Folks — The idea that a 10-year-old is not allowed to read at the library without a guardian is nauseating to me, and not just because I spent my formative years at the Wilmette Public Library (reading the Harvard Lampoon). I can’t imagine my mom having to spend her whole weekend at the library just because she happened to have a reader for a child. Alternatively, I can’t imagine NOT spending my afternoons at the library because my mom had other things to do besides bodyguarding me in the reference room.
And yet, that “No One Alone Under Age 10” edict is the law of the land in Knoxville, Tenn. — a law this lovely letter-writer most eloquently protests:
Meredith C. Kuester, Knoxville
I want to express my displeasure at the new policy banning children younger than 10 from all branches of the Knox County Public Library System unless they are accompanied by an adult. Though I understand the idea behind this policy, the freedom of education envisioned by the founders of our public library system is being jeopardized. The librarians have the right to ask any disruptive individual to leave, regardless of the perpetrator’s age, but a mature, responsible person, using the library for its intended purpose, should not be discriminated against because of age.
My children, who have been “model citizens,” according to our branch librarian, often walk to our neighborhood branch to do their homework, check out or return books. The neighborhood library had, historically, been a safe place for well-behaved children to exercise a bit of freedom, individualism and independence, while enjoying the thrills of reading and education. It is one of the wonderful privileges allowed us in this great country. What childhood would be complete without the excitement of going to the library and checking out your own book, and if a child is allowed to walk to the library alone, shouldn’t that child be allowed to enter alone?
Please do not penalize all children because of the actions of a few. I kindly and respectfully ask that the Knox County Library Board reconsider this policy. I have one daughter who will be 10 in two months, but my younger child, who is 7, walks with my older child to the library and can no longer enter or wait on the grounds. Has fear of lawsuits caused this childhood rite of passage to become a thing of the past? My suggestion is to let individual libraries write their own policy, especially the small neighborhood branches within walking distance of schools.
And now — sigh — the responses:
“The writer should appreciate having a library so close to home and obey the rules without grousing.”
“My grandchildren are 10 and 11, but I wouldn’t leave them alone in the library or any other public place.”
“I think most all of us parents don’t think that having our child disappear, perhaps the victim of a child molester/rapist/murderer, is something that we could stand to go through.”
“This is not a place where 10 and a 7 year old should be going someplace by themselves and staying for hours without a guardian to protect them.”
And the one that seems to speak for everyone I totally disagree with:
“…My generation didn’t have to grow up like that. In these times parents have to protect kids in such places. I don’t blame them for having that rule and it doesn’t seem unreasonable. It seems to me just good old fashioned common sense.”
Ah me. I don’t suppose I should point out all the crime stats on the right side of my blog — the ones that show that crime is DOWN since today’s parents were kids. But point them out I must, along with the fact that Knoxville is focusing on an unlikely scenario — children at the library molested or even murdered — rather than considering the far more likely scenario — kids NOT reading and NOT loving books, because the library doesn’t welcome them. Or doesn’t that matter? – L.