent, responsible, self sufficient adults. Now what I am going to tell you are all true experiences from these families involving one of their 8 year old children.

    1. Family #1 did not let their 8 year old child walk anywhere by herself. (She could once she was 10 or 12 but always with a buddy.) If she wanted to go to the park a couple of blocks away the mother would pack up the younger ones and she would walk her daughter and any friends that might come along. Then the mother would play with the littler children or read on the bench while they would all play and then they would walk home together.

    2. Family #2 allowed their 8 year old son to ride his bike to school and to the park all within a 3-4 block radius. They still hired sitters for him if they went out in the evening and the mother or father was always home if he was out riding alone.

    3. Family # 3 allowed their 8 year old daughter the same privileges as family #2 with the addition of allowing her to stay home alone for up to 2 hours by herself.

    4. Family #4 allowed their 8 year son to stay home, while being in charge of his 4 younger siblings, overnight alone. These were not people you would look at and think they were neglectful. They lived in nice suburban neighborhood, and were very involved parents. They just honestly felt he was responsible enough to be trusted.

    Now, I think most of us wouldn’t go as far as family #4, yet they FELT they were doing the right thing just as families 1, 2, and 3. And like I said, ALL of them are now fully grown and ALL of them are responsible, intelligent, independent, self sufficient adults. (So at least in these cases, helicoptering or free ranging had nothing to do with the outcomes. The one thing they all did have in common were involved parents who all seemed to work hard in instilling values.) So is the lesson here that we leave parenting decisions up to the parent and keep out of it, regardless of our opinion? (And that goes both ways. If we judge others for “helicoptering”, we can’t expect others not to be justified in judging us.) Sometimes it’s about following your instincts and trusting that other parents do the same thing. Should we have age caps on things? How young is too young or too old? How do we judge that and do we even have a right to judge that? Just some interesting thoughts to ponder. :)

  89. Angela March 26, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    Signs and rules like this is brought to you by bad parenting. They don’t correct or teach their children how to behave. Thus bringing the community into the parenting of the child when they shouldn’t have to.

  90. CrazyCatLady March 27, 2012 at 4:32 am #

    I checked ages at one of the local libraries. They said 12. They also said that they would not throw out the kids if they were being bad – they would call the parents. If they could not locate the parents then they would call the cops. All so they don’t have to be responsible if the kid leaves before they were told to by parents.

  91. Merrick March 27, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    My library technically doesn’t allow young children to be left unattended in the children’s section. This has never deterred me from sending them ahead while I collect my holds, peruse the new books or pay a fine. And the librarians are totally aware of this. And have never once commented on it. My children behave. They stay together. They do what they’re supposed to be doing. No problems. They need no babysitter for a walk to the other side of the building and a browsing of the latest offerings in Garfield or Calvin and Hobbes.

    Gail — my kid gets his boxcar fix from the church library and I think they got Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler there too — a virtual den of runaway evil that church library! Another place where I let them be alone to meet me after their youth group and my choir get out.

  92. Ann March 29, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    As a public librarian who works at a small public library in a very well-to-do suburb, I can say that the shopping mall comparison is apt and an excellent reality check for parents, free-range or otherwise. Our library isn’t easily accessible by public transportation (which tends to increase a public library’s mentally ill and offender clientele), but we still have numerous patrons surfing porn and suffering paranoid delusions. Regular library patrons would (hopefully) not be aware of the extent of these issues since library staff address them quickly and discretely, but parents do need to be fully informed when they’re making decisions about when their children should be alone vs. traveling in pairs vs. supervised. I think that many parents have a quaint vision of a suburban public library that doesn’t match reality. The reality is truly more like a shopping mall, which shouldn’t necessarily be a red light to parents, just information they need to consider.

    Also, the idea of “putting kids out” of the library who are unruly would never fly. Teens perhaps, but putting out someone’s 8 year-old darling would result in a lawsuit so fast it would make our heads spin. Our county budget just doesn’t have that kind of money to burn.

  93. George April 17, 2012 at 1:16 am #

    I am a police officer and you folks are seriously mistaken if you think your kids are safe at the library. There is a public library on the college campus I work at in Harris county Texas and we have had several incidents where 12 and 13 yr old girls were accosted and on one occasion chased into the women’s restroom. Fortunately nothing bad happened. This library is in a good area (Cypress) so I can only imagine how bad a more urban area woul be. Our library has many computers for anyone to use I know for sure that they are frequented by child predators. Please don’t leave your kids here alone. I have four of my own and wouldn’t do it EVER.

  94. Kamko June 9, 2012 at 3:32 am #

    And what about those who just need a quiet place to study? My local public library is a zoo due to non-supervised children of all ages roaming around the bookshelves in a very loud voice. The quiet rooms cannot support everyone who needs a silent environment and sometimes we have to end up sitting on the tables along the shelves. It’s a nightmare! Parents should encourage a library appropriate behavior all the times while in there!