Just 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. - 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. 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. Library staff are happy to assist children with selecting and checking out library materials, and, providing reference and readers’ advisory service. 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. Because the library is a public place, a child’s safety cannot be guaranteed. Children may encounter hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture, electrical equipment, or, other library patrons. At the Main Boulder Public Library alone, almost one million patrons walk through the doors each year. The safety of our patrons, especially children and dependent adults, is our highest priority.
We appreciate your family’s enthusiasm for public libraries and we look forward to serving you. 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 “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 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 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.
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.” THAT would make sense! – L.