Victory! Boulder Library to ALLOW Kids Under 12 Without their Parents

Readers — It is with joy that I inform you that the Boulder Public Library has voted to junk its “No children under age 12 in the library without an adult” rule and replace it with the far better rule that kids in need of supervision must be accompanied by an adult.

What a wonderful decision. You may recall that the original ruling, discussed here, stated: “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.”

This was not only bizarre (seriously — kids were threatened by FURNITURE? Were they running headlong into those newfangled things called tables?). It punished well-behaved kids for the antics of poorly behaved ones, and robbed parents of the time to even browse for a book in the adult room because they were expected to chaperon their children at all times.  Like Zero Tolerance laws in schools, it also prohibited librarians from using their common sense to distinguish between miscreants and quiet kids who simply wanted to spend time at the library on their own. So kudos to the library commission member who found a behavior-based set of rules to implement instead:

Commission member Anne Sawyer suggested using Poudre River’s language, at least as an interim policy while library officials look at the issue in more depth, because it lets parents determine whether their child is mature enough to be alone in the library. However, it also makes it clear that library employees aren’t responsible for children left unattended.

“We heard from a lot of the public that 12 years old was too old and these kids are often in middle school and get themselves to and from school and have a lot of liberty,” said Sawyer, recalling that she often went to the library by herself as a child. “It’s a great transitional place where children can learn to be on their own.”

I’m so grateful when people can think back to their own childhoods and recall the value of the independence they were granted, rather than simply snapping, “But that was then and times have changed.” Let’s hope that more libraries consider a child’s behavior rather than age when insisting upon adult supervision. – L.

Children welcome at the public library again!

Children welcome at the public library again!



21 Responses to Victory! Boulder Library to ALLOW Kids Under 12 Without their Parents

  1. RobynHeud January 14, 2013 at 11:13 pm #


  2. Donna January 15, 2013 at 2:10 am #


  3. Earth.W January 15, 2013 at 6:04 am #

    Some intelligence. Goddess bless.

  4. Katie January 15, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    That’s fabulous! I really, really, hope, that when we move next, we’ll find a place where my dd (6 now) can go entirely on her own once we’re familiar with the location. Where we are right now, she can go in and make the book transactions by herself but the geography is such I can’t let her go entirely alone yet. Don’t get me wrong- I love libraries myself, and want my boys to, as well.
    I realize each municipality is different and not every library is ripe for such steps. Those that are, should be.

  5. Warren January 15, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    Fantastic. Even better is that Ms. Sawyer even goes on to say how the kids can use the library to learn to be on their own, and how she used to go on her own as a younger version of herself.

    You may have a friend and ally in Boulder, Lenore.

  6. Havva January 15, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    Glad to see common sense getting the upper hand for once. And a unanimous vote no less, very good news.

    I have to give a hearty seconding to this:
    “It punished well-behaved kids for the antics of poorly behaved ones…”

    Yes, yes, 1000x yes. I can’t say how irritating it was to me, in my youth, that adults increasingly pretended there was no difference between the well behaved and the wild children. It was insane to me that they thought I would suddenly be struck stupid, and go from quiet and respectful, to jumping off the tables or some such. It was insulting and worse than that, it meant that I was facing an ever eroding set of benefits to being a good kid. I had far too many occasions to ask, “What is the point? If I am going to be treated like a bad kid regardless of my actions, what is the point of being good?”

    Despite years of well demonstrated self-control there were always people who insisted that it was impossible for a child my age to behave. Sort of made me want to run around screaming my head off in grief and anger when adults said things like that. Some how I managed to decide that “excuse me?!” was the wiser response.

  7. Jen January 15, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    Yea, furniture.

    As a former librarian, who’s library was swamped with middle school kids every afternoon who needed to wait for their parents….you’d be amazed how clumsy some of them are. They trip and fall over feet and chairs sticking out a few inches. They also climb chairs and step stools to get books…and they fall.

    But adults have this problem too. A friend of mine gave herself a NASTY concussion getting tangled up in her chair at the library…slammed her head into a brick wall. So,..yea. Library furniture is out to get you.

  8. mollie January 15, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    This is what I call a win-win, which is to say a solution that takes everyone’s needs into account: the librarians, the other patrons, the kids, and the parents. Of course there is a solution that world for everyone, there always is, but we don’t always find it in the time, or the consciousness, that we allot to the situation.

    So the librarians get consideration, ease, respect, acknowledgement, and some influence… the other patrons get some harmony and peace… the kids get to be seen as they are, and a sense of growth, responsibility, and belonging… and the parents get to know they’ve been heard, and they matter. Hooray.

    The former policy seemed to meet no-one’s needs, really, even the librarians… because it’s not really going to feel like respect or acknowledgement when it’s given with an enormous load of resentment. We would do well to be aware of what we are asking for, and why. Often, we just rush to make rules and restrictions without surveying the broader landscape. The truth is, if it doesn’t work for everyone, it works for no one, in the long run.

  9. mollie January 15, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    “solution that works,” not “solution that world”

  10. Captain America January 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    The adults in the library that I don’t like are the ones that come up to you out of the blue and start jabbering. There oughta be a LAW, etc., etc.

  11. Check Out My Site January 15, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    That’s great news, I remember a few years back my 11 year old son wasn’t allowed to use the library to study for a midterm and almost got left out on the street for a few hours after school before anyone got home. All over him not having anyone with him

  12. ank January 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    that’s wonderful news. Hooray for common sense!

  13. marlie January 15, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    I am not a parent, but I recall ~25 years ago when my sister and I would go to the library just around the corner from me house after school EVERY day. It started when I was in second grade or so, when my neighbor’s kids (who were ~10 years older than me, but went to the same private school) would walk me (and eventually my little sister) to the library after getting off the school bus.

    We usually had about an hour to kill before one of my parents got home from work, and we’d happily sit in the library and read, maybe talk to some of the other kids who were there after school, and maybe even get started on homework (so that we could go home and watch TV later).

    I don’t ever remember there being any “incidents”; sure, some of the kids got a little rowdy sometimes, but it wasn’t anything a stern “SHHH” and the evil eye from a librarian couldn’t fix. I also remember that we were restricted to the kids’ room, and needed permission from our parents to go to the young adult room – and we weren’t allowed in the adult room at all (unsupervised).

    This was in Philadelphia, but in a small, neighborhood branch of the library, where you knew that if you acted up, someone was going to tell your parents, so we all pretty much made sure we were on our best behavior.

    As I got a little older, my parents taught us to walk the 1.5 blocks home by ourselves once the clock hit a certain time. In retrospect, we learned a number of valuable tools… we learned how to behave in public when our parents weren’t there to “watch” us, we learned a little independence, and we learned how to rely on and trust other people (the neighbors’ kids, the librarians, etc.).

    That’s something important too… we were always warned not to talk to strangers, but with a dash of common sense thrown in. We knew not to talk to a random person on the street, but that it was ok to talk to someone who worked at the library or the pool where we took swimming lessons.

    So, bravo to the Boulder Library System.

  14. Lollipoplover January 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    Libraries are where we WANT our kids to go. We want them to read, learn, and become responsible citizens.
    Age restrictions never addressed the real problem- bad behaviors. This is not unique to the under 12 set- anyone can break library laws. To blame the problems on furniture dangers was utterly moronic and I’m glad they revised this law.

  15. Jane January 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    The advantage of a blanket no-kids-alone-under-age-X policy is that the library can’t be accused of being prejudiced. When you start saying that some kids are allowed to be alone in the ‘berry and others aren’t, you leave yourself open to accusations of racism, prejudice against the handicapped, etc.

    The new Boulder policy could make for a bad PR situation at my library (I was a clerk there for 5 years) … It’s a library staffed mostly by middle-class white people in a poor, mostly minority urban neighborhood. There are a lot of unattended kids there because most parents can’t afford after-school care. If we started throwing young kids out for “disruptive behavior” it would be really easy for it to appear racist and heartless. I can see the headline now: “Library Throws Seven-Year-Old Out on the Street Downtown After Dark”. To an outsider it would look terrible, especially if they thought the policy was being enforced in a racist way (white librarians accusing black kids of being “too rowdy”).

  16. Captain America January 15, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    I wonder if PART of the librarian’s problem comes from the librarians themselves.

    About 20 years ago, libraries wanted to be “hip” and “open,” and many stopped the practice of shushing the noisy.

    This was a bad move. It’s good to keep the peace, and that’s a pretty good way to kill at a very early stage a lot of disturbances.

  17. Linda Petersen January 15, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    We live right behind the library and I could not imagine having the rule that parents needed to be there for kiddos under 12! My children would have never gotten their homework done!

  18. Rachel January 15, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    Thank goodness! It is so important for kids to have unencumbered access to books in order to foster literacy. Everyone suffers, in the long run, when kids read.

  19. Rachel January 15, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    Thank goodness! It is so important for kids to have unencumbered access to books in order to foster literacy. Everyone suffers, in the long run, when kids don’t read.

  20. missjanenc January 15, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    Like they say in the Marines, “Oorah!”

    Captain America, I can relate to your comment about librarians. I don’t enjoy going to my local branch because it is a friggin’ zoo. Cell phone use, staff hollering to each other across the floor and rowdy kids don’t foster an environment for work/study. I once commented on the decibel level and the security guard said, “Yeah, it can get noisy in here.” I got mad, went over the head librarian’s and called her boss to complain. I git a callback from the head librarian who couldn’t understand why I had issues. I told her about the chaos and she said they wanted to encourage young people to hang out there. I told her the library wasn’t a rec center. And I haven’t been back since.

  21. Charla January 15, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    I LIVED in the library from about age 7 on whenever I could get there. If I had needed a parent to be present it would have NEVER happened. My Dad farmed all day and my Mom worked in town. And when I wasn’t working (part-time from age 7 on), I was at the library as much as possible. We had 5 libraries in a town of 5,000: City library, state regional library (where I later worked), high school library, college library, and a library at the state agricultural research station that I was allowed to use because my mom worked there. There was a private library, but I could not afford membership.