how dangerous is the library when it comes to kids? Apparently too dangerous to have any of them under the age of 12 anywhere on the premises unsupervised — even if their parents are just a room away.
Or so goes the reasoning at the Boulder, CO, public library, which sent this letter, in response to a parent’s dismay at the new rule. The boldface is mine. Â – L.
Dear Mr. H:
I am sending this reply to your communication of December 14, 2012, on behalf of the Boulder Public Library Commission.
The Boulder Public Library Commission received your message asking about the new Boulder Public Library rules of conduct regarding children age 11 and under needing to be with an adult while in the library.Â The rule reads as follows:
No person may leave children, age 11 and under, or dependent adults unattended.
First we would like to clarify for you that children of all ages are welcome in the Boulder Public Library, and, that children are not banned from the library.Â Library staff are happy to assist children with selecting and checking out library materials, and, providing reference and readersâ€™ advisory service.Â The reasoning behind instituting this new rule, which is consistent with many other public library systems across the nation, is, to address concerns about children being left alone in the youth area, or in the library in general, while parents or caregivers were either absent or in other sections of the building.
Our library staff values the safety and wellbeing of children, however, our resources do not make it possible for us to provide constant supervision and oversight of children, especially if they were to wander off inside or outside our buildings.
The libraries are public buildings, and, open to everyone.Â Because the library is a public place, a childâ€™s safety cannot be guaranteed.Â Children may encounter hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture, electrical equipment, or, other library patrons.Â At the Main Boulder Public Library alone, almost one million patrons walk through the doors each year.Â The safety of our patrons, especially children and dependent adults, is our highest priority.
We appreciate your familyâ€™s enthusiasm for public libraries and we look forward to serving you.Â We also appreciate that feedback you have provided on the process of soliciting public feedback and how we can continue to improve upon that.
Lenore here again: The letter was then signed by a librarian who must have forgotten what libraries exist for, which is to educate, enlighten and entertain the entire population of a town. Those activities do not REQUIRE Â “constant” supervision. To assume they do is to assume either outrageous danger or incredible incompetence.
In the absence of any true danger, the librarian has decided kids as old as 11 will be stumped, or even mangled, by doors and stairs. In the absence of common sense, she goes on to assume that therefore it is the librarian’s job to Â make sure, for instance, that each child adequately grasps the handle on the door, carefully pulls it open and, after somehow making it fully through the dastardly portal, proceeds safely about the room, despite Â being surrounded by something surely no child has ever encountered before: furniture.
The kind of bizarre world view required to write this kind of letter makes me think the librarian should quit her job and start writing one of those dystopian middle school novels so popular today. – L.
UPDATE! Here’s an article on the library issue in the local paper, The Daily Camera. Reporter Erica Meltzer interviewed the library spokeswoman, Jennifer Bray:
Bray said the library is a welcoming place for children and families, and no one will be asking the ages of older children who are behaving appropriately.
SO WHY ISN’T THAT THE OFFICIAL RULE? Write it this way: “Any well-behaved child is welcome at the library. And any child behaving badly will be asked to leave.” Â THAT would make sense! – L.
Sounds like a “We are not here to babysit your brats who can’t behave themselves” note, wrapped up and camouflaged as a “for safety’s sake, we can’t be liable for for your kids” missive.
As a librarian, I have to admit that I see where this policy is coming from. It isn’t about “protecting the children.” that’s just a front. Everyone, including librarians, knows that an 11 year old can navigate stairs unattended.
The real people being protected here are the librarians. They are most likely fed up with becoming the nanny to umpteen kids. Parents call and say “Make sure Jane does her homework” and “Why did you let Johnny check out that book?” and even “Tell him to eat dinner there, I’m not going to be home.”
Now, this policy of not allowing unaccompanied children in the children’s area, well, it’s not the right solution. I prefer kicking the kids out when they get too rowdy, and telling all parents that I am not going to parent for them. But it’s a long slog, and frankly, I see the temptation.
OTOH, this might be a cover for saying that some kids don’t behave themselves in libraries with or without direct parental supervision. I could see how that might be irksome to other library patrons. Saying that to certain parents, however, has its own risks…
…of course I recall going to the public library alone at about that age. Naturally, I was always perfectly behaved. 😉
I tend to agree with your campaign to release children from the restrictions and fear we’ve imposed upon them, however – just a thought on this library thing: I wonder how many libraries have been sued by parents because of something – however minor – happening to their kid. I tend to see these policies as anti-liability, regardless of how they explain it to their patrons. People are ridiculous these days, leading to policies that are really intended to protect the institution.
While my kids (18 and 14) have been raised in a free-range manner, and this ruling would have bothered me tremendously, since my 14-year old has always been a voracious reader, I can see why a library might institute such a rule.
Liability. Yes, a kid might step out, get lost and get scared, get in a fight, fall down stairs, whatever. Often these days, if a rule is not on the books, a parent could sue the library over such an incident, something most libraries cannot deal with.
Badly-behaved kids. I have seen screaming, yelling, running, hitting, throwing things – not from toddlers but elementary school aged kids. I can see why a library might not want to be held responsible for kids who behave like this, specially given the liability factor if they were to actually do something about it, including banning the kid.
Not saying I like it, but that I understand the reasons behind such a rule.
This is the same thing as mall adult escort policies for teens under 16 or 18 after 4 or 5 PM. It’s very sad that our society is so hostile toward its own children.
This is Boulder, anyway. The same place that years ago banned ice cream trucks from playing music during dinner time because parents didn’t want to say no to their children.
I suppose it depends on just how frightening those doors and furniture can be. Have you never seen that “When Furniture Attacks” documentary?
Shame on any parent who calls and asks a librarian to make sure their child does his homework. I think at least part of the problem is that adults don’t feel okay about correcting someone else’s misbehaving child, and if the correction is ignored, going to the parent. My mom would have been livid with me if an adult told her I misbehaved. However, many parents would instead attack the adult.
If every librarian could be comfortable reproaching a misbehaving child and (in the worst situation) calling the parent to have him picked up, without drama or outrage toward the librarian from the parent, we would not be in this situation.
Somehow we got confused, and started thinking that if you are a good parent, then your kid will never misbehave. But this isn’t true! If you are a good parent, you will discipline your child when he misbehaves. Some kids hardly misbehave at all and some misbehave a lot. How the parent reacts is everything. I think this new belief among us causes parents to get defensive when they should be correcting their child. It also causes adults to blame parents for stuff they shouldn’t be blamed for, and to think “the parent of that kid who acted up won’t correct him anyway, so I may as well just say nothing.” Then we get policies like this one.
If this isn’t about safety – which it clearly isn’t I have to think this is really about the decline of adult authority.
Since when are competent adult librarians unable to enforce order in the library without the presence of parents?Since we stopped assuming collective responsibility for socializing the next generation.
For kids to have the freedom to be in public places without a parent, other adults need to be able to keep them in line. In my experience adults are very reluctant to do this, either because they don’t understand that they have a responsibility to do so or because they are afraid to.
It is of course really dumb for parents to ring and ask the librarians to make sure their kids do their homework (though I have to say this sounds like an urban legend to me) but isn’t really right to claim that maintaining order is not part of the librarian’s job. It always has been. It’s harder to do these days granted but trying to solve what is a problem of people relating to other people by imposing rules like these will just make things worse.
I do address misbehavior. Frequently, repeatedly. Every damn day.
I love my library kids. I love their enthusiasm, their rawness, their opinions, their personalities. But it is exhausting to continually have to correct the same kids over and over and over again because their parents won’t do it.
I will do nearly anything to put a book in your kid’s hands but I am tired of babysitting them.
I’m sort of iffy on this…I grew up in a cushy Chicago suburb and spent a ton of unsupervised time doing homework in the library from maybe 5th grade on.
The problem is, some libraries are different from others, especially in winter, and espeically now that they have Internet access. When I was volunteering at the Chicago Public Library, I saw lots of homeless people, many of whom were clearly mentally ill, and one of whom got aggressive with me.
I’m wondering if Boulder’s library actually is a rough place to be.
We always like to say, “Well, when I was a kid, this was totally acceptable!” But when we were kids, there was one major X factor that was different: There were state institutions that kept the mentally ill off the streets then. Now there are not. Public libraries are spaces where anyone is allowed to be, and they are indoor places that are warm in winter. As such, homeless, mentally ill people gravitate toward them.
I’m all for kids having more contact with their neighbors, kids walking to school, or 8-year-olds hanging out at the local park that’s likely to be crawling with other kids and their parents, but with libraries, I think it’s definitely a case-by-case basis. Know your library, because your mileage may vary.
I just Googled “Mall Adult Escort Policies,” and it turns out that, at a lot of the malls, during the Christmas/holiday season, the rule that “People under 16 (or 18, depending on the mall) must be supervised by an adult after 4 (or 6, depending on the mall) on Fridays and Saturdays,” changes to “People under X Magic Age of Maturity must be supervised by an adult AT ALL TIMES.” So, how are people under 16 or 18 supposed to buy Christmas/holiday gifts FOR their parents, if they can’t be let out of sight of their parents?
P.S., I’m Canadian (although I lived in Australia for two years), and I’ve never been to a mall that placed specific restrictions on youth/teenagers.
Mentally ill people are no more dangerous to children than the general public. I know we have a long standing fear of insanity, but the fact is that they’re no more likely to be violent than the rest of us, and far more likely to be the victims of violent crime.
I concur that it is more likely that safety is being used because it is unarguable and sounds better than “your kids are brats”.
“Our library staff values the safety and wellbeing of children, however, our resources do not make it possible for us to provide constant supervision and oversight of children, especially if they were to wander off inside or outside our buildings.”…there is the problem…if I am not supervising my child (and have not hired a caregiver or asked a friend or family member to watch them) it is because I do NOT think they need supervision.
It seems that there are in fact parents who want to use the library as free babysitting. I understand that that is unreasonable….how about making statements/rules such as “Librarians are available to assist patrons of all ages in locating books and materials. Librarians are not responsible for young children safety. Unaccompanied children who are disruptive or engaging in unacceptable behavior will be asked to leave.”
I much prefer the term “unaccompanied” to “unsupervised”….
It really sucks to be the only adult holding the line when it comes to kids being bratty in public. I know this because I have been that person. But if we don’t do it and encourage other adults to do it, things will never change.
Uly, I don’t know how you can issue a blanket statement that mentally ill people are no more dangerous to children than the general public. I am a long time free-ranger, however, if I’m not mistaken it was a mentally ill person who shot up an elementary school a couple of weeks ago, it was a mentally ill man who shot up the movie theater in CO, a mentally ill man who shot Gabby Gifford – you get the picture. Mental illness has all levels, not just insanity, and some people do get violent. I grew up in San Diego and stopped going to the downtown library to do genealogical research because of homeless men who hung out in the library or slept outside along the walls. Some were there to read the newspaper or to bathe in the men’s room. Others were drunks hitting you up for money, but when you’re 18 and some guy creeps you out by following you and acting aggressively that’s another story.
Well, I’m only a somewhat free range parent to begin with, and in this case, I’m entirely on the side of the library.
I do think they should have clarified that this was a policy instituted to prevent librarians from becoming unpaid child minders, rather than being an issue of hazardous furnishings.
We go to the library at least once a week, and I frequently find myself being approached by children I don’t know to read them a book, tie their shoe, mediate an argument over the computer…..I can only imagine that the librarians are inundated with such requests all day long. On another occasion, I was at the library when another patron came in from. the. parking. lot. with a toddler who had wandered outside. Her mom was there, but on the computer and distracted. Now, this child was not molested or kidnapped, but she quite easily could have been hit by a car.
I’ve also spoken with several librarians about this issue, and every one of them is very frustrated by it. Often they aren’t sure which child belongs with which adult, so they have a difficult time policing the behaviors. More often, the parent is There but so completely wrapped up in the computer that he/she might as well not be there at all. These folks get very upset when asked to attend to their children. Most of the librarians I know also don’t have super assertive personalities. They chose their career to help foster a love of books and learning-not to be in daily parenting confrontations.
Fear less said: “If every librarian could be comfortable reproaching a misbehaving child and (in the worst situation) calling the parent to have him picked up, without drama or outrage toward the librarian from the parent, we would not be in this situation.”
This attitude is exactly why libraries have that policy. I don’t work in Colorado, but in another public library, and I did not earn a master’s degree to reproach a misbehaving child. I AM NOT A BABY-SITTER. The fact that you think this would solve all of these problems shows that you do not understand what librarians are there to do. I have had to interrupt a patron – whom I was helping find info on her cancer diagnosis – to tell the unattended kids to knock off the crap. Which is the best use of my time?
I think that if the real reason is that there are too many misbehaving kids in their library they should have just had the courage to say that instead of making their patrons believe that their main focus had shifted from providing a book borrowing service to ensuring the safety of all children. There appears to be an army of people out there now whose main priority is the safety of other people’s children. Yet we are told constantly that we cannot trust the community to look out for them.
And if your child is old enough to be left on their own in the library, they should be old enough to know how to deal with strangers, including the homeless or the mentally ill. You don’t expect your child to only ever come across full-time employed, emotionally stable people with a 2 bedroom house in the suburbs and a Labrador. People come in all kinds of flavour. I met plenty of unusual folk on my solo adventures as a kid. Awkward, yes. Dangerous, no.
I intend to let my 8yo take the bus to our local library once week after school next year. She prefers to go read there to spending another boring hour at after school care. I read the library policy on unaccompanied children and although it is written in a way that clearly tries to deter parents from leaving their kids by mentioning all the dangers and that librarians cannot watch the kids (which is justified) they do not forbid it. I loved it when I told my elderly mum this on the phone and her reaction was “But surely she knows not to go with strangers”. Exactly. She also knows that if I get any complaints about her behaviour from anyone she will be back to being bored at Afters in a flash. Freedom comes with responsibilities. If you can’t handle the latter, you can’t handle freedom.
I think I was let lose in the Atlanta public library when I was about ten. This was in *Atlanta*, a high crime city and in 1982 when crime was high and child murders in Atlanta were in the news.
Hmm. OK. Maybe my parents didn’t like me that much…. But it went fine. And I learned a lot.
Children may encounter hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture, electrical equipment, or, other library patrons.
They may also encounter books and find they enjoy reading them.
That’s what libraries are for, aren’t they? If bad behavior is an issue among children- address THAT, don’t set minimum ages and restrict access to the people who you most want to get books to- KIDS.
If we don’t teach children ages 5-11 how to behave WITHOUT US in places like public libraries (and this is a parent’s job, not the library) how do we expect them to act responsibly when they are teenagers and not required to have an adult with them (yet)? I’d bet my money on disruptive teens being the cause of many a librarian’s grey hairs vs. the bookish ten year old who loves reading mysteries in the corner.
The only real hazard in this librarian’s irrational explanation is a library restricting access to books for it’s youngest potential customers. So stupid.
The library in question is a transient camp. That being said most of the people are just finding a place out of the elements and I have never been approached so much for a penny by any of the people there. I have never seen them cause any issue either. The kids area is directly in front of the front desk. There is a water feature in the main room that I could see some kids playing in if left to their own devices but then there is also the boulder creek directly next to the library which could be a “safety” concern for unsupervised kids (not to mention the bio-hazard of a port a can).
First thing that comes to mind, is that these librarians are going to find themselves out of work, by their own hands. With the internet, tablets, smart phones, and so on getting most kids to go to a library is difficult. Now they want to stop kids from being their. If they are not going there as kids themselves, why would they as adults introduce the library to their own kids.
You would think that the libraries would be doing all they can to encourage children to use the library.
Our library does it right!
Here’s the Multnomah County (Oregon) Library’s official policy. I copied it off their website just now:
Children Alone in the Library:
Guidelines for Parents and Staff
Last revised 06.02.04
The Multnomah County Library welcomes children. Library staff members are trained to help children with library materials and services. We want to provide a safe and appropriate environment for all library users. However, each of our libraries is a public building. The library does not have facilities or staffing to provide childcare and childcare is not the library’s role.
Parents and caregivers are responsible for the safety, comfort and behavior of their children while in the library.
Please make sure your child comes to the library with a responsible person.
Library staff members will take the actions outlined below in these or similar situations:
A child is alone and frightened or crying in the library
A child is alone and doing something dangerous, or another person in the library seems to be a danger to the child
A child is alone and is not following library rules
No caregiver comes to pick a child up at closing time
Any child under the age of six is alone in the library.
(See Behavior Rules Governing Use of Multnomah County Library.)
Library staff members will evaluate the situation and try to contact the child’s parent or guardian. If staff cannot reach the parent or guardian, they will place the child in the care of the appropriate local law enforcement agency.
I’m, sorry, but I can’t really, get over the strange, or, simply incorrect use of, commas in that letter from the library.
Also, this: if my kid is being disruptive in the library, by all means send him out, and no, you certainly don’t have to call me to come get him. I’d say the same goes for any store, too. If he’s not prepared to deal with the consequences, and make his own phone calls, then tough tuchas for him.
Since when do we expect librarians to take care of our kids? If we do, we’re mistaken, it’s not part of their jobs, and I have no problem with kids being evicted from a place if they are harming property or disrupting the peace, transport arrangements be damned.
It’s about responsibility. It lies with the child, that’s why they are there alone. And once the kid is out the door, it’s the parents’ problem, not the librarian’s. Show me the lawsuit that found otherwise.
And if there is one, don’t show me after all; it would crush my spirit too much.
Marcy, how many years ago? Because I’ve been hearing ice cream truck music in Boulder in the summer at dinnertime for the last 28 years or so.
Also, second everything AngieT said about the transients at the Boulder library.
If librarians are worried about liability and such, they should just post the appropriate disclaimers. You know, the rules by which most of us navigated libraries when we were younger. “Library employees not responsible for the safety of unattended children or belongings” and “Disruptive patrons of any age will be asked to leave.” That sort of thing.
I completely concur that librarians should not be expected to act as babysitters. They should enforce the rules (who hasn’t been shushed by a librarian at least once?), and then ask anyone not following them to leave.
I live mere yards from a small branch of the local library, which is located in the strip mall next to my apartment complex. It is where my daughter would go, after school, to do her homework and/or wait for her father on the nights she was with him when she was still in Elementary school, and where she goes now to do her homework on nights she really needs to concentrate (less distractions, she says) or to work on a project. There are other kids who regularly go there, and the librarians do get fed up with some of them… and will tell them to leave. My kiddo is proud of the fact that she’s “one of the kids the librarians actually like” and that they like having her around. She helps out, even though she has a year to go before she’s old enough to qualify for official volunteer hours, and she has developed a good relationship with the librarians who will often help her figure out what she needs for whatever she is researching at the moment. Did she and her friends occasionally talk too loudly or forget themselves when they first started spending time up there on their own? Of course they did; they’re kids. And they were told to knock it off or leave. Some kids, who couldn’t manage to control themselves, stopped hanging out there because they weren’t there for anything but goofing off and the rules made it less fun. The rest settled down quickly because they didn’t want to lose the privilege of being there. Which is all exactly how it should be.
I think that it is very irresponsible to cite safety concerns as the library letter does, especially if that is just a cover for the real reasoning, because it “legitimizes” the idea that these are things to fear and worry about. It sends the message that young kids shouldn’t ever be out of their parents’ sight, because everything in the world is a hazard. There is already way too much of that.
These people clearly have never taken their five children, ages nine and under, to a library if they expect them to remain by my side at all times. That would entail dragging my kids, who are old enough to read quietly in a chair, to the adult section so I can find the books I’m looking for. It also would mean dragging each child around to the different age level books in the children’s section for their siblings while they look for books. I hope our library doesn’t do this. We go in the library, we all separate into our sections to find our books, even my daughter who is 5, (I keep the 1-year-old with me–obviously not old enough to go off on his own), and when they find the books they want, the older ones who have their own card go to checkout and then sit down and read after checking out their books and the younger ones sit and read while they wait for me to come back, collect them, and check out our books together.
In response to Librarian, second comment from the top, there are parents who really do that? That is ridiculous and that would make me annoyed as well. In fact, it does make me annoyed! Those are the parents who need to be reprimanded.
Librarians are not babysitters. The library is not a free childcare service.
On that point we agree.
Where we disagree on is that I don’t think you should punish all kids that are under 11 or the responsible parents.
Why don’t you target the unruly kids? Why don’t you make public all the stupid requests/comments from parents? (withholding their name of course)
An example would be:
Will you tell me son that I will be late? OR You should not have allowed my son to borrow this book.
Try a shame campaign not a blanket rule that punishes all
@missjanenc – No, I don’t get the picture. First, you are mistaken – Adam Lanza was not mentally ill, he was autistic. Second, you’ve listed a grand total of..2 people. Now, in that time frame, how many crimes were committed by non-mentally ill people?
Librarians are not child minders. They arenâ€™t an answering service either. I understand if they get fed up with unruly kids or parents that make ridiculous demand/requests such as,â€Why did you let my son borrow this book or play computer games instead of doing his homework?â€œ
I have a solution for this. My suggestion will address the problem without punishing all children under 11 years old.
Have a point system on their library card. Deduct points for unruly behavior or ridiculous demands from parents. Perhaps you could make it so that the building can’t even be entered without a library card that has a sufficient amount of points
Sure, unruly kids can easily can easily gain access by ‘piggybacking’ someone else. However, they can also be ejected from the building for unruly behavior. They wouldn’t want to draw attention to themselves because they know that they don’t possess a library card with sufficient points.
While I find the content of this letter disturbing, I find the punctuation errors even more disturbing. I’m not sure I’d want my children loose in a library whose librarian is so loose and free with comma mistakes. Might be contagious.
I am SO in agreement on the comments regarding weird comma usage!
@missjaneenc, I missed your comment…
I heard that some of the mass killers were Christians. So be wary of Christians and don’t watch your kids like a hawk near churches. Some of the shooters had a dog, so don’t trust dog owners!
You get the picture… Stats show that people that have been diagnosed with a mental issue are not more likely to be violent.
Please leave drawing random generalised conclusions from circumstantial evidence to the media. It’s what they’re good at.
The thing that gets me about the “we won’t babysit your brats” mentality is, don’t they work with the police department?
My library’s policy:
1. Mind your manners.
2. If you can’t mind your manners and you look big, you will be asked to leave.
3. If you can’t mind your manners and you look little, or the weather is downright dangerous, or you are minding your manners but the library is about to close (which is near bedtime), get your mom or dad on the phone for me right now.
4. If you can’t get them on the phone, we will call the police and have them look after you.
5. If you can’t mind your manners, you look big, and you won’t leave, the police will come get you. You may not disrupt life for the other patrons!
Sad, I have such fond memories of going to the library with my Dad & younger brother. He would leave us in the children’s section & then head over to the adult section. We would hang out in the children’s section wander to the other sections & back again. If we often wanted back between my Day & the Children’s section. I probably started to go when I was about 5 or 6 & all through grade school & my brother was 3 yrs younger than me. When I go to the library with my kids six & eighteen months I often let them explore. As long as they are back in my sight within a few minutes I’m good. I do often observe onlookers seeming to be a bit worried. As long as my son stays away from the entrance door & I can see or hear him every few minutes I don’t see a problem.
This is indeed sad news. I do know parents who do not supervise their kids and let them run amok in public places. However, this letter does not address this, it addresses the safety of children. I wonder, however, if parental supervision of ill-behaved children is underneath this policy. They couldn’t come right out and say that parents were shirking their duties so they came up with this. Otherwise, the letter makes no sense. Perhaps they’ll come to their senses and come up with a more sensible strategy.
“Children may encounter hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture, electrical equipment, or, other library patrons.”
This is a BS excuse.
In the course of any given day, children will encounter: “stairs, elevators, doors, furniture, electrical equipment” in their own homes or apartments. At least 3 of those things they will encounter before they leave their bedrooms in the morning.
“Library patrons”, you mean like the other kids, and their parents, book lovers, and the librarians? Who knew libraries were such dens of iniquity?
I have a problem with how society assumes that just because a group of children are all the same age automatically means that they are at the same maturity level. It’s not true, at all. One 9 year old might be irresponsible and immature, but another might be very independent and act much older. This is why it should be up to the parent to decide when a child is old enough to be by themselves. I get this all the time, as I am 17(and look a few years younger). I love to go to antique shops, and I always get stares from the shopkeepers, or told to leave because I am too young to handle valuables. Maybe that is true for some kids my age, but to assume that I am careless and damage property just because I am a teenager is a damaging label. I really hope we learn to discern based upon maturity level, rather than age.
Puzzled, on December 28th, 2012 at 8:14 pm Said:
@missjanenc â€“ No, I donâ€™t get the picture. First, you are mistaken â€“ Adam Lanza was not mentally ill, he was autistic.
OH, I’M SORRY, BUT THIS ERRONEOUS AND DANGEROUS NOTION NEEDS TO BE CORRECTED IMMEDIATELY! While Adam Lanza was indeed AUTISTIC, he was ALSO MENTALLY ILL. Autism is a neurological disorder that is NOT associated with violence! Please don’t muddy the waters of pop psychology on a website where I trust the posters and readers will be of above average intelligence!
I’m sorry for my outburst – I would hope everyone here knows the basics about autism, since they are as troubled as I am about the weird comma usage. I should have probably realized that Puzzled must be a troll.
I have this mental image of twenty eleven-year-old children gathering around a chair and staring at it as large question marks appear over their heads.
@Librarian, or whoever else can answer this question, how can a kid eat their dinner at the library? I have been to many libraries in my life and not a single one serves food.
That statement leads to me to question your other parental quotes.
@Allison, it was in the news in Boulder just as I was moving away in the late 80s…
Our library has a rule that no one under the age of 14 can volunteer there. My oldest daughter wanted to be a librarian and at 13 I was looking for a library where she could volunteer for the summer. She’s 5′ 6″ and would easily pass for 16. She’s super mature and super smart. The library declined her help because she *might* get assaulted by a vagrant.
Apparently, once you’ve turned the magical age of 14 no homeless people will assault you.
It seems we’ve been hearing a lot lately about the unaccompanied kids in library thing. I’m wondering, how did library staff handle this years ago, before “safety” became the go to word? Are there more jerky kids nowadays?
The answer isn’t some excessive rule from the library: the answer is good parenting.
Back when Captain America was wee, little Private America, my mother would drop my brother and me off at the library on a Saturday morning, do some shopping and return. Yours truly would be hoisting a bundle of books!
We, my brother and I, knew the library was a place to be restrained and quiet. That’s all it took.
Oh dear, it must be tough being a librarian these days. We seem to get a few posts about miserly behaviour toward children. Our family is very fortunate in this area, as we have some pretty excellent small librairies that are very relaxed about kids, and even the central one is not too bad.
Maybe it is, though, as others have alluded to above, something about our reluctance to ‘correct’ chidren’s behaviour, if they are not our own. Fortunately other cultures do not share the concerns some of us have. As an example, I am raising artistic philistines and ignoramuses, and we made the mistake of taking them to the Musee d’Orsay when we were on our ‘big’ overseas holiday. The kids (13, 10, and 8 at the time)took off by themselves, and Midge took it upon herself to act as tour guide.They were making quite a bit of noise giggling in what is a very serious, crypt-like atmosphere. The security guard had no problem at all telling them off firmly- and fair enough too, their behaviour was quite inappropriate for the place. Responsible parent that I am, of course I hid behind something large and pretended those poorly behaved larrikins had nothing to do with me :-).(One of the many advantages of having kids who are a different colouring from you!).
The point is, I think we should attempt to do like the French etc, and bring back the public correction of children by the community. If enough of us do it, it might catch on :-). We might even bring community back….
Captain America- Yeah, I don’t remember ever misbehaving at the library; I loved that place too much. What I WAS doing was checking out “The Exorcist” when I was ten- I’m wondering how common it is for parents to expect librarians to censor kids’ book choices? I think that alone would be a pain.
I have banned my children from even walking on the lawn for the prevention of them tripping over a blade of grass. For the adults ruling this world today, I recommend they carelessly stumble through the doorway so the door slam dunks them on the way out.
I’m starting to wonder if someday we won’t ban anyone under 18 from going out in public at any time unless they’re accompanied by an adult.
I’m not sure what erroneous notion needs correcting, as I did not say that autism is associated with violence – and neither is mental illness in general. I was responding to a poster who claimed that Lanza was mentally ill, and therefore the mentally ill are dangerous and scary. My response was that this is a poor example, and that regardless, they are not. Statistics do indeed, in this case, tell the whole story when faced with an otherwise unknown person.
Somehow, this response makes me a troll. That’s odd, since this is one of the few times I’ve posted lately and not, I think, been in disagreement with the usual posters here.
Just to put this in perspective our community POOL where kids may actually be in REAL danger from drowning thinks children 7 and under need to be supervised by an adult of guardian over 14 in the pool. So an 8 year old is deemed perfectly capable of swimming, walking, being in contact with other people under the care of lifeguards while in the pool area. Supervised by the guards yes, but Not in the foyer, change room or the hallway with doors, furniture, people.
Our society makes up ridiculous “rules” in order to placate or simply deal with (or not as the case may be) irrational parents.
My 11 year old just said ” oh no!. what they might get a paper cut?” Yes, I am trying to raise independent children. 😉
I definitely see both sides to this issue. I think both sides need to use common sense. I worked at a large library when I was in college (4 stories). When I was a kid, the library used to keep the children’s department on the first floor. They changed this policy and moved the children’s department to the 4th floor after a young girl was raped in the downstairs bathroom. Locks were installed on all the bathrooms so that patrons would have to request the one key to each bathroom.
There had been quite a habit for young children to be left alone in the library and it still happened. The library felt that the children were safer in an area where the librarian could easily see who was entering and exiting the children’s department (only one public exit or entrance.)
On the other hand, I visited this very library when I was in middle school and upper elementary by myself. My parents would drop me off and come pick me up later. This was the county library. The local branch which was on the way to and from school and only about 2 -4 blocks from my house in a small town, I visited frequently by myself. I would walk home and stop by the library almost every day.
Librarians are usually busy helping patrons, working on circulation, cataloging, etc. I think if kids are running riot or are there for hours, they will notice. But if a kid drops in to pick out a few books and read a magazine, I don’t think they will care. I’m assuming. I think by the times my boys are old enough to walk alone to the public library, they will be old enough to manage themselves in a library with care.
There will always be both sets of kids and parents— the ones who care and treat libraries with respect. And the others who think it’s babysitting service.
At that same library I worked at, we kept a large box of crayons near our scrap paper bin. If we found any children alone, we would invite them to sit at a table near our desk and color some pictures for us. (I do mean little children too — like 4-6 years old).
Food for thought.
We’ve heard multiple stories here about how kids have been restricted or should be restricted from public libraries. This trend is awfully sad for our youth whose access to education is being limited. And it is sad for everyone as I fear that such limitations will be the death knell for libraries. Kids under 12 are one of the largest groups libraries serve. Once they stop going, it will be a lot easier to justify public library spending cuts.
Interchange the word “school” for “library” in this response. Kids under 11 encounter furniture, doors, even stairs at school and are not under constant supervision (does an adult always go to the bathroom with them?). Who’s to say a parent shouldn’t accompany their child to school every day too, using this logic?
My library has a cafe in the lobby. You’re not allowed to take the food into the actual library though.
Also, this whole thing just makes me nuts! As a child, I was taught how to behave in a library. Once I was old enough to behave and look for books on my own, my mom would drop me in the kid’s section while she looked for her own books. I would stay there and look/read until she finished, then we would check out our books together. Why is this so hard for people to do nowadays?
Remember how I helped a pianist friend of mine run a “homemade” music camp this past summer? Well, we had a few really random rules that were pretty much in place to placate overprotective parents. For example–matchboxes (taped shut) as percussion instruments, were considered completely safe. Tin-can stilts on pavement? Fine. Cartwheels? Fine. Hanging upside down by the monkey bars at the park? Fine. “Grounders” on the playground, which involved running on the climbing equipment with eyes closed? Fine. Inviting “strange” kids at the park to join in said game of Grounders? Fine. Sharing snacks? Encouraged, because none of the kids in our day camp had food allergies. We also fed them candy and freezies on a semi-regular basis, despite the evils of high fructose corn syrup. Miraculously, not one of them got diabetes from it.
HOWEVER…..all because ONE parent GRILLED my friend about safety procedures, she decided that ALL the kids would have to be escorted to the bathroom. The kids in this camp were aged 7-11, and presumably didn’t need to be escorted at school, so I thought it was kind of dumb.
“Children may encounter hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture, electrical equipment, or, other library patrons.”
With all the stranger fear, I could understand the potential danger of other patrons, but elevators, stairs, furniture and the like are things kids of that age handle daily both at home and at school. If it is a liability thing to protect the employees, be honest about it — and use the right solution while you’re at it. Instead of banning all unattended kids you could simply ban those that require constant babysitting or those that misbehave without discriminating against all the others.
I think someone should email a link to this to both the Boulder Library (I pity their taxpayers!) and the American Library Association.
Stairs a “danger”! My God.
I understand the librarians no wanting to babysit. I would have much more respect for their policy if they stated as such: library patrons are expected to behave in x way. Those who don’t will lose the privilege of coming without an adult for one month. Logical consequences. BTW I grew up walking distance from the Boulder library. Safe place, safe town.
Argh, sorry for my poor grammar! My iPad typing technique needs a little help!
At my library, the rule about not allowing pizza to be delivered to the building is suspended during finals week.
Adam Lanza has not been confirmed either autistic OR mentally ill. James Holmes may be mentally ill, but I am not aware that he has a diagnosis, simply that his attorneys claim he is. They are no more qualified to diagnose him than I am.
Every time somebody commits a violent crime, we say “oh, they were insane”, but if your definition for “insane” is “commits a violent crime” then we do, indeed, have a problem. Assuming that crimes of this nature are only committed by mentally ill individuals is a way of making us feel safe, like assuming that only strangers hurt kids (nobody we know) or assuming that driving long distances is safer than flying a plane. We pretend that situations can be controlled, when they can’t.
I am not making blanket statements about the mentally ill. That is what you are doing when you take two cases out of thousands and try to extrapolate from them. My statements are backed not by anecdotes and bias but by facts and numbers. I will have some links in a second, if you are too lazy to do even the most basic research.
It is worth mentioning that, of course, those two shootings were committed by men. Perhaps men are more likely in our society to commit mass murder, I don’t know. But we do not penalize all men because a small number of them will snap. Both perpetrators were white, the same principle applies. Ban men and white people from libraries? Absurd.
The mentally ill are far more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than the perpetrators, and stigma against them is not helpful.
My parents joined me up at the local library when I was seven. That was the only time either of them accompanied me to the library, a place I would go to at least weekly.
If any librarian had tried to keep me out I would have become violent even as a seven year old. NOBODY would get away with denying me books.
“But we do not penalize all men because a small number of them will snap.”
Actually we do. The significant majority of the victims of violence are male. One of the primary arguments used to deny service and justice to male victims is that the perpetrators are mostly men. Male victims are canceled out against the perpetrators to create a null set which ultimately renders those victims invisible.
I am totally a free range parent, but I give the Boulder library some credit here. I have a friend who works there, and hearing her frequent stories about patrons, I’m not so hip on leaving my kids unattended there. Many of the library patrons at the Boulder Public Library are seriously whackadoo.
I’m with the library on this one. I worked in public library’s children’s dept in college and there are a lot of perverts waiting for a chance to take advantage of a less than savvy kid. Sadly, we had to call the police several times.
@Beth: The Central branch of the Brooklyn (NY) Public Library does have a snack bar, but that’s the only one I’ve ever seen. Just saying, though, that they do exist.
Personally, I wish there were a return to librarian authority overall, not just with kids. Our library is so noisy, it’s like trying to read at Chuck E. Cheese, and it’s not just the kids. The librarians have just given up.
I can see both sides of this issue. I wish libraries weren’t afraid to be more upfront and simply say, “We’ve had trouble with lots of parents using this place as a free babysitting service. They leave children here unattended for hours, who have never been taught proper library behavior, don’t want to be here, and are disruptive to the other patrons and a drain on staff as they spend more time trying to maintain order than doing their jobs. Every other approach in correcting this problem has failed, and unfortunately we have no choice but to institute a blanket ban on unaccompanied children under the age of 11.” Any reasonable person could understand that, and it’s much better than having to resort to disingenuous concerns about an 11-year-old getting hurt by a door.
I agree with Mrs. H. I go to the main branch of my county-wide library system. I love the selection there. The building takes up an entire city block. They get the new books first and maintain a large in-storage collection of infrequently circulating books, so if you want something weird like Willie Morris’ first novel or the memoirs of the real Dainty June from Gypsy, they can get it for you. But it’s so incredibly noisy in there. Not just kids, but adults. Even the staff on one occasion — this library has a snack bar and the girl working there was BLASTING some music as she was cleaning up. She turned it down when I asked, but seemed totally baffled as to why.
If unruly kids are the problem, wouldn’t society be better served by simply saying “today’s kids are too bratty” rather than couching everything in safety terms? I know a few parents with children who are complete and utter brats and I think society needs to get better at telling parents of brats “your kids are a complete nuisance and unpleasant to be around.”
As for the mentally ill, I deal with mentally ill criminals every day. Almost none are violent or sexually perverted. I deal with violent and sexually perverted people every day. Almost none are mentally ill. I deal with homeless criminals every day. Almost none of them are violent. Some of them are sexually perverted but you can thank your sex registry for the huge number of convicted sex offenders now living on the streets. I have yet to have a single homeless sex offender charged with a new sex offense. Of course, some mentally ill and homeless are violent but most
… are just charged with minor crimes and then end up in the system for years because it is too difficult for them to follow the terms of probation.
Aisling – It sounds like you think that you are too good for your job. I am seriously glad that the librarians in my local library don’t have your attitude of self-importance.
Personally, I think this has nothing to do with safety or misbehavior. I think it is a symptom of society that really doesn’t like children all that much and would just prefer they not be around if possible. It falls in the same area as no children sections of planes, banning kids from first class, banning kids from restaurants, etc.
Why society has this attitude, I don’t know. My guess is many things contribute. Self absorption. Too many parents who don’t want to discipline their children. Too many demanding parents who want the world to cater to their children. Too many parents who refuse to allow anyone to correct their children. Too many people afraid to be accused of something if they so much as look at a child.
I think the fact that having children is now viewed as 100% a choice now is largely to blame. Back in the day, children were a fact of life. If you were married and fertile, you eventually ended up with some. Now we can prevent them pretty successfully if we try. Viewing something as a fact a life or a choice changes your attitude towards it. It is easier to get into the mentality that parents have to forgo certain things if they choose to have children than if children are just things that come to married couples. So expecting parents to supervise their children all the time (or sit in certain parts of a plane or get a babysitter if they want to go out) is acceptable because, afterall, they chose to be a parent and should have to make any sacrifices necessary for that choice.
“I am totally a free range parent, but I give the Boulder library some credit here. I have a friend who works there, and hearing her frequent stories about patrons, Iâ€™m not so hip on leaving my kids unattended there. Many of the library patrons at the Boulder Public Library are seriously whackadoo.”
So the patrons are the problem, not the kids? Then take care of THEM, don’t restrict the rights of children to attend a library because they *could* be victims. That’s like saying don’t let women walk in dark alleys because they could be rape victims.
This is the second comment about a transient population at this library. Are there any actual statistics that show it is unsafe for kids? Are kids running and crashing into doors to escape the many supposed “whackadoos”?
Has anyone considered that some of these kids may belong to the “transient” population? And that the Boulder library, warm and filled with books, is the best possible place for these kids to be?
My brother is a somewhat transient in Boulder. I think he generally couch surf’s rather than actually living on the streets but he has no actual home. He, like many of Boulder residents, is an out-of-time hippy. He sometimes looks unkept, and his clothes are often questionable and ratty (he doesn’t believe in spending money on clothes) and always consist of baggy khaki many pocket pants and whatever tshirt is around. He’s not mentally ill, criminal or dangerous. He usually has at least one job, sometimes involving pot production of some kind. He is now going to college too. He’s a good guy who should have lived in Haight-Ashbury in 1968. But would probably be judged a transient and “whackado” by people who don’t talk to him and judge him superficially. And, yes, he is probably occasionally in this Boulder library using the computer.
@Donna – good comments all. But you should be out in the sunshine, enjoying your holiday, LOL!
@Library Diva – interesting about the girl blasting the music. While it would drive me completely up the wall, there does seem to be some evidence, which I am too lazy and ‘stuck to my chair’ at the moment to get to the bookshelf and find, that the ‘younger generation’ actually do work better with multiple sources of background noise. At least that’s what some of my professional development stuff has said. Hard for those of us that were taught to study in quiet to believe, but just anecdotally my own kids do seem to be able to complete decent assignments with all sorts of stuff going on in the background….So, my point is, maybe that young girl really couldn’t see any problem with blasting music – she can handle it, why can’t you… (or me?!).
I always get a kick out of age-based limits.
I help instruct a shooting program. We allow anyone, regardless of age, on the line – as long as they follow the safety rules. We have had kids under 10 who are responsible and safe. we have had grownups and young adults that we have asked to leave the line, because they were irresponsible.
There is no magic age cutoff. Kids can be responsible (my own son will not invite some of his friends shooting because he doesn’t trust them) and adults can be incredibly irresponsible.
These sorts of policies do very little to protect kids or to enforce decent behavior.
@Donna: I think you’re so right with many adults not liking kids. Reminds me of a day in church – we’re not church goers, and my then-one year old decided to pitch a fit at a friend’s wedding. A lot of people gave us that “Can’t you control your child?” look. Then the pastor stopped, and said, “Listen, that’s the sound of God’s creation. We should all rejoice at our children’s noise.”
Score one for the pastor.
I’m baffled that “other library patrons” are a hazard, but I’ll leave that for now.
I’m wondering just what the library staff will do if a parent flouts the “no kids rule.” Dial 911? Call Child Protective Services? It’s odd; we’re told that predators lurk around every corner, and yet there are a host of people itching to busy the police with protecting children from stairs, doors and elevators. The paranoia that’s peddled is not only bizarre but inconsistent.
Parents of the world, you have my deepest respect…and sympathy. How do you keep your sanity in the constant barrage of fear?
With regards to child discipline:
I think Donna, as she usually does, nailes it, especially the part about parents not discipining their children and, just as important, not wanting someone else to either, not even if the person doing the correcting is having you & your children over for a visit & your child is ransacking their property. Heck, if someone else’s kids were at my house & they were on the verge of breaking something of mine, I’m saying something–and anyone who doesn’t like it can hit the road. When I was a child (I’m in my 40s), aunt/uncles and the like were absolutely allowed to discipline me if I acted up, and my parents backed them up.
In church–I sound like I’m tooting my own horn, I don’t mean it that way–if we have the kids in the main area with us vs in a kids’ nursery etc, our kids sit still and make no noise. Even during quiet prayer etc you hear nothing out of them. In a restaurant they eat what we give them, no whining. zilch.
It’s not that I’m Mr Wonderful or my kids are just such angels, it’s because I don’t make excuses for them “they’re just kids,” I instead EXPECT them to behave and, frankly, I’ll tear their butt up if they act up, very quickly I will (as in within SECONDS), and they KNOW I will. Even when they were barely 1Â½ and 3Â½ that was the case, and it sure as heck is now that they’re almost 4 & 6. My (almost) 6 year old’s school was told from the first day–if I hear she’s been acting up, I will get on HER, not YOU, about it.
With regards to background noise:
I think the expectations there have changed, and not for the better. I was reading up on Billy Sunday, a Billy Graham before there was a Billy Graham. He predated radio. In the Wikipedia article, it mentions that this world-renowned public preacher actually instructed attendees about the need to keep crying infants out of the main areas, he went so far as to confront parents with crying babies about the need to remove themselves & their children etc. According to the article, he even instructed his visitors on how to muffle their coughing.
Can you imagine someone doing that now? The responses would be “he must not be much of a professional if he can’t tune out a little noise, that comes with the territory” or “how does he expect to attract people to his side with that kind of attitude” etc. Instead, from my understanding in what I’ve read, it was regarded as an appropriate expectation & you were expected to meet him where he was at, versus him being expected to “suck it up” as it were, the way everyone does it now.
I kind of like that, if you ask me. I’m tired of being told that one must “learn to tune it out” and so forth. Why? Why should they? Why can’t people control their children and show respect for others around them? I’m not intolerant of children, you understand, they make noise sure, and I as a parent now know not to be so quick to scold because sometimes parents are trying their best, but if you’re the parent & you’re ignoring the noise and how it bothers other people–shame on you.
Now, where it regards this library, I think they’re being ridiculous in a way. As one person said, if it IS because of parents who don’t control their children, why not handle those situations, as opposed to punishing EVERYBODY for what the irresponsble persons do? That doesn’t seem right to me.
@hineata – We did finally get out and enjoy your fine, windy city today.
One of your comments got me thinking. That in today’s society kids are not welcome in it.
I would like to know if anyone else has noticed that a great number of parents do not have children, as much as they have status symbols, and or accessories?
These parents do not protect their kids, for the kids sake…they do it as to not inconvienance themselves and can have complete control, of their own enviroment.
There is a library in Castle Rock, CO that has what I feel is the appropriate response to misbehaving kids. They require adult supervision for THOSE kids for a certain amount of time. Otherwise, there is no particular age at which kids are not allowed to be in the library without direct supervision. How did I learn about this particular approach? My (usually) adorable niece and nephews were subject to adult supervision for 3 months after some rowdiness in the kids reading room.
I live near Boulder and frequented this library a lot when I was younger. (fyi I’m 17 now) Compared to my local library, the librarians were very strict and rude. They more strictly enforced rules and weren’t going to let it slide that a 9-year-old forgot her library card. But they have a good reason to be. The library is right by the creek in downtown Boulder, so it is very busy and also home to a lot of homeless people and your typical oddball Boulderites. Its already a bit dicey to maybe leave your kids there for a really long time, because its a sprawling library with a lot of people you don’t want to trust with the safety of your children. I always felt a little uncomfortable with how some of the patrons interact with children, especially when I was in a deserted section. There have been some issues in the past, so I think this is an exception where having an adult nearby might be helpful and ease the librarian’s worries about what’s happening where they can’t patrol.
Many years ago when Andrew Carnegie gave money to fund libraries, our society was a very different place. Those libraries served a purpose they no longer serve.
The internet has changed everything.
Will PUBLIC LIBRARIES be able to justify their existence much longer?
“Its already a bit dicey to maybe leave your kids there for a really long time, because its a sprawling library with a lot of people you donâ€™t want to trust with the safety of your children.”
I haven’t totally formulated my thoughts on this, but if this is truly the case, why can’t the library ban dicey people who can’t be trusted around children, instead of banning children? And “they can’t” isn’t an appropriate answer, because they can obviously ban unaccompanied kids under 11.
Libraries can’t ban shady characters because they’re less defineable. What will they say, “You look like you might hurt a kid, so you have to leave?” Wait until they do that to a wealthy or well-connected person who went to the library unshowered in dirty clothes because they just didn’t care that day. I’m sure that they would ban and remove someone who had hurt another patron, but by then, it’s already happened.
They do have to make a value judgement with children younger than 11, but it’s at least a more defineable group. Young-looking 13-year-olds may get sent home, and mature-looking 9-year-olds may sneak in, but by and large, you can tell. It does make me wonder if they’ll actually enforce this, though. It would be an awful lot of work.
I worked at the downtown branch of the Boulder Public Library for about 11 years. FYI, if you have been in that library, there is a large circular staircase that is entirely marble. You fall down those, you are going to be hurt -I’ve done it myself. There is also a little water fountain thing that I have repeatedly seen children fall into.
All of you who are moaning that children are being banned from the library are just hysterical. No one is banning kids from the library. The library is asking that kids under a certain age not be left to wonder around with the librarians having to keep an eye on them, finding parents, etc… while also trying to serve other patrons.
Many parents think the library is a great place for daycare. Sure, some kids do sit and study or read. Many others run, scream, yell, break stuff, etc…
So, so many times I’d see little ones roaming around, crying for their parent. Or a hysterical parent running around trying to find their kid. Looking at us like we failed in our duty to monitor each child. Yes we try to keep the kiddos safe, but ultimatly the best person to do this is the adult.
As many others have pointed out – this library has many transients – some of whom are indeed pretty scary. We have to have a security guard. We had people having sex in the bathroom stalls, someone peeing in a corner, people cursing and talking to themselves loudly, all kinds of porn on the computers in plain sight (we try to stop it if we see it, but we can’t be all eyes all the time. We do help people at the library – not just sitting around reading) – the nice safe little library you are all envisioning from your childhoods probably is the exception to the rule nowdays.
Do, I think that kids are in grave danger in the library, no. Do I think the age may be a little high for supervision, probably. But please, don’t judge and roll your eyes if you haven’t been a public library employee.
@Steve “Many years ago when Andrew Carnegie gave money to fund libraries, our society was a very different place. Those libraries served a purpose they no longer serve. The internet has changed everything.
Will PUBLIC LIBRARIES be able to justify their existence much longer?”
What purpose would that be that we no longer serve? Having free books for people to check out, read, enjoy and return? Having numerous magazines and newspapers for people to read? DVD’s to check out? We still get plenty of requests for help and assistance. We offer huge eresources for people to find information they can trust – unlike the Internet. We also offer downloadable audiobooks and ebooks, again for no fee. We offer free computer access, that is very popular, because not everyone in our communities have an iPad or home computer. We offer wonderful children’s programs, programs for adults, areas for collaborative study where we don’t expect you to have purchased something to use.
Yeah, some Fox affiliate ran a piece about this a couple years back and got a beautiful takedown from a library director.
I can’t afford any magazines. I read them at the library.
I can’t afford to get sick-day movies for the kids on Netflix. They’re free at the library.
I haven’t bought a brand-new book in years. I go to library book sales instead.
I’m lower middle class. Other people need the library much more than I do.
If I need to read an article in a medical journal, I can either pay a big whack of money to a site that archives medical journals online . . . or go to the library, which already paid that fee for me.
If I want to give my kids academic enrichment, I can buy less food and heat the house less often in order to afford books and DVDs and CDs. Or I can check them out at the library.
I am very, very, very lucky to have my children enrolled as homeschool students in a district that provides the same funding for all students regardless of where they are during the school day. And I still use the library instead of spending my allotment on up-to-date science books and new copies of children’s classics. Because I have to make it stretch.
The last time I checked, the fraction of my tax dollars that goes to my public library wouldn’t buy a Happy Meal. But there is no way I could replace everything the library does for me.
@Library Diva, that was sort of my roundabout point that I hadn’t made it to yet! We’ve had some posters, both here and on other library threads, mention the sketchy people at their libraries and, whether or not there had been “incidents” with children, these parents seem to be making a decision based on looks, clothing, etc. I was trying to point out the absurdity in trying to decide who was/was not going to hurt a child at the library, and trying to decide which children were no longer going to be allowed.
Though I think any person involved in a verfied “incident” with a child should probably be banned from the library. And I don’t know why anyone having sex in the bathroom stalls, urinating in a corner, and looking at porn continues to be welcomed in, while a well-behaved unaccompanied 10-year-old isn’t.
Putting a blanket age rule in place is not the answer to lazy librarians. You have some unruly kids, ban them………….noooo it is just easier to ban them all. If all kids are banned, then you don’t have to get off your ass and deal with the ones causing the problem. Sorry, but that is the truth.
As for being daycare, not for my kids. I do not want you to do anything other than be a friendly, courteous city employee. But it seems like finding a friendly kind librarian these days is harder than finding a needle in a haystack.
It really amazes me all these people that choose to work with the public, but hate working with people.
Interesting comments from librarians (present or former.) I work in North America’s third largest – an academic institution, and as such, rarely see unaccomapnied children under high school age.
However, I think the issue here (as previously discussed) is an evolutionary one.
As a kid, in a small town and then again in a small city, I hung out at young ages in libraries, on main streets, and around all manner of public facilities – alone.
70% of our population now live in places where children under the age of 12 don’t have those options.
Sure – they can be driven and dropped (and I suppose often are) but if they haven’t gained layers upon layers of experience at younger ages (in behaving responsibly on their own) then they’re up against it when dealing with typical library protocols.
I was taught very young (from a parent writer) that libraries were sacrosanct – that’s where the books were! Library rules were the guardian gates to pass where lay beyond good reading.
A library was never my babysitter. I would have been mortified by the thought – from the age of 8 on.
So I see the problem as twofold: unaccompanied children (and how they are perceived) and how those children actually act when unaccompanied.
Had I misbehaved as a kid in a library, I would have been out on my ear forthwith. It was a no-brainer. The librarian wouldn’t have worried in the least what I did outside her doors. You see…that’s the difference.
In a public realm where constant danger lurks OUTSIDE the library – librarians have now become not only the guardians of the books (and that….quiet atmosphere oldsters like me go there to bask in) but guardians of any unsupervised children as well.
We have radically changed our public realm, and the way it is now physically put together. And now thrash around trying to figure out how kids are actually supposed to fit into it.
The common solution of course – is that kids just do not show up anywhere unsupervised. Then everyone’s happy.
But this is exactly the issue I question. The road to competent independence is paved with constant learning – how to conduct oneself when not supervised, micro-managed, herded, or husbanded as in cowboy cattle gittin’ along, little dogies.
Also, libraries themselves have evolved. Never saw a homeless person in a library as a kid. Nor a computer. So who went there? Readers.
I never even socialized in libraries. I was after serious booty. Books. Knowledge. Burning curiosites needed to be satisfied.
From grade three onward. Imagine…..
Personally, I think kids need to be encouraged as much as possible to read books. Not screens, backlit or otherwise. (of any size)
Anything we can possibly do to promote this idea is good. A good book is an independent learning tool.
I believe that this is so important, that I would strongly consider the idea of high school volunteers.
A couple of bookish 16 year-olds from the community, who also like kids….and who just put in a shift or two a week, hanging around the library during times when younger children are inclined to be there – just monitoring the kids – not hovering over them, but being aware of where they are, what they’re up to, and able to keep track. Not as babysitters, but as resources for the kids themselves.
This could be a great community volunteer opportunity.
I would have done this myself at that age, or even a year or two younger. (But – it wasn’t needed, then.)
Perhaps this is part of the problem. Ironically, we’re all supposed to be far too independent now, and socially insulated – yet the problem is the lack of independent skills in the kids themselves.
As discussed ad nauseum throughout divers topics – the kids don’t learn this when deprived of proper opportunity.
A kid in a library should not be a problem. They are within the bosom of educated discourse, learning and expanding awareness.
If this has somehow now become a problem (in whatever way) then who exactly is responsible for that?
When library rules come up against child behavior like hurricane Sandy against a Jersy shore, we must ponder the reasons why. Libraries remain stable and unmoved by the course of human history. They shall not be rocked by social chaos. Therein lies the unforgiveable.
When a child learns how to read, and thereafter learns to love the activity….the very next step is learning how to love a library, and what it’s there for.
Personally, librarians scared me to death as a kid. Don’t know why exactly. They were just so…..precise.
But I loved those books so much I was even willing to spit out my bazooka joe or double bubble at the door (librarians hated chewing gum, for good reason!)
If a society finds itself unable to solve the mixture of kids with learning (as they will, in any good library) then it has thrown in the towel on younger children – without direct parental involvement. And straight back we come to the whole issue of free range access.
You know, I watched my favorite Christmas movie this year, and George Baily’s wonderful life started out as free range as it gets. Nothing but a Hollywood movie seems to promote a story like that anymore.
A good community full of responsible people. Imagine…
JP: can you explain exactly or precisely HOW the “public realm” has changed since you were a child?
I’m curious, you know, to know if it really has.
Yan, interesting to hear you are reading up on Billy Sunday, the Baseball Evangelist! I was interested in the guy a number of years ago, and did so as well; thought at one time of writing a paper on him.
How do the 12 year olds magically cope?
I am wondering about those who choose to be a librarian. Did they all think they would be working in some archive somewhere with ancient and treasured works of literary excellence? Then become disheartened when they realized those positions are far and few between. Now only to be fed up with the daily grind, of answering the same questions day in and day out. Bothered that their career path isn’t a quiet, peaceful seclusion from society, and that they have to deal with people from all walks of life?
I also wonder how many of these librarians, as a child spent hours alone in their public library?
I’ve posted this before. But if you are looking for a good unattended children’s policy to show your library board show them Harris County’s Public Library policy
http://www.hcpl.net/about/problem-behavior-policy scroll down or do a find for unattended and you find.
1. 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.
(Please note that Harris County doesn’t have real public transport. The library I go to is off a 5 lane 45 mph road with no shoulder/no side walk. So it wouldn’t be safe for most kids to walk home from the library, unless they live in the apartments next door. It is full of well behaved kids mostly from low income apartments nearby every school holiday and most weekends. They have fantastic programs for Toddlers through adults. They eat lunches they bring on the grass around the library and leave the area very clean.
I only have anecdotal tales from a librarian friend and while they wouldn’t necessarily stop me from leaving my son alone at a library, I would definitely give him some extra instructions about things to be careful of. According to her, libraries do tend to attract, for lack of a better word, odd balls. Most, of course, are harmless. Some, however, are not — she got tired of calling the police for things like drug use in the bathrooms, people lashing out and even assaulting other patrons and fighting, so the library eventually ended up hiring security. I don’t agree with a blanket ban on unsupervised kids in a library but after hearing about all the situations librarians have to put up with, I’m sympathetic to their viewpoint and also aware libraries are not always the peaceful safe haven they might appear to be. (By the way, my librarian friend does not work in a large metro library; she’s in a mid-size Canadian “nice” city.)
I can’t imagine how this blanket rule will be enforced on all. I think that many would ignore the rule (including the library staff) and it would only be enforced for unruly kids or parents that expect them to be child minders.
It’s also a CYA rule (cover your….) so that people can’t sue them. Therefore the library can’t admit that it will only be enforced sometimes.
I can’t imagine library staff walking around checking ID’s to see whether a child is 11 or 12. I also can’t imagine that Librarians believe that a mother should keep her 5 year old in the teen section while they wait patiently for their 11 year old to select a book.
I’m not trying to stick up or condone the librarians, I’m just trying to see some logic to this.
Whenever a public institution receives Federal funds they must comply with numerous Federal laws. In this case the Age Discrimination Act prohibits restrictions based on (any) age.
The Federal agency which enforces reguulations which prohibit libraries from discriminating is the U.S. Department of Eduation, Office for Civil Rights.
Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education
Cesar E. Chavez Memorial Building
1244 Speer Boulevard, Suite 310
Denver, CO 80204-3582
FAX: 303-844-4303; TDD: 877-521-2172
Please contact OCR and file a formal written complaint.
if the library says it is only trying to protect the children from homeless individuals……..ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS SPEND MORE MONEY ON SECURITY!
I am also amazed at the parents who don’t require their kids to be quiet at church (and, not coincidentally, use the library and other public buildings with respect).
I’ve taken my 2 younger children and my 2 grandchildren to church with me, no “quiet” books, no snacks, no Cheerios, no computers or video games, expected them to sit quietly for 70 minutes for our main Church service, and lo and behold —- once they knew what I expected, that’s what they did.
The grandboys are very rambunctious, I was concerned that they wouldn’t know how to behave, but they were fine. I told them they were expected to sit quietly, even though it wasn’t very interesting, listen politely, with their arms folded and feet still.
All this while the family behind me (with kids the same ages) were talking – not whispering, talking fairly loudly – messing around, the mother snapping at the dad, kids screaming, refusing to take their kids out of the chapel.
LRH and some of the other commentators are correct – expectations have changed. Children are no longer expected to behave (by and large) the way they used to. Parents don’t seem to care anymore if their kids are misbehaving in such a way that others cannot enjoy meals out, Church services, or the library. (My kids were even more affronted at this other family’s behavior than I was.) That’s why I don’t enjoy other people’s kids any more. I like well behaved children, and dislike being around a brat whose parents can’t be bothered to discipline.
No, I don’t think the library should have a blanket ban, nor should they cite “safety” as a reason (ugh). I do think they should send a letter essentially saying “We’re not a babysitting service, and if you don’t take care of your kids, and they are misbehaving, they are welcome to leave immediately.” If it is unusually cold, or the kids are very small, then a single courtesy call to a parent may be in order. Just as a courtesy.
My kids are 9 and 11, are well liked at our library, and know how to respectfully ask for assistance if needed. I would be furious with them if they caused any disturbances at the library or anywhere else.
Great point. I have been shaking my head at alot of parents. They have bags of items they carry to keep their little darling occupied, when they should be learning manners and respect.
Portable dvd players, tablets, ipods, games, and on, for restaurants, doctor’s offices, and all sorts of places. If your child is incapable of sitting there quietyly and respectfully for a few minutes, or in public places like restaurants, it is time to look in the mirror.
Really, Warren? When I take my 8-year-old to the doctor, with a waiting time of who-knows-how-long, I should expect my 2-year-old (oh wait…my little darling) to sit quietly and respectfully, and I’m a horrible parent if I bring along something for him to do?
I’m glad that you are the perfect parent of perfect children. The rest of us cannot possibly meet that standard.
@Warren If I have to wait for long, I bring a book or smart phone for myself. It definitely beats looking into a wall for a long time. I do not understand why a kid should not have something to occupy itself with it too.
Good manners require you not to bother other people too much, they do not require you to stare into the wall. I see a bag of toys for as a courtesy for other people in that waiting room and a book for adult as a rational behavior.
@Donna (other, et al) & Warren –
Great point. (Buffy’s great re-buff notwithstanding.)
Over-stimulated kids with teckie-toys abound – the world flying by a car window is not nearly as much fun anymore as commodified plastic adventures….
But then, what’s outside that window is often more horrible than a Blair Witch Project anyhow.
I’d say when a kid is old enough to read anything – a book is a wonderful low-teck distraction. Wouldn’t be without one, myself.
Won’t go near a doctor’s waiting room without a bag o’ books. Just not done in polite society.
Otherwise I get cranky and abuse my peers.
And Captain America – glad you asked!
I grew up slightly ahead of Autopia’s fantastic addictions. (thank God, I’m a lucky so and so.)
From age 5 (kindergarden) to age 16 (grade 11) wherever I lived, and wherever I went (and I do mean wherever) I went on my own – and my dad’s car sat in the driveway.
You see – I didn’t grow up in suburbia. In my entire life, I have never lived suburban. Small town, small city, and immense urban (including New York City…um – Manhattan.)
So how has the public realm changed since I was a toddler? O Jaysus. They invented suburbia.
I don’t mean streetcar suburbs – I mean SPRAWL.
So many kids don’t ever go anywhere anymore on their own, without being supervised, accompanied, sheltered, protected, chauffeured and otherwise micro-managed – that they don’t learn a clue about how to act responsibly on their own.
This is because they never ARE on their own.
Sprawl is not, nor ever has been – kid-friendly.
Independent mobility becomes an oxymoron of the first order (a funny little story that started off the reasons for this very site, I do seem to recall….)
Somewhere in the wretched bowels of exurbia 25 miles from where I now live….dwells a 15 year old who has not the same freedom of independent movement I had as a 5 year old. This is sad….and outrageously dependent. In fact, as long as we remain “energy-dependent” kids will remain just as car-dependent as their elders.
Playdates organized by social secretaries – as if junior is really JP Morgan and mergers are about to be discussed (instead of kids at play – I mean play, not risk.)
So again – how ‘precisely’ has it changed?
By or before I was 10 years old I did this on my own:
For my own pocket money – sold papers on a Main street corner, caddied at a golf course(pre cart days) mowed lawns, shoveled snow, collected bottles.
With the cash – went to the movies, hung out in dime stores, watched the local pro hockey team at Memorial Gardens.
When broke – played hockey on school rinks, flooded driveways, baseball down at Sunset beach park, tracked wildlife down at Chippewa Creek, rode my bike right out of town to climb Sheeny Falls, then count the boxcars on the spur line, and cows at Eloi’s farm, took high dives off the local sand pit mountain, was crazy enough to ride a toboggan down a ski jump (once only) raided apple trees, played football on Scollard Hall green against the girls (the girls won.)
We were all like this. Every classroom I was ever in had one token fat kid. One.
None of us ever paid a dime for exercise. That was free.
Um, I dunno………check out today’s “public realm.”
We are living now in the future. It probably lurks right outside your window.
It is not remotely the same as what I just described.
It is known often to be called “progress.”
It is a bloody mess.
It is not at all kid-friendly. Not by a wide margin.
No wonder the average smart kid these days assumes the real public realm exists within his smart screen. I can’t say I’d blame him, really.
The childhood of a kid now can be an exercise in futility and frustration. Drive him to ritalin (and later to drink.)
But maybe this is the very best answer I can think of – to your question.
When I was small and growing fast – what exactly WAS the public realm? It was exactly what I discovered outside my front door every single day…..what I moved through constantly on my own, at my own speed, and in my own way. It gathered round my own thoughts, perceptions, ideas, dreams and fancies. It wafted through my childhood notions like a summer breeze, a winter snowfall, an autumn dust devil and a spring melt. It called upon dusky twilights, and kissed the sky with peach sunrises. It was full of people all over the place – young, old, and everything in between. It whispered to me through my bedroom window, and often lured me out there into its secrets. It encouraged me to grow up…..sometimes gently, sometimes not so gentle. It was full of strangers’ houses, back yards and alleyways, storefronts, old brick and older sidewalks. It was ever and always my oyster. It was ever and always mine for the pickin’s. All I really had to do was show up. Was it…ideallic? Hardly. It was often bloody tough. But it was still honest and fair.
I wasn’t an adult, in it – then. I was no James Dean or any particular drugstore hero. I was just a kid. That’s all. But a very mobile one. Learning as I went.
But most important: I was free. Me and that public realm? Sometimes it offered to me the only real freedom I knew and could trust. It had lots of rules. Follow the rules, and everything’s fine. Break them (and lose the privilege of having that freedom lickety split.) Parental decree absolute.
Freedom to a kid used to be the best fattest carrot at the end of the longest switch stick. Oh yeah. I’d earn stripes for that, all right.
So……………You tell me how it’s changed.
Well then I must be the worst parent out there, becuase I expect my child to either reread the kids books in the doctors waiting room, or sit there quietly. Funny, how I just think that sometimes you just have to buck up, sit still and wait patiently without being entertained.
I know life sucks, isn’t fair and it is having to behave in public is cruel and unusual punishment.
Alot better than the boot up my ass, by dad with the quote,”Don’t you ever do that again.”
Since I have worked in libraries all my life, and became an official “Librarian” only after I had worked at a larger public library – I knew exactly what I was getting into. I love people, and I love working with people. I even enjoy working with the “homeless”. Most of them were just fine people, others were not so nice. I especially liked helping kids and the elderly. I wasn’t complaining in my post about having to deal with “people”. I was just pointing out the things that are encountered in a public library of a larger size that might counter the “the library in my childhood” nostalgia. Libraries are still great despite some things and I want as many kids as possible there.
But Warren, looking at books and/or playing with toys (provided by the doctors office) is doing something besides sitting quietly and respectfully. So which is it? All kids, regardless of age, need to sit and do nothing for extended periods of time, OR they are allowed to avail themselves of something to do as long as it’s provided by the place being visited?
(And I will not be putting a boot up my 2-year-old’s ass because an hour plus wait in a doctor’s office got long for him. There are other methods of discipline.)
Well buffy, it is time to change Doctors then. We must be blessed. Never waited more than 15 mins, at ours. Oh, and the horror, having a 15 min conversation with my daughter. How did she ever survive?
I give up. It’s obviously impossible to have a conversation with you.
I have been referring to those parents that have bags of crap ready to take with them for every situation. Bags full of electronics, toys and such, for even the most minimal amount of time.
I have seen kids that “need” to watch movies on the 15 min. drive to town, parents with a shoulder bag full of stuff just to go out to dinner. They go overboard.
I figue it is mostly because the parents do know have any desire whatsoever to interact with their kids. Give em a gameboy and ignore.
We went out to dinner, we worked on the kids colouring place mat with them. During dinner they were part of the conversation.
If we wanted a quiet meal, with no kids, we got a sitter.
I am a librarian in New York. Boulder Public Library is mentioned among colleagues as a library that attracts a lot of transients, most of which are no problem, but some of which may sometimes create an unsafe situation. We librarians want to provide services to children. We want to provide services to transients. However, we sometimes feel we don’t have the skills to provide what they really need.
The police are called when patrons get unruly, but often that just gets them out for a few days. And we wrestle with the question of whether calling the police on these folks is really what they need. We have banned kids that behave horribly, but that’s not really what they need – the worse behaving ones are often the ones that visit most often because it’s the one place where they feel safe and paid attention to.
Salt Lake City is trying to address these issues by posting several social workers in the library. I think this is an excellent solution since the social workers will get to know our regulars – both children and adults – and not just called in when there is a crisis. They can connect with children who seem to be neglected, connect transients with services, etc. For some people, the library is the only place they feel welcomed. The social worker will free librarians up to help patrons with questions that utilize the librarian’s skills while allowing the library to be truly a public library that still welcomes all residents. I am very curious to see how this solution works out.
Update! Policy will be rescinded (http://www.dailycamera.com/news/ci_22340936), in part because
“… parents of older children who had been using the libraries on their own for years objected. They pointed out that their children can ride their bikes around Boulder unattended and even take the bus to Denver.”
I know this is an old post but I had to deal with a belligerent mentally ill drunk man near the Boulder library this morning who chased me, called me a bitch, and threatened me because I disturbed “his area” unknowingly. I would not leave a child unattended at that library, especially if they were under 11 because that library is filled to the brim with desperate transients of all kinds.
The person who said that mentally ill are no more dangerous to the general population is being dangerously politically correct. There are a number of statistics that show that mental illness increases people’s risk of violence. I mean my god, a town near here had an 11 year old raped and murdered this past year by a mentally ill 19 year old. Had he not been mentally ill he probably wouldn’t be a murdering children, sorry to burst the pc bubble.
I can vouch that the library in Boulder is filled to the brim with dangerous homeless men. So much so that I don’t go there much as an ADULT because I have to walk through a huge cloud of pot smoke to get to the door.
I’m not even against pot but it’s intimidating to have to wade through a (no kidding) 40 person deep pot smoking circle of bums in the morning to return a book. I would leave my kid anywhere but the Boulder Public Library, the Courthouse lawn and Boulder Creek. These places are filled with dangerous transients. Period. And anyone who thinks I am overreacting either hasn’t been to Boulder or feels guilty and would rather put political correctness above the safety of their children.
Also, to Miller’s point – children are minors and 12 certainly isn’t considered an adult anywhere in America. Age discrimination legislation is supposed to be for discrimination in the workforce – not so you can whine to the government that librarians don’t want to watch your under 12 kids. Gimme a break.
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