Readers! Here’s a note from a Free-Ranger named Cari Noga. Let’s give her some ideas! — Lenore
Dear Free-Range Kids: I just posted this in the “ideas” section on your blog, but thought I’d send it direct, too. On your blog you ask, “Do you ever let your kid ride a bike to the library?” My question is, “What do you do if the library won’t let your kid in?” After two recent incidents I’m looking for ideas on how to positively approach my local library about its policy on “unattended children.”
Currently it states that “children under age 8 must be accompanied at all times by a person at least 14 years old. Upon discovering an unattended child, staff will attempt to locate the person responsible for that child. If the proper person cannot be located within one half-hour, authorities will be called to take the child into custody.” (It doesn’t say whose custody.)
I always thought this policy was intended to prevent people from using the library as a babysitter. But after my own recent incidents, I’m beginning to think “accompanied” literally means within arm’s reach.
Incident one: I was with both my kids (ages 1 and 4) in the children’s section, while husband was in another wing, perhaps 50 yards away, on the same floor of the building. Four-year-old son asked if he could go over to Dad. We have visited the library on approximately a weekly basis since he was an infant, so I said okay. He went over to dad, then back to me, then over to dad again. Going back and forth meant he had to pass in front of the children’s librarians’ desk. The librarian wound up remonstrating my husband for letting our son go back and forth, using the “You just never know/world is a scary place” rationale.
Incident two: Took both kids by myself and stopped at the main desk (ironically to see if my reserve of Free-Range Kids had arrived)! My one-year-old daughter walked on about 30 feet further, to the Christmas tree on display. She did shake the bottom branches a bit, but nothing fell off or even wobbled. My son, meanwhile, ran into the children’s section ahead of me. A librarian came out of that section and shooed my daughter away from the tree. Seeing me, she asked if I was also with a boy. When I confirmed it, she made my son leave the children’s section and wait in the main corridor until I finished my conversation at the main desk and entered with him.
At the time I did not handle it well, as I was so upset. (After all, you certainly wouldn’t want a four-year-old dashing into the library.) I suppose technically we had violated the policy in both instances, although you could also argue that, per the policy, the librarians should have backed off after confirming my kids weren’t there alone. I wound up getting the name of the library director. I haven’t yet called her – incident two just happened last week – because I wanted to be prepared. Here are my questions for you and your readers:
1. Is this policy reasonable/typical?
2. If not, what parts need to change? The minimum age? The definition of “accompanied?”
3. Any model policies I could suggest?
4. Is there a case to be made for no policy at all, simply librarian discretion if kids – of any age – are being disruptive?
Thanks in advance for your help and book. Santa brought me a copy, so I can get the library’s back to them. They certainly need to read it.
Yours, Cari Noga, Michigan
Hi Cari! I certainly think it makes sense to check in with the head librarian and talk about how much you and your kids love the library, how you want to obey the rules and how you’d like to make sure you understand them correctly. That way you’re on the library’s side and can join the librarian in wanting the place to be well-run, kid-friendly and safe. Then you might agree that the world is a scary place, which is why you are trying to bring up little buggers prepared for the real risks out there. Not abductions from libraries, which are exceedingly rare (she can look it up!), but things like ILLITERACY. Then ask her to recommend some kiddie books! Good luck! — Lenore