Free-Rangers: Your Children Should be Taken From You! (Signed) A Fed-Up Librarian

Hi ndtyhknhay
Readers! The librarian who wrote the letter below is very angry at us, thanks to a couple of misconceptions about what it means to raise a Free-Range Kid. Note to Librarian: We’re with you! We don’t want ill-behaved kids driving you crazy and putting themselves in danger. Thankfully, “Free-Range” does not mean neglect. It means assessing the world and our kids realistically. When (and only when) we feel we can trust both of them, we gradually give our kids more freedom. 

Free-Rangers do not believe in treating librarians as babysitters. We know you have a job to do and day care is not it. That’s why, by the time we let our kids go to the library solo, we do our very best to make sure they do not act like babies.  We believe there’s a big difference between “dumping” kids and allowing them to be independent. We don’t ignore potential dangers, but we do try to keep them in perspective. And one of the reasons we don’t keep our eyes on our kids 24/7 is that we also believe that if they are thrown for a loop sometimes, they will be resilient. 

That being said, here goes. – L. 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I wish we lived in the world many of you seem to feel exists. One filled with rainbows and lollipops. We don’t. Public places, including libraries, are filled with people you would never want your children knowing.

In our library we are constantly identifying people who are criminals. I live in what is considered a very safe town in a very safe state. We can’t do anything about these people. We don’t have enough staff to watch them to see where they go and what they do. We’re terrified that they might hurt us or a patron. TERRIFIED. We can do nothing.

Every day at 2:50, 60-70 kids come streaming through the front doors. All unattended. For the next 3 hours they are in and out as they please. Sometimes there are only 3 staff people in the library which is 2 levels and 7 rooms, not including bathrooms, hallways, etc.

Our policy is that they have to be 9, which I feel is still too young.

I could sit here and tell you stories for HOURS of parents that come in and ask me where little Johnny is and look annoyed when I remind them that we don’t know each child and direct them to where they hang out. I could sit here for longer and tell you about their panicked faces when they can’t find their child. The parents that come running in describing their child asking if we’ve seen them. Oh, brown hair and a red coat? You just described a dozen kids I may have seen for 2 seconds while I was helping a dozen other people.

Oh, and what about the little kids we’ve chased after that aren’t being watched and run out the front door, where there is a major road? This gives us all nightmares.

So many stories but you idiots will need something horrible to happen before you believe me. Just do some internet searching or ask your local librarian. You’ll hear many horror stories.

Libraries are not day care centers. Librarians are not babysitters.

Take responsibility and parent your children. We’re not trying to punish your children (YOUR CHILDREN). We are trying to keep them safe since you obviously don’t have a clue. Get a responsible babysitter, send them to the library with your child. Be a parent. Oh, and it would be great if that babysitter knew your phone number or address.

Free-Range, give me a break. I’m a single Mom of a 21-year-old daughter. She wasn’t Free-Range, she was watched by loving and responsible individuals when I had to be elsewhere. She did not sit alone in a public place, ever. She is a healthy, intelligent woman who is aware of her surroundings and knows how to keep herself safe. She is not scared but confident because I gave her the right wings without subjecting her to perverts. She loves to read and even though I haven’t worked my whole life in a library, she frequented them with me and loves them. Keywords: WITH ME.

Yep, CAPS in places for you Free-Range Parents that need to be whacked upside the head. Your kids should all be taken from you. Why the heck isn’t there a test people take before they can become parents?

Go to your local library and thank them profusely for being smart when you are not. Support them and if you really want young kids in your library, volunteer to watch friends’ kids after school and bring them to the library. Quit trying to make some poor librarian who has a lot to do and not enough money or time to do it responsible for your children.

Free-Range belongs with the words chicken or egg after it, not children. – Fed-Up

Book ’em!


177 Responses to Free-Rangers: Your Children Should be Taken From You! (Signed) A Fed-Up Librarian

  1. Amy Austin November 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Respectfully, I want to point out that if the day comes when I send my children to the library on their own, I don’t want the librarian to be responsible for them – I want them to be responsible for themselves.

    My elementary school was less than a mile from my house (I just Google Mapped it – it’s a 15 minute walk) and my route home took me right past the library. One of my biggest thrills as a 4th or 5th grader (9 or 10 years old) was being allowed to walk home by way of the library.

    I’m a writer now. Go figure.

  2. Heather November 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Perhaps the problem here is that the librarian will never notice the child that comes in, reads/does their homework, then goes home at the time they agreed with their parents. That’s the child a free-ranging parent is hoping they have.

    Lets face it, every child is going to laugh and joke about with their friends when they can, and of course there will be times when they get engrossed and forget to go home when they agreed. But hopefully, a free-range child will know how to politely ask if they can call home to warn mum/dad, and a free-range parent will not be panicking because little Johnny isn’t glued to their side. That is the whole point.

    Though I probably would ask the librarian where the kids are hanging out today, if the library is big enough that there’s not just the one place to look and the kids don’t always go to the same area.


  3. Will November 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    “Public places, including libraries, are filled with people you would never want your children knowing.”

    PROVE IT. There, in all CAPS, for pearl clutchers who believe everything they see on CSI.

  4. Caroline November 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    If her daughter was never left alone in a public place, how does she know “how to keep herself safe”?

  5. Rob November 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    I remember taking the city bus down to the library alone as a kid. I loved it there. There were some sketchy dudes down there with bad intentions I’m sure. We learned to avoid them.

    Nothing bad ever happened to me. Used to do it 3 – 4 times a week. This librarian sounds a little unhinged.

    P.S. that’s not my website I linked to, but it’s a fun one.

  6. CrazyCatLady November 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    My librarians LOVE to have my kids come to the library, even WITHOUT me! Yes, they told me this!

    I made sure that my kids know that the library is a privilege, not a right, and that if I EVER get a report that the librarian had to say something for them being out of line, there would be consequences.

    Our local library is next door to the police station. It has a very open floor plan, and is actually pretty small, maybe 2500 sq feet total. Recently the carols were replaced with tables, maybe to get more computers in. The result is that the librarians’ view is less obstructed.

    The next library over, where my kids occasionally meet other kids for school projects or to hang out when I have a doctor appointment, is much larger, and potentially has some of those people that the letter writer talks about. I have talked to my kids, and we have talked about how to keep safe and what to do should someone try something inappropriate.

    I would love for my kids to have opportunity to go to the library every day, unfortunately do to that where we live it is not possible.

  7. Filioque November 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Good grief, “Fed Up”….Get a grip. I’m sorry you’re wrongly treated like a babysitter by some parents, but is that really reason to blast the idea of independence and self-reliance in our kids?

    And furthermore: if there really is a constant parade of unattended children in your library each day, and none has been maimed, kidnapped, molested or smashed by a car so far, doesn’t that kind of disprove your entire point?

  8. Silver Fang November 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    It’s unfortunate that neglectful parents taint the Free Range Kids movement and many people don’t know the difference.

  9. Gina November 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Her daughter never sat anywhere in a public place alone?

    Not even at 21?

    How dreadful.

    I’m sure her romantic relationships have been wonderful, all chaperoned by a loving parent. And college must have been a blast, taking a “real” adult with her everywhere she went. I wonder if she was permitted to study in the big dangerous library while her babysitter slept, or if her curfew was determined by when her mother decided to turn in.

    Can never be too safe.

  10. Betty November 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    This woman sounds like she hates her job.

  11. LRH November 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Dear Librarian,

    First-off, your idea of what free-range is, versus what it actually is, is in serious need or reconciliation. Moreover, your attitude is sour and horrible, and the insinuation that “your children should be taken from you” is on a level of awful that borders on psychotic.

    Free-range is NOT about just dumping children willy-nilly and throwing the dice, like we’re gambling on how long it takes before little Johnny gets a bruise, and the winner of this guessing game is $100 richer. Free-range is NOT about not caring about your children & letting whatever happens, happens, with no sense of training or accountability. Free-range is about teaching your children how to behave, how to keep THEMSELVES safe without the constant need for 24/7 hovering, and then actually trusting them to do it. All of this, too, is reconciled with the “age appropriate” scale.

    Free-range is about teaching your children how to swim, and then letting them reasonably explore the water, vs holding their hand & walking with them EVERYWHERE. Free-range is about letting your children run in the park and actually have FUN, rather than yelling “no running!”–in a PARK. Free-range is about training them how to play outside safely, within your own yard if you have one, and then letting them do it, without your needing to be around them 24/7.

    Free-range is about assessing risk, and realizing that crime is nowhere near as prevalent as it’s made out to be, and that even when it is, sometimes, bad things will happen, and it’s not necessarily the fault of the parent for daring to blink. Free-rangers don’t think it’s wrong to leave their child in the car for 1-2 minutes if it’s not hot outside & they’re merely paying for gas etc, and on the off-chance their car is stolen, they consider it the THIEF’S fault, not the parent. At the same time, free-rangers do NOT advocate someone leaving their child in the car for 5 hours while gambling in a casino or getting smashed in a Texas two-step, and it’s not our fault some of you are incapable of deciphering the difference and assign the latter extreme behavior as being the same as the former totally normal behavior.

    Free-range is about having balance–yes we’re parents, but that’s not all that we are. We also have our own life to live. Free-range is about keeping the perspective that being a parent doesn’t mean your needs are now irrelevant and that are you now nothing more than a 24/7 unpaid slave, catering to your every child’s whims or needs, even when they’re old and competent enough to handle certain things by themselves. That said, free-rangers definitely take care of their children, they just don’t do it the way YOU think they should.

    And most of free-rangers have the decency to NOT advocate for other parents to have their children taken from them just because they parent differently than others. We are all the time pointing out the silliness of the many things helicopter parents do, but most of us do NOT advocate that such parents should have their children taken from them just because their philosophies are different than ours.

    You, my dear lady (or man, it makes no difference), should be ashamed of yourself for advocating for interference between the relationship between a parent & a child. Second only to the relationship between a husband & wife, which should be the first priority even in a home with children (my opinion, you understand), the relationship between a parent & child is the most powerful connection there is, and the very foundation for the creation of future adults. You are reckless, to say the least, to advocate for meddling around in such relationships and wrecking with people’s emotions based strictly on a philosophical difference, not based on any actual negligence. Organizations that terminate parental rights are to be used with the utmost caution. They are for people who beat their children (not spank, but beat), who never feed them anything but bread & water, who confine them to metal cages that are full of urine & feces, who molest them. These organizations are NOT to be used as a meddling middle-man to further your own helicopter-parenting agenda.

    The reason people aren’t tested to be parents is because we are NOBODY, and that includes us, to judge someone’s fitness as a parent, except in such extreme situations mentioned above. If we were to engage in that, NOBODY would be good enough, and inside of 100 years, humans would cease to exist. You are doing nothing less than advocating the outright playing of God, and you are NOT God.

    I hope this note clarifies things for you, and more than anything else, I hope you get a clue, and I pray to God that you never are in a position to advocate for parents losing their children just because their parenting style isn’t a facsimile of yours. I can guarantee you–as good of a parent as you THINK you were to your now 21 year-old, I promise you that you were imperfect in someways, and probably hideously so, and if you had been held to this standard, your daughter would’ve been taken from you, and it would’ve ripped your heart out. You are downright EVIL to suggest others should endure this, if you can’t reconcile your idealism with the reality that no one’s perfect, including you, and we should not be so casual about suggesting the revocation of parental rights over philosophical differences.


  12. Katharine McKinney November 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    My mom is a children’s librarian…whew! Glad she is not like this lady. She is proud of the fact that her library is place where kids can go and feel safe and enjoy programs. She has issues, the same as that lady, but she doesn’t blame it on “free range.”

    I spent hours in the library unattended as a child, never once got in trouble. I can guarantee my 9 year old would be well-behaved if left there too.

    There are definitely creeps in the library…but the librarians are usually good about policing the area. And it’s our job as parents to teach kids to be wary of people showing undue attention.

  13. Kelly November 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    Once my son gets old enough to go to the library by himself (he’s not yet 2 so we have a bit to go), I sure hope the librarian would be willing to tell me if he wasn’t behaving well. I intend to make sure he will handle himself appropriately before being sent off on his own.

  14. K Virtue November 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    Sounds to me like this is an example of Poor Library Management not Poor Parenting. Yes, parents using the library as babysitting does occur, unfortunatly. The Library needs to have clear guidelines of what is acceptable, and enforce them. It may take a bit of work since there are clearly none, but it will be benefical in the long run.

    Also sounds like the book and reading professional has not read your book, only made a correlation to free running.

  15. Becky November 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    I’m sorry that so many of your young patrons are so disrespectful. I am also glad your daughter grew into a competent happy adult, however, I’m sorry she had to miss out on one of the great pleasures of my young life: exploring the wonders of a library alone. You see, my mother also visited the library WITH me…until she was convinced that I could behave appropriately. I can assure I never ran in the library, never talked loud, and my mom would have tanned my hide had she heard I ever bothered a librarian. So, once again, I’m sorry your patrons give you such trouble, but I can assure you they are not the product of free range parents. I was.

  16. opsomath November 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    Oh no! Caps!

    My school librarian in high school sounded a bit like this. It struck me that she would be happiest running the library if it didn’t have any of those darned kids in it.

  17. Annie November 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    What I noticed most about this letter was the complete focus-shift. She starts off panicking because our children are not safe in what I assume to be a prison library that is strangely open to the public. We’re horrible parents for exposing our children to this awful place. But suddenly, the entire purpose of the letter changes to chastise us for adding to her workload with naughty children. She can’t get anything done with unruly tweens running amock in her upstanding library. I got a little lost as to her real intention with this letter. Are libraries unsafe, or are our children merely hooligans? As for this family, neither of those is true. We are true Free-Rangers. I will ask this librarian to dig deep, and decide if she’s anti-Free Range for fear of child abduction, or if she’s just anti-Rude Children. If the latter is true, her letter is directed at the wrong group.

  18. Randy November 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Her letter must have been edited. I didn’t see the part where she described an incident where one of the 65-70 children were harmed by one of the “criminals” in her library.

  19. opsomath November 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Furthermore, “your kids should all be taken from you” is the worst thing you could say to a parent. It is bigoted and more harmful than any racial slur, because it is both an insult and a deadly threat. I personally know a man who had his twin daughters taken for about a year because his mother in law slandered him, accusing him of abuse.

    Unless you really, really think that sending your 8-year-old to the public library by herself (a trip I would have taken without a thought at that age, and I’m only 28 – don’t patronize me by saying that the world was so different in 1993) means that you are such a bad parent that your kid would be better off in an overburdened and abusive foster system, you need to rethink your words.

  20. Minnie Fox November 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    So off base and highly rude! I am from a very small safe mid-west town however I still wouldn’t leave my children all alone in the world at the library if I had not taught them how to conduct themselves. Growing up I spent a lot of time alone at the library and community YMCA because my single mother worked and I wanted to teach my children the same independence. This lady is clueless and lumping all parents into one category. When I pick my children up they are where they said they would be and I would call them before I would bother a book sorter.

    I do understand very well where this “lady” is coming from. I worked at Hot Topic in a mall and there are parents who drop their children off at the mall and should NOT have! I would tell my associates, none with children, about Free-Range Kids and the HUGE difference. My children were “alone” in the mall a few times, and before that happened I introduced them to mall security, various sales staff and mall employees I knew, and went as far to show them how to navigate the halls to find the security office and mall management office. For their safety but also so they knew there were eyes on them and if they acted naughty it would be a quick phone call to me. I’ve “chased” children who have shop lifted, started fights and other shenanigans. At the same time there were children there who would loiter in the store and others because they needed a safe warm place until their parent(s) finished word and there was never a problem.

  21. Terrie Coats November 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    I completely understand the Librarian’s point about not being able to know or watch every child that comes through the doors, especially with the volume of children she described. Having said that though, what’s wrong with a parent asking the librarian if they’ve seen their child? What happened to it takes a village? And further, why blame this or poorly behaved children on free range parenting? She clearly does not know the free range philosphy, and further I’d suspect she is tired of doing her own job… sadly she sounds quite jaded. That’s unfortunate.

  22. Kate November 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    This is going to be a long post.

    Every Saturday my children and I go to the local library. We live in a rural area, and the library is in a tiny town about 15 minutes walk away (no intersections, just two turns on long, side-walk-less country roads). Last summer, we were in town for some other reason and my oldest son asked if he could go to the library. I needed to take the baby and his 4 yo brother home. So I checked with him that he knew his way home, made sure he had my phone number, and wrote a note for him to give the librarian with my number, indicating that he could go home by himself and to feel free to evict him if he misbehaved.

    You see, I know my son. I know that his favorite thing to do in a library is plant himself in one corner and read. I also know our librarians, and they know us. We had many weeks of going to the library as a family before I left him there by himself. I wasn’t using the library as a babysitting service – there wasn’t actually any advantage to me in leaving my son there. But there was an advantage to my son, and an advantage to the library – which depends on gaining new patrons in order to retain it’s funding.

    We have been library patrons in three library systems in two countries, and I understand where this librarian is coming from. I used to visit a library in a major city when my son was a toddler and I know he drove the librarians crazy. I spent most of those visits chasing him around, picking up books he knocked down. A couple times he got away from me and rode the elevator to a different level, and was retrieved by a librarian or other patron – and that is *with* my supervision. One librarian in particular – Benny – was grumpy about the chaos my son caused.

    But we kept coming to the library, and when my second son was born we brought him along, and then at the age of 3.5 my hyperactive crazy little preschooler, who had been surrounded by books his entire life even when he was happier to destroy them then have them read to him – the kiddo decided he wanted to learn to read. And he did. By 4 he was devouring the library’s picture books and easy readers. By 5 he had his own favorite nook in the library where he liked to take his plunder and read for the entire two hours we spent there every week, as I chased his now mobile little brother around. And when my boys were 3 and 6 and we visited for the last time before moving, there wasn’t a librarian we didn’t know by name, and Benny actually teared up a little saying goodbye to my firstborn, having watched him learn a life long love of books right there in his library.

    So, I’m grateful that the librarians in our local library know my son and are happy to see him even if I’m not with him. I’m glad that they can see what an important role they are playing in his life, and how much confidence he is gaining from having some real world tastes of the independence he admires so much in the characters he so loves to read about.

  23. Melissa November 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    Wait. She’s in a very safe town, yet her library is filled with criminals? And if she and her fellow librarians are so busy, how do they have the time to actually “identify” these criminals? Or are they just seeing people that they think *look* like criminals and judging them based on appearance alone? What a horrible way to live, constantly terrified.

  24. ERIC November 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    The problem I had with this post is the anger. It is O.K. to disagree. It is fine to have different beliefs and think others are wrong. It shows poor taste to call people idiots for having the parenting techniques of most of the world…

    If you are TERRIFIED at work.. It may be time for a new career?

  25. Nanci November 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    For someone who has “so many horror stories” she doesn’t seem to have any! The biggest horror story she can come up with is parents who don’t find their child right away and ask her if she has seen them. Since the horror story ends there I can only assume the parents all found their children relatively quickly after that. She says one day when something bad happens then we will believe her. I disagree. If 60-70 kids come to her library everyday and apparently have been for quite sometime, I would not think the Library an unsafe place if one day something bad happens to one of those kids. I don’t think the park is unsafe because occasionally a kid falls and is seriously injured. I don’t think cars or airplanes are unsafe because occasionally people die while riding in them. I would fully expect that if that many kids are in a Library everyday sooner or later something would probably happen to one of them. I would think that she should have the common sense to realize that since that many kids are at the Library everyday and none of them have ever been hurt there that the Library is actually a safe place for them to be! The true horror of the story is that she thinks a 9 year old isn’t capable of going to a Library alone!

    I think she is just fed up with having to deal with bratty kids, and let’s face it some of them are. If I worked in a place where packs of kids descended every afternoon and they ran around wild I would be pretty ticked. I’m willing to bet that a lot of good kids who would do fine in the Library alone tend to act more like wild animals when they are together in a large group. I could see a pack of 10 year olds thinking it would be cool to play hide and seek in the aisles or whatever. If that’s her problem she needs to make her arguments against that issue, not making up garbage about how the kids aren’t safe!!

  26. Kristen November 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    As both a librarian and a parent, I see both sides, as Lenore did.

    On the one hand, I’m also in a “very safe town in a very safe state” and we’re not TERRIFIED of any of our patrons. And there are plenty of times it is safe for a child to sit alone in a public place, especially at age 9 and up, which is the range the writer here gave.

    On the other, the running wild, shrieking, jumping on furniture, free babysitting thing is out of control in many areas. And some parents do use “oh it’s safe” as an excuse. The best part is when the library is closing and you find a six year old whose parent turns out to be at the mall across town and has lost track of time.

  27. Warren November 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    Well Lenore, I doubt you’ll find a copy of your book, on the shelves at that library.

    Unfortunately this lady has not met a parent of a free range kid. We are not the ones going up and expecting her to know where our kid is. We go in meet our child, pack up and leave. Or we meet them outside, or they just go home when it is time. Chances are on the way out of the library the staff would be thanked, and told to have a nice day.

    She is just confusing those who dump their kids at the library with free range parents. Just like she is confused when she states that she is in a safe town, but the library is full of criminals.

    Considering her daughter is 21, and making the assumption that this lady worked for awhile before starting a family, that will put her up their in years. She may want to consider retiring.

  28. Chris November 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    I would really like to know what she means when she says

    “In our library we are constantly identifying people who are criminals.”

    Does that mean that they are actual criminals (have committed some crime) or just people that they think are up to something? It’s interesting that her safe town in her safe state results in a library full of criminals.

  29. BDH November 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    WOW, what a self-righteous you-know-what. And whiny too!

    Most unfortunately, I have run into more than a few librarians with this very same attitude. It is why, even as a homeschooling family, we do not visit libraries very often. Makes me sad because I spent many long hours on my own in our local library. However, I have never wanted to subject my children to such narrow minded, self-centered idiots (to use her own word).
    Honestly, the one that needs a smack upside her head, and a different job where she does not have any interaction with actual people, much less children, is this woman.

  30. Jules November 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Anyone who uses “you idiots” in their argument to show that they are “right” isn’t someone I care to listen to. Sorry, but anyone who resorts to insults to make their case probably isn’t too confident in what they have to say.

  31. Uly November 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    If the kids are old enough to be there unattended, surely they are old enough to be kicked out if they will not behave.

  32. Captain America November 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    I disagree entirely with this woman. She needs to reconsider her line of work. Libraries are enormous cathedrals of learning and our children need to be in them. Certainly 9 is old enough to manage this.

    I hope she connects with this blog and reads these comments. She sounds bitter and a change of venue would do her good.

  33. Captain America November 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    Oh, and one thing that could be done to help kids at libraries is to have pornography filters. This is just practical common sense, but the American Library Association takes up high dudgeon on the issue, and blathers on free speech. Ridiculous.

    My wife and I were at a public library. She was using a computer and it turned out that a guy next to her ended up watching porn and leering at her. That kind of taught us a real-life lesson about these things.


  34. librarian November 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    The letter writer got it all backwards. If children don’t have a concept of appropriate behavior in public places, they are most definitely NOT free-range.
    Librarians should not feel that it’s their duty to babysit patrons – whoever comes to the library is just another patron, regardless of age. If they misbehave – just order them to leave, as you would do with any unruly partner. This is not to be confused with being generally helpful to patrons – kids, people with special needs, seniors, and all other kinds of people who might need a bit of special attention.

  35. SKL November 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    All or nothing thinking is no better than worst-first thinking.

    I used to go to the library by myself when I was much younger thna 9, and I followed the rules. My parents probably never set foot in that library. My dad couldn’t even read. I will not support banning kids from libraries just because their parents don’t take them. They should simply kick out kids who misbehave.

    Maybe there could be a middle ground. Make kids present ID to get into the library, which can be used to find out the kids’ parents’ contact info. Then if they misbehave, make them show their ID and inform their parents. And have a x-strikes-you’re-out policy. That way kids who are there to use the library as intended can do so.

    As for criminals having free range in the library, I think that is more concerning. How does that have anything to do with the age of the kids who go there to read or do their homework? Don’t most rapes, etc. involve older teens and adults? Something needs to be done about the fact that libraries are unsafe with free-range criminals in there. Beef up security or something; don’t punish the innocent.

  36. Alison S. November 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    I suspect the TERRIFIED (caps) part derives from this person’s world view rather than from any actual threat or dangerous situation existing in the environment. This suspicion is supported by the obvious fact that no imminent threats or specific corroborating incidents were described in this letter.

  37. Kimberly November 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    Wow. What a terrible misunderstanding she has of what Free Range children are. Those kids she sees in the library aren’t Free Range. They are neglected uncared for. I agree with her that the library is not a dumping ground for kids whose parents don’t want to pay for child care. I feel bad that she is forced to endure that. As a free ranger, the most I want is for my child to be able to politely and independently look at children’s books while I am upstairs looking at books I am interested in. I have had several comments from librarians on how polite mine is, how she always puts her books away, etc….

    As for loads of criminals hanging out at the library, I am not buying that. How would they be able to identify a criminal who intends to harm a child? That’s a pretty difficult endeavor for someone who is so busy watching droves of neglected kids at the library.

  38. Sally November 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    The librarian wrote “Your kids should all be taken from you”. She would do well to remember that until quite recently historically, there would have been a very great probability that she as a “single Mom” would have had her child taken from her! That was considered about the worse thing you could do to a child. Hard to imagine now, just a few short years on.

    Also, why a public servant when so little faith in public? “She did not sit alone in a public place, ever” That’s some serious ‘anti-public’ – ness. My goodness.

  39. librarian November 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    To illustrate the point: my daughter is seven and next summer she may have to take her very first 9-hour intercontinental flight as an unaccompanied minor. The airline rules allow unaccompanied flights for the kids as young as 5, but up to now, accessing my daughter’s level of independence, I felt that she was not mature enough to handle such an ordeal. For past two years, however, every long flight to visit grandparents became an exercise in “pretend mommy not here, and cope,” so by now I’m sure my daughter can manage airplane bathrooms, belts, entertainment system and proper etiquette, remembers to drink her liquids, and knows how to keep herself busy and not bother other passengers. She is very much looking forward to her first solo flight, evidently treating it as a tribute to her maturity (which, in a way, it is). Now, in my opinion THAT’s free range – while simply dropping an unprepared kid into the situation s/he is not equipped to handle is the opposite of free range.

  40. Angelica November 20, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Does anybody else think it is farfetched that “every day at 2:50, 60-70 kids come through the doors unattended”?

    In what world does this still happen? Add to that all the criminals she claims she sees in her library, and methinks the librarian tends to exaggerate.

    The previous posters have made so many great comments, that I don’t think I’ll repeat what they’ve already said, but one thing I do wonder: back in my day, the librarians used to have full power to tell us to hush if we were being noisy and disruptive. Nowadays, at least in our library system, the library is trying to posit itself as a “community gathering place,” and as such the librarians no longer tell people to keep their voices down. Hence we have lots of *loud* kids (and parents!) in our library.

    I can’t imagine that these unaccompanied kids are acting any worse than the ones in our library do when their parents are right there! So perhaps the problem is a disrespectful culture more than unaccompanied kids.
    At any rate, the solution isn’t more hovering, it’s more training on how to behave.

  41. Filioque November 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Angelica, I’m with you! I too wondered if the 60-70 kids per day bit was even true, and I almost wrote as much. But then I decided that if the library is next to a school, I can believe that kids are congregating there in the afternoon. I reluctantly decided to give our cheerful librarian the benefit of the doubt.

  42. mollie November 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    Sounds a bit like other parents I’ve encountered who take it upon themselves to feel responsible for my children if they encounter them unaccompanied, and then resent that they “had to do it,” whatever “it” was.

    Unless my child is in distress, or causing harm to himself, others, or property, well, feel free to look away. I don’t “expect” anyone to do anything for my kid when he or she is out and about, although I certainly would appreciate kindness and support if it’s needed, just as any human at any age might need kindness and support.

    There is a level of rage and resentment I’ve encountered, hearing other adults tell me that I “expect” them to watch my kids. No, I am telling you honestly, I don’t expect that. I don’t expect they require that, and that’s why I’ve let them do things on their own. Actually, your interference is kind of sabotaging this exercise.

    If the kids in the library are disruptive to peace and harmony, well, tell them so. And if you’re “terrified” that they may come to harm if they’re kicked out of the place, please, for the love of all that is holy, stop taking responsibility for what “might happen” to a kid who got themselves to the library and now has to get themselves somewhere else.

    I agree, it’s not your job to babysit kids. So don’t!

  43. Maggie November 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    My children (aged 9 and 10) go to the library alone. When I pick them up or go to check on them, the are often the only children in the place. Outside of weekly storytime and summer reading program events, kids don’t use the library very much. I find it hard to believe 60+ kids are rushing to the library as soon as school lets out.

  44. Jennette November 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Wow. That note started out sane and reasonable sounding and ended up crazy. Once she started with the insults I had to stop reading.

  45. Marcy November 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    I run a college library and see those non-free range kids as young adults. They have little sense of responsibility for themselves or their surroundings. They make bad employees — only showing up when they feel like it.
    So I am doing the job of raising these kids whose parents probably felt like this public librarian — can’t let them handle their own lives.

    I am glad my own children are learning to be proper citizens as children. They will be better off.

  46. united states November 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Which of the fifty states are not “safe states?”

  47. Badger Girl November 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    I wonder if that library has a copy of your book. ; )

  48. Belinda November 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    I suppose this same librarian will be just as angry if my children grow into adults who don’t know how to behave in public without mom’s guidance, don’t know how to ask for help politely without mom’s help and aren’t able to remember to bring back library books without mom’s input. We can’t win. If we allow them a tiny bit of freedom (responsibility), then we’re horrible, neglectful parents who should have our children taken from us. If we keep them in our sight all the time, there’s a condescending term for that too!

    This part of the world is safer than it ever has been. Anyone who thinks that pedophiles didn’t exist in the 1950s or 1980s is sadly naive. Those weirdos have always been in public and always will be. Period.

  49. backroadsem November 20, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    Wow, looks like everything has been said.

    My thoughts:

    1. Yes, I completely agree that rude and misbehaving children should not be left alone in libraries.

    2. Yes, I completely agree libraries should not be used as babysitting centers. However, while I see nothing wrong with a well-reasoned age minimum, nothing else should bar a respectful, responsible, and well-behaved child from entering a library.

    3. I think she’s noticing Irresponsible Parents, not Free-Range Parents. Big difference.

    4. If that age minimum isn’t working out, get together with the rest of the library staff and fix it–but stop crying to the public about it.

    5. Never threaten to take away someone’s kids unless there is actual abuse/neglect going on–not because you disagree or are even annoyed by their parenting tactics. Social services have enough on their plates.

  50. gates_apco November 20, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    I feel for that librarian. I worked in a book store in my early 20’s and had the same thing happen to me. Kids were dropped of to go read comics while the parents were at another store. I’m ok if it was only for a short time but it was usually several hours and the kids got crazy in the store. I also had no idea who or where there parents were. They had no idea where there parents were either.
    Once I had to chide some kids for misbehaving (trespassing into the storeroom) and 2 unrelated older women chastised me for scolding the boys. I’m still bothered by that. I’m alone in a book store trying to defend it against unattended children and I’m the one who is wrong!
    But seriously that librarian needs to lay off the free range label. Those parents are irresponsible, not free range.

  51. Louisa November 20, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    This is a very angry and disrespectful letter. Perhaps the writer could have made a stronger point if he or she had been more civil.

  52. Claudia November 20, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    I think the key thing here, as has been mentioned earlier, that the original emailer isn’t giving any example of actual harm having come to children as a result of being there unattended by adults. Yes, some children may not be where you expect them to be, but that’s because they may have taken themselves elsewhere.

    Also, I think a lot of harm is done by the attitude that by not being with your child, you are implictly expecting others to be looking after them for you. No, we are expecting our children to be looking after themselves – and if other adults will keep an eye out for them, that would be lovely too, but it’s not necessary.

    I went to a ‘nature play’ session in some local woodlands today and I was struck by how nice it was that, even though this was a group of parents who didn’t all know one another, it seemed totally understood that in that context we would all keep an eye out for one another’s young children, and not feel put upon doing that, or the need to hover around our own children the whole time – it’s called being supportive!

  53. LTMG November 20, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    Dear Librarian,

    Let’s start with the premise that children need to behave appropriately.

    Next, you are a civil servant. Please approach your job in a civil manner and as a public servant. As an avid visitor of public, school, and university libraries, I have seen too many librarians evolve into self-appointed guardians, protectors, and gatekeepers of books each with their own standards and “rules” about access. This is at odds with the purpose of libraries.

    By successfully discouraging visitors of certain types, ages, and maturities, you actively discourage later desires to do research and learning. That’s good for certain types of librarians since their work days will be necessarily quieter if they have fewer customers to serve. How about teaching young and experienced patrons how to use a library? That would be a change.

  54. SKL November 20, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    Another point. OP, your daughter was never alone in a public place throughout her childhood. At what magical moment did you decide she was safe being alone in public? (Though the question may be premature – after all, the child is only 21 now.)

    It seems to me that the older a teen gets, the more likely she is to find herself in trouble of one kind or another. At least a free-range kid has some experience with independent choices / problem solving.

  55. Donna November 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    First off, I would guess her idea of “people you would never want your children knowing” is very different from my idea of people I don’t want my child to meet. I’m going to guess it includes people covered in tattoos and piercings. Interesting that that perfectly describes one of the children’s LIBRARIANS my local library. It would probably include a hippie with dreadlocks like the wonderful lady who teaches pottery at my child’s school. Because if she is working in a library that is utterly “terrifying,” in a safe town in a safe state, she is afraid of a lot more than rapists and murderers being in the library.

    And how is she identifying all these criminals so constantly? Is this library right next door to a prison where she can watch them exit the prison and enter the library? Because last time I checked, other than sex offenders, there was no general “criminal registry” that you could check. Criminals are not treated as in Les Miserables with a prison number tattooed across their chest for life. In fact, the only way to identify criminals is to run a criminal history on them and, since I doubt this woman would go near these ” criminals” she is constantly identifying, let alone stop to talk with them long enough to get their name, age and social security number, I highly doubt she is constantly identifying criminals but is instead simply terrified of anyone poor or who looks different from her. What a sad way to live.

    And who says that we don’t want our children to know actual criminals. That merely being a criminal means that they are a threat to our children? There are certainly some criminals that I don’t want my child to know, but most of us probably know someone who has been convicted of some crime at some point in their lives. “Criminals” encompasses a very large group and, as a person who knows many criminals, most have managed to mess up their own lives prety well but would no sooner hurt a child than you would.

    Something tells me that we also have very different opinions of a confident 21 year old because I can’t imagine that she is the free, adventurous, open person that I want to raise having never been left unsupervised and always supervised by a woman who is terrified at the lirbary and sees criminals at every table. I guess that the daughter is as terrified by life as she is and that is considered good and aware of her surroundings by this poor woman who is terrified by life. That is not okay with me.

    Mostly it sounds like this poor woman hares her job and desperately needs a new one.

  56. SKL November 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    Oh, and I love the “without subjecting her to perverts” comment. Because we all know that 99.99% of all “perverted” encounters with kids occur at libraries.

  57. ifsogirl November 20, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    We had a lovely small local library in my town when I was a kid. I had to walk about 15 minutes to get to it. I started going there on my own at about age 10. My friends and I would sit at one of the tables talking and reading, if we got too noisy the librarian would come over and tell us to keep it down. We were NEVER kicked out, not becuase they wouldn’t kick us out, but because we would listen to the rules. Sometimes my parents would come down to pick me up, most times I walked back home alone.

    The library was in a low-income neighbourhood, usually meaning higher crime, of our suburb. i was never attacked, molested, bullied or anything else while there. I always left with an armload of books and to this day I read almost anything I can get my hands on. In fact I just got an e-reader for my birthday and by the end of the night I had downloaded over 60 free books. I think being at the library increased my love of books, the librarians were tough but fair which reenforced my parents teachings on how to behave. I have a ton of great memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

  58. Cyn November 20, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    I think it would be a great thing if Lenore went to visit this library, and saw for herself what is going on. Maybe even film it in a non-obvious way. One way or another, it would be valuable data.

  59. Donna November 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    “Hates” her job.

  60. Vanessa November 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Thinking back, I was probably a lot safer alone in the library when I was 9 than when I was 15. When I was a child, people smiled indulgently at my huge pile of books and asked “Are you really going to read all of those?” When I was a teenager, that’s when creepily persistent guys sat next to me and tried to talk to me. Even then, nothing ever happened – I just picked up my stuff and moved to a new location, annoyed because I’d been interrupted.

  61. Beth November 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    “In our library we are constantly identifying people who are criminals.”

    I, too, am curious about this one. In our state, the circuit court records are available to the public online, so maybe this librarian’s state has this too, and she spends her time researching the background of anyone with a library card? Surprised she has this much time.

    And if a criminal has paid their debt to society, why should he/she not be allowed to use the library? I’m sure even a “criminal” (how is she defining that, anyway?) is able to browse and check out books without TERRIFYING the staff and patrons.

  62. SKL November 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    Not to be devil’s advocate, but I have heard in other places (or maybe earlier library discussions here) that the library is a sort of bum magnet / crime hub in some cities. So maybe that is true, but to me, the answer is not to keep young patrons out of the library (and with parents working, that’s what the OP’s suggestion amounts to). There’s no logic to that. It would make as much sense to just close down the library. If the place is unsafe, make it safe. Fix the actual problem.

    To the librarians who do not want to deal with kids of working parents: how then would your role be valuable? Kids whose parents are avalable and willing to bring them to the library don’t need your help.

  63. Dave November 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    I operate under a simple rule. If you are terrified of something or some place you are probably in the wrong place. If this woman is that afraid to be in the library of any town I would suggest that she find a new job. Who are all these terrible people that enter the library. From my experience criminals don’t usually hang out in the library. Instead of seeing the children as a problem isn’t it the librarians job to make learning fun and the library a place that one enjoys going too?

  64. C. S. P. Schofield November 20, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    “Public places, including libraries, are filled with people you would never want your children knowing.”

    Starting with this librarian.

  65. Captain America November 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    per SKL above:

    I think Libraries became Bum Magnets once libraries offered computers with internet access.

    I’ve seen this happen at several libraries. Burnt out guys, some creeps, bums, just hanging out doing games, listening to music and watching porn. . . this DOES drive up the User Count for the library! 🙂

  66. KJH November 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    Sadly, this woman has no idea what free range means…. how sad and Ironic consider she’s a librarian… and has the option and responsibility to educate herself…maybe if she had been raised in a free range environment she’d know how to educate herself… but then… well that’s the double edged sword isn’t it?

  67. Becky November 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    “We’re terrified that they might hurt us or a patron. TERRIFIED.”
    “This gives us all nightmares.”
    wow. you need a new job.

  68. Donna November 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    By “bums,” I assume you mean the homeless. Why shouldn’t they use the public library? If they are not being disruptive, who cares if they are there? Do you just not like to be reminded that there are homeless people in your town?

    Criminals, likewise, shouldn’t be excluded from the library. They shouldn’t be allowed to commit criminal acts in the library, but having been in prison should not make one ineligible from entering a library. That said, I can probably count on my fingers the number of clients that I have over the years who know where the library is, let alone enter it. The number who can’t read at all is overwhelming. It is so common that “can you read” is a question on the plea form they must all complete. “Criminals” are not spending inordinant amounts of time in libraries in large numbers.

    How about we remove disruptive people from the library and leave everyone else alone, regardless of age, sex, socioeconomic background, mental status or criminal status?

  69. Jenne November 20, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    ““In our library we are constantly identifying people who are criminals.””

    Let’s be honest, public libraries do see more than their share of people with criminal records or who appear on Megan’s law lists. Even in academic libraries, there’s always a few creeps who we’re all waiting to catch doing something bad enough we can throw them out.

    So, this librarian DOES probably know about criminals in the library. That’s not even counting the people who aren’t criminals per se– the ones that are just disgusting/bad patrons. (I believe it was Will Manley who said a week you don’t have to clean up poop in your public library is a good week.)

    Furthermore, yeah, it’s probably true that 60-70 unsupervised kids & teens are coming into the building, if you count all school levels.

    However, what the librarian– and many other library staff- don’t get here is that being allowed to roam free someplace without consequences for misbehavior, and without tools to handle problematic situations. Kids like that aren’t free range, they are dumped. Parents who expect the library to supervise their kids are not free range. Parents who expect the library to call their kids to the phone or page their kids are not free range (Says the parent who had to explain to the other parent that NO, we can’t call the library front desk and ask if the teenager is there.)

    Mind you, I think this comment was posted over on Librarians Who Say MoFo and I said all the same things.

  70. Stephanie November 20, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Geez. On behalf of librarians everywhere, I feel like I need to apologize for this lady’s attitude. We’re not all like that, I swear.

    She raises some valid points (most notably, that in a busy, understaffed library it is not possible for us to keep tabs on each and every child who comes through our doors, and we are NOT babysitters, for sure), but 9 is too young to be in the library alone? In my library, kids 7 and up are welcome to come in alone. Heck, if a kid is younger than that (reasonably so, I’m not talking 2-year-olds here, but 5-6 year-olds) and is well-behaved, I’ll let it slide, particularly if I know his or her parent(s) are just in the other room on the public computers.

    And for the record, I can definitely tell the difference between the kids who are in the library alone because their parents have taken an active interest in teaching them to be independent and the kids who are in the library alone because their parents don’t give a crap and the kids don’t have anywhere else to go. It’s really not that hard to tell the difference when you actually pay attention. 😛

  71. Warren November 20, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    Well said Donna.

    This lady strikes me as someone who has been a victim of crime at one time. Now she is living in fear. She sees danger lurking everywhere for everyone. The nightmares is what sold it for me.

    Just a thought.

  72. Amanda Matthews November 20, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    Just because someone is a “criminal” does not mean I don’t want my child knowing them. Thank you for that assumption. Some people are “criminals” for reasons I don’t agree should be illegal, or at the very least should not permanently label them a criminal – I trust my kids to discern the people like that from the people that are actually dangerous at the time.

    I’m glad my kids are able to be responsible for themselves rather than being constantly supervised by a person like you.

  73. CrazyCatLady November 20, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    Libraries are where the out of work without internet go to apply for jobs. They also may be the one warm/cool place that homeless people can go to during the day without getting kicked out.

    Neither of those are criminals. Criminals either haven’t been caught (and thus not charged,) awaiting trial (and hopefully trying to stay out of trouble,) on parole (thus deemed by someone to be safe enough to be out) or have served their time, and generally not wanting to go back.

    If I wanted my kids to hang out with criminals, I wouldn’t send them to the library. I would send them to a bar. I suspect that if you find the right bar, it has a lot more of those people mentioned above than the library. Expensive bars probably have fewer of those people.

    Do crimes sometimes happen in libraries? Yes. Pervert followed a kid into a local library and attempted to fondle her – while under the supervision of a parent. Another guy followed women into the bathroom and turned out the lights, saying he was going to get them. The women (3) either called 911 or acted like they were calling 911. The guy apparently moved on or was jailed for something else as he hasn’t been back. I have discussed both of these with my kids, and they know what to do in those cases, and others that may arise.

  74. Amanda Matthews November 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    When I was homeless, aka a “bum,” I did spend a lot of time at the library. I used the computers to look for jobs, I read, I connected to the internet on my phone. It was one of the few joys I had during that time, and I paid the fee for internet access and computer usage just like any other patron. It was because of the library that I was able to find a job and stop being homeless. I did see/know countless other homeless people that weren’t trying to find jobs, that did nothing but play games and browse recreational sites (porn was blocked and anyone found managing to get around the block was kicked out), but that was their choice, they all paid the fee to use the internet and computers too. So maybe I am a little biased when I see no reason “bums” shouldn’t spend time at the library, but I really have no problem with my children interacting with “bums.” There’s a family of “bums” we interact with now at the library – a woman that left her abusive husband and so is homeless, along with her two young kids. I know a lot of people disagree that children should interact with people of all ages and from all backgrounds, but I learned a lot from doing that, so my kids will do it too.

  75. SKL November 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    Donna, I didn’t say bums and ex-cons should not be allowed in the library. I said that IF some of them are creating a risk by being there, someone needs to address that, meaning beef up security, or move what they like (porn portals?) to a different location, or something. In our local library, the toilets are right next to the front desk, so the librarians can see when someone enters and leaves (and make sure there are no creepy guys following little girls into the ladies’), etc. And if someone does something illegal or nasty in there, he should be out of there. Extra bonus points if they can figure out a way to keep convicted pedophiles out of the kiddy section (without restricting the good guys).

    As an aside (sort of), I don’t see why my tax dollars are going toward porn viewings at the local library. So yeah, I think they ought to have a porn filter. Maybe that would reduce the attractiveness of the library for people who have no intention of reading.

  76. Liz November 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Wait, there is an entire state that is safe in the U.S.? Which ones is it?? I’m movin’!

    This whole letter is nonsense.

    A safe city with a library full of criminals and perverts. Makes perfect sense.

  77. CrazyCatLady November 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    The cons, the homeless, the jobless – those are other groups that this librarian is also angry with. She is scared of them, not out of facts, but because somehow she can tell by looking at them, that they WILL DO BAD THINGS. TO HER. She doesn’t say, but she implies that they shouldn’t be there.

    I think she wants a library that is empty all day, except for a couple of moms and toddlers on story day. Really, right after school, after kids have been sitting all day…yes, they are going to run in. Even if mom and dad are with them!

    I had a fun conversation with a friend not long ago about talking to strangers. (We were in the parade with kids. Telling the kids it was okay to wave and smile at all those strangers.) I told her I wanted my kids to talk to strangers. She disagreed – she had almost been picked up by a 50 year old man because she was polite when she was 14. Her parents intervened. I told her if we tell our kids to never talk to strangers, how could any of the kids in her lunch line tell her what they wanted for lunch? We both left with the idea that we needed to talk to our kids…about slightly different things! (I also threw in the example of kids lost who wouldn’t go when men were calling their names because of what they had been told. My kids know if they are lost and a stranger is calling their name…it is because I told the stranger their name!)

    I am fine with my daughter talking to and being polite with people at the library. She shouldn’t take that so far as to go into rooms alone or leave the building with them. She should be able to ask the librarian for help if she needs it too!

  78. EricS November 20, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    You’d think as a librarian, she’d be much more educated in a lot of matters. But in reality, she is human. And weak, closed minded individuals will react exactly the same way. It’s always about the adult. “Me, me, me.” “I, I, I.” “This is what I want.”

  79. Buffy November 20, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    @Jenne who said “Let’s be honest, public libraries do see more than their share of people with criminal records or who appear on Megan’s law lists. Even in academic libraries, there’s always a few creeps who we’re all waiting to catch doing something bad enough we can throw them out. So, this librarian DOES probably know about criminals in the library.”

    But HOW? (Yeah, all caps)
    Do you make everyone in the library bring you a criminal history before being allowed to use its services? Does everyone have to give their name so that librarians can google them, or do you secretly write down names off library cards for the same purpose?

    I fail to know how you just “know” that someone is a criminal if you aren’t doing some type of research. What’s a criminal anyway? A DWI, or someone who got busted for pot in college? A shoplifter who has served their time? How serious of a crime defines one as a criminal, and again how do you know without checking?

  80. Jenny Islander November 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    My 8-year-old regularly goes to the library for after-school game time (in the kids’ room, which is well away from the adults’ reading area). To get to the kids’ room, she regularly passes weird-looking foreigners (men, even!), shabby old homeless people kicked out of the shelter for the day, and that one guy who talks to himself while he reads the paper. And yet none of them has spontaneously turned into Ted Bundy.

    I review library rules with her every time she leaves; by now she can recite them without prompting. How do I know she is obeying the rules? Because I made sure the children’s librarian knows her name–and has my number.

  81. Uly November 20, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    Oh, and one thing that could be done to help kids at libraries is to have pornography filters. This is just practical common sense, but the American Library Association takes up high dudgeon on the issue, and blathers on free speech. Ridiculous.

    Possibly because those things fail to block actual porn while blocking sites that are not pornographic in any real sense? You find the blocking program that works properly and then come back and talk. Until then, I’m thinking that common sense can find a better and more effective way to deal with pervs at the library.

  82. Lollipoplover November 20, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    Whenever I think of children and libraries, I remember the lovely book “Matilda” and the sweet librarian Mrs. Phelps who helped Matilda get a library card so she could take books home to read, instead of just reading them there at the library all day. How grateful we all should be for the “people friends” our children may find int the world, like Mrs. Phelps.

    The librarian in this letter does wish to be people friends with children. That’s like saying you don’t like pets and work in a pet shop. Perhaps she should persue a career where she does not interact with the public, especially chidren.

  83. Marion November 20, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    1-I never knew libraries were favored hang-out spots for criminals

    2-How do librarians “identify” criminals? Watching “America’s Most Wanted”? Memorizing the posters in the post office lobby?

    3-If the library is so full of criminals, why is it she never mentioned the kidnappings or molestations that have happened in her library? Could it be, there hasn’t been any?

    I get the impression the library would have to ban children all together and raise the library age limit to 21 and start carding people before she would be happy.

  84. Charlotte November 20, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    As a distinctly non-pervy adult, who is childless but knows a lot of kids in town, if I saw a kid in our local library who looked like he or she was being in any way menaced or encroached upon by an adult, I’d step in. It’s not just the library staff — I agree wholeheartedly that we need to reinforce that all adults are responsible for the safety of the tiny citizens in our midst.
    Our small town library is full of kids, older people who don’t have internet at home, tourists checking email, people reading actual books (yes!) and doing work on their laptops at the central tables. It’s a lovely, vibrant hub of our community.

  85. Kate November 20, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    What is with librarians these days!? This summer I discovered that the library near my parent’s beach house doesn’t allow unattended kids under the age of *12* in the children’s section. And of course that’s just the children’s section; even at 12 the parent’s are still supposed to be in the library (not to mention that they have a separate “teen” section which is where 99% of 12 year olds are going to want to be anyway).

  86. This girl loves to talk November 20, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    I agree with Kate.
    Oftentimes it is small children with parents that create headaches. I know cause I have four children who I know as little ones were a little too boistrous for the library. But now my older children are voracious readers and would not cause a single problem in the library. We go monthly and they quietly browse and get their books and sit in the chairs.

    Yes going to the library is scarey for me too! kids wanting to browse what they want, while trying to check out our 20 books my little one does run for the doors and it scares me too! This last time I decided to leave her in the childrens section (within my eyesight) to check out our books at the self scanner which takes concentration . My darling little one decided to climb on a couch there. Yes not the best thing but the librarian went crazy at me. I felt like saying better to climb a couch than run out the door, but that would be rude so I took the verbal as I know my child was in the wrong. (however earlier there were lots of kids – with parents there playing loudly on a big toy train that is for reading books in – the librarian told them off – my kids were being quiet and reading – so when my kid did something ‘dangerous’ I think I bore some of the brunt of the noisiness of the day)

    But by persevering I know that eventually my younger kids will behave and love the library. I know that librarians have to put up with so many noisy misbehaving kids, but hopefully you can know you are helping the next generation! or hopefully you will only encounter perfect children – can you tell me where some of those are??

  87. Donna November 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    “Let’s be honest, public libraries do see more than their share of people with criminal records or who appear on Megan’s law lists.

    Where are the statistics on this? Because, I’ll be honest, when I am looking for my clients and witnesses in cases, the library is not where I find them. The cops that I know (and I know all of them) in our town are not staking out the library looking for their suspects. Probation/parole is not hanging out looking for their missing clients. I’ve never run into a client in the library (although I can’t go into Walmart without running into half a dozen – that place gets more than its fair share of criminals).

    I’m not saying that criminals (whatever that means) don’t occasionally use the library. It is far from some mecca to criminals that would lead one to believe that somehow libraries see more than their fair share.

    Further, in the about 15,000 cases my office in the states processed while I was there not a single one occurred at the library (none in Am. Samoa either). One involved a library in a different city (arrested for kiddie porn and found some images that had been printed at a library in another city). While some libraries will definitely have more crime, I’ve seen no indication that it is rampant in the library in general.

    “So, this librarian DOES probably know about criminals in the library.”

    Really? How? Does she run a criminal background check on everyone who applies for a library card? Does she run the local police blotter in the paper through the library database every week, flag those people? Does she hang out in the courtroom in her off hours to see who is being prosecuted? Does she somehow get mugshots and memorize them so that she can see if they come in the library? Are criminals in her state required to be marked with a scarlet C for life? I’m genuinely curious how librarians are identifying these criminals that they are so knowledgeable about. Public defenders, DAs, police officers, corrections workers, probation officers, court reporters and other court staff, I would expect to be able to identify criminals on sight. Librarians not so much.

  88. marie November 20, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    Three different comments:

    Let’s be honest, public libraries do see more than their share of people with criminal records or who appear on Megan’s law lists. Even in academic libraries, there’s always a few creeps who we’re all waiting to catch doing something bad enough we can throw them out.

    …and make sure there are no creepy guys following little girls into the ladies’…

    Extra bonus points if they can figure out a way to keep convicted pedophiles out of the kiddy section (without restricting the good guys).

    Those “perverts” listed on the sex offender registry may be one-time offenders or even non-offenders who got stuck choosing between a mandatory minimum sentence and taking a plea agreement. (Which would you choose? There really is no way out. No, I mean really no way.) In some states, the registry restricts where they can live, whether they can have computers or Internet access at home; the registry can be blamed for making many of them homeless and jobless. Perhaps if they could return to their previous lives quietly and not have people looking them up online and pegging them as perverts, they wouldn’t have to spend time in your precious library. So, sure. Stand around and wait for them to do something “bad enough”; you will likely be waiting a good long time.

    How often do creepy guys follow little girls into the ladies room? Outside your imagination, that is. And those “convicted pedophiles”? They probably are not pedophiles at all, if the word has actual meaning. That word has become the all-purpose word for “creeps we’re all waiting to catch doing something bad enough we can throw them out.”

  89. Donna November 20, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    @SKL – If no bias, then why bring up “bums” and ex-cons at all? Personally, if my library has a problem with ANYONE creating risk, I think someone needs to deal with. I don’t limit myself to “bums” and ex-cons nor so I assume that “bums” and ex-cons are more likely to cause problems for the library than average Joe’s. The one library incident I know of locally (mentioned above) involved someone who was neither a “bum” or ex-con.

  90. Yan Seiner November 20, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    This whole thing smells of the “unwashed masses” – I think this librarian thinks the library is a holy cathedral of silence and order, and the unwashed masses, the criminals, the plebes, the children all disturb her peaceful realm.

    I am so glad our library is not like that. it’s an active place full of activity, with kids and adults, and yes, the homeless coming in to warm up.

    I really think this person needs to rethink her career choice, or retire.

  91. Anna November 20, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Just yesterday I held a 1.5-hour tutoring session for a client on the second floor of my library. My son, almost 8 and with high-functioning Aspergers, read in the children’s room and checked in with me every half-hour or so. Before the meeting, I followed him as he proved he remembered where the bathrooms are, and could find his way upstairs to my table. Then I sent him on a quest to bring me a book from the children’s room, so we both knew he could do it on his own. Then I released him to be on his own.

    It went great! He knows all about library etiquette, knows where the librarians’ desks are, and can find me if he has a problem. Free range ftw!

    I want to offer a more compassionate perspective of the librarian poster, though–it is indeed very scary when other people’s children are both unsupervised and acting without good judgment. We are all programmed to keep kids safe, and it’s very hard to want to help but not be able to, and to see kids on their own without the training and judgment to make good decisions.

    That said, my advice to the librarian is to remember that people almost always have good intentions. Homeless people and the mentally ill do hang out in libraries because they are warm and quiet and have books; in my experience, though, their intentions are almost always good even though they may *look* scary or smell unpleasant. When a person demonstrates that their intentions are in fact not good, for example by yelling or cursing or by hassling someone, then the police are the best option to get help for that person and for the library and its patrons.

  92. SKL November 20, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    Marie, I’m pretty far to the “free” end of “free-range,” but let’s not put our heads into the sand. Pedophiles do exist and, unless some people on this site (and elsewhere) have told outright lies, there have been cases of them bothering children in the library.

    I have no personal first-hand knowledge of any fondlings / molestation of children in the library. However, there was plenty of it in my neighborhood from “nice, neighborly guys” who befriended unsuspecting children (including me).

    If you’ve been convicted and served time for child molestation or kiddy porn, I’m sorry, but I’m going to assume you are guilty. If you’re in my state, I can tell what offense you’ve been convicted of and how old your victim was. My sympathy will never be with pedophiles, but even if it ever was, being kept out of the kiddy part of a library is a small price to pay. People should have thought of that before they bothered a child.

  93. Jessika November 20, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    Unfortunately, one man’s logic is another persons crazy.
    I’ve never had a problem with libraries but then I don’t look at someone and think damn, I better get the h*** out of here. At my local library, which is very local, there’s always these men that play chess. I guess they’re in the category of looking like bums but that’s what they do, play chess.

    I had a job where I came into contact with crime (and ex-cons). If I had developed this kind of fear and non-respect towards the people I met, then it would have been time to give notice and look for another job.

    This lady has obviously decided to look at the world in a black-and-white fashion. She’s really missing out in her fear of her surroundings. She’s to be pitied and most likely be given every chance to hide away from the world. She doesn’t know what she’s missing out on, if anything that’s very sad.

  94. marie November 20, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    However, there was plenty of it in my neighborhood from “nice, neighborly guys” who befriended unsuspecting children (including me).

    Were these men on the registry? Did they actually molest children or just befriend them? Your story is pretty vague. Keep this in mind while you watch the registry: Something like 90% of sex crimes are committed by first-time offenders.

  95. Jenna November 20, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    We were at the library once and my kids were in the kids’ section looking at books and I was using the computer (my home computer was down and I desperately needed to check on some emails). I turned to see the librarian telling one of my kids to stop running and yelling. I immediately terminated my session, got my child, gathered up the rest of them, and we went out to the car. I talked with them about appropriate library behavior. Then I left the other kids in the car (the horror!) and walked my child (then four) back into the library to apologize to the librarian and assure her it would never happen again.

    We have been to the library many times since (said child is now six) and I’ve gotten compliments from the same librarian on my children’s behavior. That bad behavior never happened again.

    And thanks for this post. I had completely forgotten about the boys’ club that meets today at the public library where I will leave my 9, 8, and 6-year-old boys for one hour.

  96. Chihiro November 20, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    “In our library we are constantly identifying people who are criminals. I live in what is considered a very safe town in a very safe state. We can’t do anything about these people. We don’t have enough staff to watch them to see where they go and what they do. We’re terrified that they might hurt us or a patron. TERRIFIED. We can do nothing.”
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you see someone doing some sort of criminal activity, shouldn’t common sense tell you to call the police? If you’re so TERRIFIED, I’d either call the cops and have then remove the problem, or get another job. No job is worth being ‘TERRIFIED’ constantly. Although it sound like this lady is so paranoid she would be TERRIFIED by her own shadow.

  97. Donna November 20, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    Yes, SKL, but most people don’t look at the sex registry with a discriminating eye. They believe that if you are on the sex registry, you are a threat to children. That is far from the truth. The majority of people on the sex registry don’t pose a threat to children at all having been convicted of crimes involving adults, peeing in public, consensual sex with a willing partner, robbing a drug dealer who happened to be a minor, etc.

  98. racheleh November 20, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    I admit, i did not read all 96 comments above, but did anyone note that the staff is reported as actively terrorizing the children to the point of chasing them out of the library towards a dangerous busy street? I would suggest they review that policy with a lawyer, someone could get hurt.

  99. SaraLu November 20, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    I question the sanity of someone who says parents should have their kids taken away for letting them go to the library after school. Even if they’re poorly behaved – NOT in capital letters a reason to remove a child from his home.

  100. Crystal November 20, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    How can I take this librarian seriously if she truly believes a child would better off in an overburdened, under-supported, under-funded, under-trained foster care system than in a loving family who happens to think differently than her on one tiny issue? (I was raised in a foster/adoptive family; this is something I have tons of experience with).

    It almost sounds as if she would enjoy the chance to tear a screaming child away from her wonderful mother’s arms into the waiting arms of complete strangers. And if that’s the case, SHE is the one with the problem, not me.

  101. Warren November 20, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    She did say identifying criminals, right? How are they doing this, for say the non sex offenders? And why would a librarian have access to those police records, photos and such?
    Also considering the amount of time it would take to be doing facial recognition of library users, to match them with names, then to search for criminal records………..if I were her boss she would be looking for another job, because she certainly is doing what she is getting paid to do.

  102. SKL November 20, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    Marie, there was no internet and no registry when I was a kid, so no, I will probably never know if these people had a criminal record. I do know they were criminals, based on what was done to me and my siblings etc.

    Like I said, if you are guilty of kiddy porn or molesting a kid, I really don’t care if that was the first time they happened to catch and convict you. I’m also not naive enough to believe that a first-time offender was always on the straight and narrow before being convicted for that particular crime. As for accepting a plea bargain, there are also offenders who accept a plea bargain because what they really did was worse and they’d rather serve time for a lesser offense.

    Sorry, I don’t allow a lot of leeway for messing with children sexually. Nope. If that makes me a scourge on society, so be it.

  103. Maegan November 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    This is obviously angering and beyond offensive, but two things stick out to me in particular.

    1: She lives in complete fear. I feel bad for her, since she thinks she is constantly surrounded by dangerous criminals. Even at my downtown city library where transients and “hoodlums” roam and sometimes bother others, I don’t assume that I’m surrounded by criminals. And even when, rarely, people are apprehended or detained, I don’t assume that they are dangerous criminals. I don’t feel unsafe, especially during the busiest hours. The fact that the librarians in this letter take it upon themselves to identify, follow, and profile anyone they find suspicious is enhancing their paranoia. Certainly, if a real crime is committed, then the police should be contacted. But there is no reason to search for criminals around every corner. They simply aren’t there.

    2: She seems to have some level of confusion about what her job actually is. I wouldn’t consider a librarian a babysitter or daycare worker, but, like being a teacher, it is an occupation where one is inevitably surrounded by children. And we all know that parents don’t exactly have every control over their children, either. Even if very few unaccompanied children spent time at her library, there would still often be small children running around and making some level of noise. In every job, we have to deal with things that are sometimes unpleasant. It’s a shame that this person has chosen to take our her occupational frustrations on a very large group of responsible individuals.

  104. Jemma November 20, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    This librarian seems to have a lot of issues that have nothing to do with the Free Range movement. Chief among them is the fact that she works at a public library but is uncomfortable with (even disdainful of) “the public”.

  105. Donna November 20, 2012 at 11:02 pm #


    I work as a public defender and am fully aware that many people convicted of crimes, sex or other, are not actually guilty. The system is not perfect. I am still not going to discount a child molestation conviction on the chance that it was false.

    I currently live 2 doors away from a convicted rapist. There is no registry here but I know this because my office represented him. He did do what he is accused of doing but I know the particular facts of the case and am not remotely worried about my safety or I’d be screaming holy hell about him being there since it is government employee housing and not simply where he purchased a house. In fact, four attorney generals whose office prosecuted him live a few feet away and aren’t raising the roof. But all of that is because we know what happened. I wouldn’t blame a lay person for being bothered by his presence so close (and am really surprised they’ve allowed him to stay in the government housing).

    I don’t think we need to allow all convicted child molesters near children or give them all the benefit of the doubt just because some of them were falsely convicted. I hate the sex offender registry and wish that it didn’t exist. I’ve never glanced at one anywhere I’ve lived. I get upset when people treat everyone on it as if they are a serious threat to the safety of women and children. I’m still not going to discount a known child molestation conviction and let them around my child willy nilly without specific knowledge of the facts to convince me it is safe.

  106. Kimberly November 20, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    If you want to see an excellent unattended children’s policy Google Harris County Library and read their policy. It starts out “Children have the same right as adults to be in the library. Spells out behaviors expected, and what will happen if a child doesn’t behave or is left stranded (this is greater Houston area we don’t have a good public transit system and hike/bike trails are good in some areas not others)

    The library I frequent is crawling with kids – and I’ve never had a problem with one child’s behavior. They are friendly, polite, helpful, and most of them are signed on as volunteers. The older kids help with programs for the younger ones. It is a great community.

    I rode my bike to the library from about 3rd grade till I got my DL. My parents only drove me in weather that threatened the books. I remember the 1 time I had a problem. It wasn’t in the library but the stop and go next door. I realized the man in front of me was short changing the clerk (I had been reading Paper Moon and Catch me If You Can). I called him out on it. The manager kicked him out but was worried for me. He walked me to part of the Hike and Bike trail that went along the bayou and a car couldn’t follow. He also called my Dad (Dad was a beer distributor and they knew each other).

  107. Gina November 20, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    I’m not going to reiterate everything that was said here (and with which I agree, of course) regarding FreeRange vs Neglectful. But I am saddened by this woman’s indication that “Criminals are identified”.

    The Public Library is one of a very few places that homeless people can access to get out of the heat/cold/rain, sit on a comfortable chair or use a bathroom. My guess is that these are the people who she has “identified as criminals”. Being homeless, poor and/or mentally ill does NOT (CAPS!!!) make a person a criminal or a threat.

    My feeling is that she is just a bitter woman who judges everyone who is different than she is….

  108. JJ November 20, 2012 at 11:54 pm #

    What a world we live in when too many kids going to the library is labeled a big problem. That is what most public servants (and good citizens) would call “a good problem to have”.

    All branches of my city’s public library offer a drop-in afterschool program Monday through Thursday throughout the whole school year. They anticipate that many, many children will come to the library after school and do not consider this a burden but an opportunity to educate children and improve the community that they are part of. In fact, some of the library staff may have gone into that line of work because they wanted to educate people and better the community.

    Thay said, 60-70 children with three staff members is not enough staff. I think this librarians beef should be with the city one municipality that funds the library. Clearly they are not putting enough resources into the library. Also where are the schools in this? Shouldn’t the library and school system be working together? In my city staff of teenage volunteers help out with that younger kids everyday after school. If she wants to be mad at someone, she should be mad at the community and its priorities. I don’t care if the kids are rich, poor, “Free Range” or actually neglected. As long as they behave themselves, as part of the “public” they have a right to go to the “public library” When you really think about it, the public is the reason a public library exists.

    And I hope it goes without saying that if a child is unruly, he or she should not be allowed back for a while. I have a feeling however that with more staff this problem would mostly be solved.

  109. Cin November 20, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    Go ahead and call CPS on me for allowing my kid in the library alone,. See how fast you are slapped with mischief charges.

  110. AW13 November 21, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    The last time I was at the library, the two loudest people there were the two retired gentlemen who were having a political argument in the periodicals section. I don’t think they were homeless, or criminals, but since I didn’t ask them, I guess I’ll never know.

    A few months ago, my friend’s son (age 15) got kicked out of the library for misbehaving. So he had to wait outside until his mom picked him up. And he hasn’t gotten in trouble since. I’m not sure why the letter writer feels that this is not an option at her library.

    Regarding the criminals: there may very well be a large number of them at her library. After all, my husband, an avid library goer, has a criminal record. He got caught shoplifting once, over 20 years ago. He’s now a productive member of society, but by God, I suppose it’s my duty to warn the librarians at our library to run the other way when they see him coming, right? I mean, we live in a safe town in a safe state(?), but I maybe I should be terrified of the other patrons. Even though I’ve never seen another patron do anything except mind their own business and use the library’s services. Except those retirees. Damn old people. Maybe we should be keeping a constant eye on them, too.

  111. Lollipoplover November 21, 2012 at 12:12 am #

    You know where my free range kid was yesterday? NOT the library (too far by bike). He was playing happily outside with friends, and yes, unattended. He’s 11 and has earned my trust as he is very responsible. On his way home for lunch(I was at school conferences, kids were off school) he greeted our older neighbors down the street. The wife told him to ask his dad if he knew anyone who mowed lawns, her husband was sick and the she needed help with cutting the lawn. He said he’d help. He went home, got the mower and cut their lawn.
    I’ve said this before, but you will never know what your children are capable of if you never let them out of your sight.

  112. marie November 21, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    I’m still not going to discount a known child molestation conviction and let them around my child willy nilly without specific knowledge of the facts to convince me it is safe

    I agree with that, Donna. The trouble is that people “know” things about people whose names are on the sex offender registry…without really knowing anything at all. Thanks for hating the registry. 🙂

    As for the librarian, I think she fired off her email after a long, hard day. Maybe after a couple of beers, too. Life in the library just can’t be as she describes every day.

  113. Maegan November 21, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    ““Criminals” encompasses a very large group and, as a person who knows many criminals, most have managed to mess up their own lives pretty well but would no sooner hurt a child than you would.”

    Very well stated. I would never teach my children to discriminate against someone just because they made some poor choices, especially someone who is at the library just minding their own business, trying to learn about a skill that may help them repair a part of their lives! We know that a small percentage of criminals are convicted of violent crimes, and many of them have reformed. The world is not filled with psychopathic serial killers!

  114. mollie November 21, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    “The world is not filled with psychopathic serial killers!”

    Ah, but we’re terrible parents if we can tolerate the possibility of even one, anywhere, and still let our child out of our sight.

    The per capita incidence of “stranger molestation” has surely not changed in 5,000 years. There have always been odd ducks who do tragic things (to adults AND children), and we still went about our business… until the 24 hour TV news cycle created a culture of mass hysteria.

    Forge ahead, I say. Let the tongue and finger-waggers threaten to call CPS. Hold space for the transformation of individuals and society and culture. Envision what you want more of. Freedom. Growth. Understanding. Acknowledgement. Shared reality.


  115. Donna November 21, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    “The trouble is that people “know” things about people whose names are on the sex offender registry…without really knowing anything at all.”

    Sorry, but if you are on the registry, people do have a right to assume that you are guilty of the charges listed. Your right to be considered innocent until proven guilty expired when you were actually convicted. I think everyone should understand that the system is not perfect and sometimes innocent people do end up convicted of crimes. I think people should treat convicted criminals less like lepers. I really think people should take innocent until proven guilty before trial to heart. But I don’t fault people for actually believing, unless proven otherwise, that you are guilty of something you’ve actually been convicted of. The court does get it right the vast majority of the time.

  116. Liz November 20, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    I gotta say, this lady might have some completely misguided anger, but we should probably recognize that there aren’t that many places where kids are allowed to go after school. As a former teacher (and former middle schooler) I’ve seen the after school swam head to the library to jump around and play in ways that are totally inappropriate for the library. Although this librarian seems to have all sorts of bogus reasons for why having these kids at the library is terrible, I believe her problem comes down to sheer, exhausting concentration of kids. I can sympathize. It’s got to be brutal to deal with the after school energy of 60-70 kids. Instead of writing her off, our time may be better spent opening other doors for kids in the community. They shouldn’t all be at the library if they aren’t reading or doing homework, they should be taking that energy and playing outside.

  117. MaeMae November 20, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Our librarians love having my children there. The kids go without me most of the time and the librarians always make a point of telling me how well behaved my children were on their last visit. They also encourage me to send them for the programs. I am thankful that our librarians like their jobs and love the children of the neighborhood they serve.

  118. Doug November 20, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    My favorite part is when she says to “do some internet searching” for horror stories.

    Yep, if a story is on the internet, it must be true. Hopefully this librarian doesn’t give kids advice on how to research their term papers.

  119. bmj2k November 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    Ah yes, the old “I could tell you horror stories but I won’t” arguement. Tell me some. Tell me ALL of them, then let’s see how infrequently they happen, and how many of them are due to circumstances that may never be repeated, or how many of them turn out to be unture. Deal with FACTS and not FEAR and then talk to me about how to raise kids.

  120. SKL November 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    Liz, I agree that the kids who are not there to actually use library resources (appropriately) belong somewhere else. If only the OP had stopped there. “Your kids should be taken away” etc. simply does not follow. Unless it’s “your kids should be taken away to a park where they can blow off some stink.”

  121. are we there yet? November 20, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    I wish there was a test people could take to see if they are compatible with their chosen profession. Maybe this poor misplaced person would feel better about how they spend their days.

  122. Kim November 20, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    I agree with the librarian.

  123. Russell November 20, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    Yep – that’s the way to get your message across. I’m smart and you are all idiots. My daughter has perfect security and confidence and personal reliability because, well, because I say she has even though I never gave her a chance to find out.
    There was probably a valid point in all that sanctimonious abuse, but no -one is listening once you start preaching (and shouting) like that.

  124. Steve November 20, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    Dear Fed up,

    Before you wrote your letter of complaint, you could have bolstered your credibility as a “librarian” by “reading” THE definitive book on the subject of Free Range Kids:

    FREE RANGE KIDS – by Lenore Skenazy

    But hey! It’s not too late! Find a copy and read it!

  125. Donna November 20, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    “I could sit here and tell you stories for HOURS of parents that come in and ask me where little Johnny is and look annoyed when I remind them that we don’t know each child and direct them to where they hang out.’

    THESE are the stories she offers to tell? Stories of parents asking a librarian if she has seen someone and then being annoyed with the response – most likely because the question was answered with the same pleasant tone as this letter.

    She didn’t offer to tell hours of stories of kids who are molested or otherwise harmed in her library. Doesn’t offer to tell hours of examples of things this marauding band of criminals running rampant in the library do to make her so TERRIFIED at work. Doesn’t even offer to tell hours of stories of misbehaving school children and their antics. Those stories she apparently doesn’t have. But stories of parents asking questions, those she has hours worth and those questions really bother her.

  126. Jenn November 20, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    I agree with Jenne and Stephanie that she’s probably mistaking unsupervised with Free range and that she probably does know the “criminals” in her area. Some of the libraries I’ve worked in were right next to the police station. The guys would leave the lockup or drunk tank and walk right over to check their email.

    At my current branch everyone is very paranoid about perverts right now as we had a molestation incident, but it was between a tween and child. Now they want fathers walking their sons into the bathrooms!! I’m having a ton of fun trying to talk people out of THAT one. Since we’re part of a system, the fear is spreading and will probably stay for fear of lawsuits.

    Most of what I’ve found people in our system are afraid of isn’t the actual danger, but the lawsuit that might happen.

    Also, the author of the letter is obviously hideously understaffed. “Sometimes there are only 3 staff people in the library which is 2 levels and 7 rooms, not including bathrooms, hallways, etc.”

    3 staff people for 2 floors?? Forget possible danger, it’s near impossible to provide decent customer service with that level of staffing.

  127. Michelle November 20, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    I’m a librarian and we have plenty of sex offenders in our neighborhood who do use the library. The library is free and open to everyone. Parents need to understand that. We don’t screen our patrons. We’ve had men masturbating in the stacks, urinating on books, mentally ill smearing feces in the bathroom, and homeless using the bathrooms to bathe. We have plenty of theft in the bathrooms — people use knife cutters to break open DVD cases. There are patrons who come in drunk and stoned. The library is a wonderful place, but use common sense.

    that said, I’m a free range parent myself and a huge advocate of walkable towns and cities so kids can reach places by foot or on bike.

  128. Taradlion November 20, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    Free Range and “Feral” are not the same thing.

    A Free Range kid at the library independently is there because they want to read or check out books (maybe do some homework) and because their parents have determined they are ready to do this independently. A kid who is at the library for “supervision” (that is, a kid who’s parents are expecting the librarian to watch their kid) is not Free Range. The kids causing problems are most likely those who are their BECAUSE a parent assumes it is safer because there is “free babysitting.” The kids are there because they are not allowed to be on their own elsewhere. They can’t leave if they are bored. They probably had no say in where they were going after school

    When I was a kid, I went to the library alone all the time. I loved to read. My brother rarely went to the library…he went to the ball fields or rode his bike around with friends. He may have misbehaved at the library because he wasn’t interested in reading…. My parents didn’t expect anyone to watch either of us. My daughter 11 goes to the NYC public library near school, sometimes. I don’t expect the librarian to watch her any more than I expect the barista at Startbux to babysit when she walks there to get a hot chocolate. I certainly don’t expect the librarian to allow her to stay if she is being disruptive (highly unlikely because if she is at the library she chose to go there). If there was an emergency, I would be grateful to the librarian or any adult who stepped into help, as I would if I were to fall, have a heart attack, be mugged, or slip on a banana peel (hey, could happen).

  129. Priscilla November 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    Interesting. I’m glad that so many people here wrote such wonderful things so I don’t need bother to repeat so many great points made.

    I actually am a librarian. Most of the librarians I interact with speak of the same common problem: How can we bring MORE kids into the library? I think it would be an amazing opportunity for the children’s librarian if 60-70 kids came in every day! That is fabulous! What after school activities and reading programs has your children’s librarian implemented? If she hasn’t, then why not?!? This is a golden opportunity to touch these children’s lives with literature and leave a lasting positive impact! I wish I had this “problem” in my library!

  130. Taradlion November 20, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    ugg – those who are” there” (not their) to read

  131. linvo November 21, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    @Mollie: totally!!! (Sorry, only got through half of the comments so far)

    And for someone who tries to make it appear that they care about kids, saying that they should be taken away from their parents for what surely even they would regard as a minor offense in the scheme of things is an extremely uncaring thing to say.

  132. JP November 21, 2012 at 12:38 am #

    I’d sure rather kids hang out in a library than in front of the tube. Go find a book. Explore. Discover. All for yourself. Become…literate. egad!
    Public library. The word ‘public’ is just as important.

    And as to babysitting service? I’m wondering if this is not actually a logistic “transportational” problem.
    You see – I never in my life was driven to or from a library. There were two libraries in my young life. A small town one, and a small city one.
    Of course – I walked to them (from age 5 forward.) and home again, jiggedy-jig. (loaded down with booty.)

    So if we live organizationally, so as to have to drop off and pick up kids from libraries – there’s part of the problem.
    But, I hasten to say…why should this be the kids’ problem? They didn’t create it. They just exist, living and learning, all within their little literary selves.
    We created the problem – us adults. By designing living spaces that aren’t so conducive to independent mobility. (James Howard Kunstler has a few ripe things to say about this.)

    So if the kids aren’t picked up smartly according to schedule – how are they at fault? The necessary chauffeurs are to blame, if anyone.
    That being said, I’d like to think that any respectable parent devoted to true free range would be organized well enough to figure this out.

    And finally, that remark about solving the problem by removing kids from loving parents?
    Well – when I was a kid, librarians were pretty scary. We all thought they were cranky old witches.
    (SHHHHHHHHH!!!!!) But we braved the horrors anyhow, for we so loved the books.

    By the way – I happen to work in North America’s 3rd largest library. And when we get busy…..well – that would be a perfect punishment for the above posted librarian, I would think.

    (and LRH – you took the wind right out of my sails. Bravo for that righteous wrath!)

  133. bmommyx2 November 21, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    This lady sounds very angry & I don’t think I would want her working at my local library. Because of sensationalized news stories people have twisted views of anything alternative like Free Range parenting, Attachment Parenting, Natural Parenting etc. I’m sure that the library has rules & if the kids are not abiding by them they should be reminded of the rules & if they sill don’t follow them they should be asked to leave. It sounds like the staff is in fear of everyone who comes in. If she is truly terrified of the patrons then there is a problem maybe they need to coordinate with the police department for a solution. I’m thinking this woman needs to retire.

  134. LadyTL November 21, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    This librarian sounds insane to me. I grew up in a fairly big city in a neighborhood with a fair bit of crime. There were two libraries about a mile from my house in different directions. They even were both of a major bus route so they are very accessible to everyone. I’m sure there was criminals and children in them at the same time. I’m sure children and adults misbehaved in the library at times as well. But in a city with a decent amount of crime there never was the atmosphere she thinks she lives in in those libraries.

    I walked to those libraries day after day from middle school on through high school and even now. I read alone in them as a child for hours during the summer. Those are some of my best memories, just sitting on the floor in a section of the library, reading a book that I couldn’t check out yet. I had a restricted card so I couldn’t check out adult books but I could read them in the library. I often took home books from the library, alone and by myself even as a 12 year old.

    So far even with criminals and children together in those libraries, I can’t find a single incident between the two groups in any public records for the last 15 years. If it isn’t happening in a big city with lots of crime, somehow I doubt it is happening as often as she thinks in her library.

    Also I doubt as many kids as she thinks are acting up either. She just isn’t noticing the well behaved kids because she is spending all her time judging the adults and getting mad at the few unruly kids.

  135. gap.runner November 21, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    “In our library we are constantly identifying people who are criminals…”

    Since when has it become a crime to read books or use a computer? I must be one of the biggest criminals of all because I’m in the library on base at least twice a week to check out books or movies or to use a computer.

    If reading books isn’t a crime, then how does this woman actually identify criminals? Are they wearing orange jumpsuits or walking with a ball and chain around their ankles? Do they have a scarlet C on their foreheads?

    Maybe the librarian who wrote the letter to Lenore should get to know her patrons before judging them. I live in a small city and the librarians know their customers. One of the librarians knows the different books that my son likes to read and will tell him when there is a new book in a favorite series.

    As others said above, that librarian is confusing free range with neglectful. Free range parents give their kids the necessary training and tools to be able to behave properly on their own in public places like a library.

  136. Andy November 21, 2012 at 3:39 am #

    @gap.runner Recognizing criminals is going to be something like this: they have long hair, deep voice, maybe tattoo and are physically strong. You know, the usual sure totally criminal marks.

    You would be lucky if some on them would be noisy or occasionally swearing. In which case they should not be in the library at all of course, neither adults are allowed to be noisy in the library.

  137. Donald November 21, 2012 at 4:31 am #

    I’m a free ranger and I encourage parents to give kids responsibility.

    Ever since my boy was 3 years old, I gradually loosen my protective shield that kept him free from facing any disappointment.

    When he was 4, I’d give him the money to pay the cashier at the petrol station. When he was 5, he was paying for me on his own. I’d still give him the money but wouldn’t walk him to the cashier anymore.

    When my son was 9 years old, I sometimes made him the navigator. Whenever we drove to a place that I didn’t know how to get there, I gave him the map to read for me. I’d tell him the name of the street that we are currently on. I’d also recite all the cross streets as we pass them. I’d follow his commands on where to turn.

    When he was 14, I made him plan out a bus trip for us. I showed him the website for the bus journey planner. It showed all times and bus routes. When we went on our trip, he was in charge. He told me where the next bus is for the transfer and the time it arrives.

    “Public places, including libraries, are filled with people you would never want your children knowing.”

    On that comment I agree with the librarian. I believe the statistics that crime is lower today. However, I think there are more people today that are a bad influence. That’s because 30 years of helicopter parenting has made more children bored and insecure. They want to be treated like adults but only the fun stuff. They want to be sheltered from any disappointment and get mad very easily.

    I raised my child with more responsibility. Therefore he’s wiser and much more equipped to deal with these people. If I would have raised him bubble wrapped, he wouldn’t be as resilient. Therefore, he’d be much more vulnerable to these people.

    The librarian and I both agree that there are more people today that you don’t want your children knowing. However, we disagree on how to deal with this problem.

  138. hineata November 21, 2012 at 4:38 am #

    @LTMG, loved your points.

    Personally I think a lot of kids are far too scared of harmless people who look/act/smell different from the ‘norm’ these days. My own kids I’ve had to tell off occasionally for looking just at the outside. I had a small-town upbringing complete with drunks rolling home after the pub let out (just around the time of the end of the infamous 6 o’clock swill, so blokes would load up on booze and then roll on home to eat dinner). You just stepped out of their way. I never met one that was an issue, and mostly knew them sober anyway. And I’ve not seen a drunk or a strung-out druggie wandering about our libraries unchallenged. Same with tatts, punks etc…the vast majority are harmless, unike some suited creeps I’ve had the misfortune of coming across.

    Am sure the point has above, too, but isn’t it fascinating how often the ‘criminal’ profile matches anyone off-white (with the exception of the Chinese, who people often seem to think never do anything wrong, something that my hubby always laughs about – one of his old mates having been chopped into actual pieces with a machete during a gang fight. How many of your average Western crims are that dedicated?!).

    Am so glad our local library, in a less well-off area, actively welcomes unattended kids, often helping with homework etc. I’ve raved about them before, but really, they are great! The contribution they’ve made to these kids’ education is invaluable.

    Wish this woman would adopt their attitude….

  139. EarlVanDorn November 21, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Wow! So I was plenty old enough as soon as I turned 7 to walk the one mile to the town Square on my own, but I’m not old enough to go to the library?

    I guess the real problem here is that the parents are “picking up” and “dropping off” the kids at the library. Why aren’t the kids walking or riding their bikes?

  140. Laura D November 21, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    Sounds to me like your library needs more staff. We have a TINY library (all one floor) and almost 10 workers all the time. It’s great to have so many people available to help the patrons or to run the various programs.

  141. Sarah November 21, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    One of the best days of my life was the summer I was 10, when I was given permission to go to the library by myself. We lived in a big city, and It was about a mile away, with several major street crossings. The only reason she waited so long was because I had a bad(?) habit of reading _while_ I walked home, and she wanted to make sure I would stop before crossing streets.

    The librarians were always welcoming, and happy to see me come raid their stacks yet again. On the other hand, I had been taught to treat libraries (and books) with respect.

    I am now slowly teaching my 5yo the same thing. I used to be with him every second, then I would let him stay in the play area while I looked for books for him. Now I can let him wander the (large) children’s section finding books for himself, and the only problem is that he fills his bag too full and can’t carry it back to where I am sitting [reading] waiting for him. Soon (when he’s 6, library rules) I will be able to go upstairs to the adult nonfiction books while he browses – I am looking forward to that!

    The librarians are all very positive, about him and all the other young patrons. I see a number of tweens and teens come in sans parents, but I have never seen a problem. In fact, the library sets up nooks (beanbag chairs, etc.) where they can sit and visit or read together, so they are actually actively welcoming them.

    I’m glad that we don’t live near this person’s library!

  142. Sarah November 21, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    One more thing – we were standing in line for a magic show at the library, and my son struck up a conversation with the elderly lady in front of us (who turned out to be a retired teacher). For 10-15 minutes they talked about bugs, space, birds, cooking – you name it. It made our waiting time fly by. As they were opening the doors, she commented to me that most children don’t talk to her, and what a pleasure it was to talk to my son.

    And this is from a sweet-looking old lady in a fluffy scarf and a sweater with butterflies on it, who couldn’t look more approachable and harmless.

    What a world! This is the kind of person you will find at the library, and I am GLAD that my son is being exposed to them!

  143. Julia November 21, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    I don’t doubt there are criminals in public libraries. My half-brother frequents them and he is mentally ill and has been in and out of jail. I believe he uses the computers at the library. There is an adult section and a children’s section with it’s own set of computers and books etc., so presumably the criminals in our library don’t come in contact with the children too much. That being said, this woman sounds hateful and bitter, and should perhaps look for a different job.

  144. AW13 November 21, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    @Sarah: You make a good point. Our local library has also set aside a couple of spaces just for the after school crowd, one of which is a large, sound proofed room where they can listen to music, use the internet (with a library card) and chat without disrupting the other patrons.

  145. Captain America November 21, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    One very fine childhood memory of mine is waiting for my mother outside of the Plum Library in Lombard, IL; it’s adjacent to Lilacia Park. I used to walk on the top of a tall brick wall and climb on a massive granite boulder. Just fun. The library used to show Mighty Mouse movies, etc., on Saturday mornings, and my mother let me check out only an armful of books at a time, just up to my chin.

  146. Neener November 21, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    “Why, I had no IDEA the world was filled with rainbows and lollipops!” says the proud Free Ranger (me) whose childhood was filled with neglect, abuse, molestation, etc.

    It sounds to me like the worst character in that library is this librarian. *snaps* Hey! I just happen to know of a great book she should read that might change her view of Free Range parenting! It may even be available in one of those cesspools of human bottom-feeders, the PUBLIC LIBRARY! /snark

  147. Squillo November 21, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Well, no wonder she’s cranky. She’s horribly overworked if she has to run background checks on all the library’s patrons.

  148. Donna November 21, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    “I don’t doubt there are criminals in public libraries.”

    I don’t doubt it either. I also don’t doubt that there are criminals in grocery stores, restaurants, malls, movie theaters, parks, Chuck E Cheese and every other public place on the planet that kids frequent. That is the thing about releasing criminals from jail. They do then have a tendency to, I don’t know … go places.

    I do doubt that this woman can identify a criminal on sight unless he’s been on the front page of the paper recently. I also doubt that there are any more criminals in the library than any other public place. Criminals use the library, as any other citizen uses the library. They are not jonesing to get out of jail to go spend all their time in the library in large numbers as some would have you believe.

    Since children leave the children’s area and criminals actually have children, I assume there is as much interaction between adults and children in the library as there would be in any other public place. The vast vast vast majority of criminals pose no threat to children. They have not committed crimes against children, nor are they likely to do so. Although the life outlook for many of THEIR children is not great, they are not hanging out in the library trying to recruit a band of merry children to commit crimes with them. They are not contagious. They are simply at the library to use the library same as everyone else. Not sure why that should raise the hackles of anyone.

  149. Dee November 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    If 60-70 kids run into their library every day, they should jump up and down for doing their job well! Sadly, I don’t think this is the norm any longer.

    The writer also doesn’t really give much evidence that the kids are acting like hooligans. She talks about the parents coming in looking for their kids, but there’s not much there about kids damaging things, running, hanging from chandeliers. The problem is that society gets nervous whenever they see kids just being kids. So bumping the kid next to them or talking a little too loudly becomes acting wild and crazy (when it’s just normal behavior that could happen with or without a parent).

    Finally, I wonder what this person’s childhood was like? Did she go to the library herself? Or was she constantly under watch by her parents? Because in the past, as we all know, it was utterly commonplace for kids to go the library by themselves. Watch an episode of Leave it to Beaver if you don’t believe me. (Of course, the Beav generally avoided the library, but you get the point – Ward and June did not trail behind him everywhere.) And the Cleavers lived in that same sort of safe neighborhood as the librarian does; they just didn’t have notices about every crime that ever took place. Things aren’t generally more dangerous. We just know about more of the dangers, which is what is dangerous! To our kids’ independence!

  150. Neil M November 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    This letter-writer sounds as if she needs a career change. Stat.

  151. JJ November 21, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    @Dee, I love that you brought up Leave it to Beaver. When I first heard about Free Range, I immediately thought of that show (which I have always loved). I used to watch it with this vague feeling of “what a shame we can’t go back to those times” but eventually, I realized we CAN go back to those times. (Just for clarification I don’t think “those times” were perfect either, but I am talking specifically about the freedom and experiential learning opps the kids had.) Though we live in a big city our neighborhood is not that different than the Cleavers and I love that my own kids (9 and 12) can walk to parks, the movie theater, bowling alley, ice cream parlor, even (gasp!) the library. Sometimes I expect them to tell be about Gus at the Firehouse.

  152. Amanda Matthews November 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    “if you are guilty of kiddy porn or molesting a kid”

    SKL, the laws are too vague to take the registry seriously. That guy that was found with “kiddy porn” may have simply received a topless picture from his 17 year old girlfriend when he himself was 17. Or he may have taken a picture of his children in the bath. That “Child molester” may have had consensual sex with her teenage boyfriend… okay, who am I trying to kid, it’s only men that are blamed for that stuff – he may have had consensual sex with his teenage girlfriend when he himself was a teenager.

    It is not up to the library to police what people do outside of the library and ban them for what YOU deem inappropriate. If someone looks up porn (of any kind) in the library or molests someone (of any age) while inside of the library, THEN it should be dealt with appropriately. But no one should be banned from the library based on what they have previously done in their lives OUTSIDE of the library.

  153. Alecta November 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    I spent hours at the library as a kid, often alone because my parents didn’t want to be there as long as I did. That’s right, I was so interested in reading that I bored even my parents.

    I volunteered there putting away books from the time I was about nine or ten, and was on the advisory committee which made decisions about programming for young adults, including planning the summer reading program for middle schoolers and up and weekly interest programs. We also set up programs for elementary schoolers and helped run them. We did a lot of the work which would have normally been on the librarians with minimal supervision, and this was only back in 2009, not 1959.

    If she wants to show kids and young adults the door instead of fostering their love of reading and the spirit of library patronage, that’s on her. Libraries are already threatened and those kids are the only hope for them to survive into the future.

  154. SKL November 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    Amanda, I can also see the age of the perp on the registry. No, sorry, a 30-year-old didn’t just accidentally receive a photo on his phone in high school. Also, how many of those accidental oops situations lead to actual prison time? The registry tells when the guy was released from prison.

    I understand that not all states’ registries have the same info. But where I live, the info is detailed enough that I can use common sense to interpret it. I just recently got two notifications of guys moving in near me who are in their 30s and have done time in prison, one for making kiddy porn and one for sexually bothering a kid.

    Having been personally involved as a kid (victim or physically present with another victim) in at least 3 blatantly illegal sex-oriented situations (which I was afraid to report), where the perp was a much older, non-related person in my neighborhood, I am a bit hardened to the “but he’s probably innocent” rationalization. These things do happen. Pretending it away is not necessary and not helpful (to anyone except the perps).

  155. Jenny Islander November 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    @Amanda Matthews: Yup. “Romeo and Juliet” laws in some states protect relationships in which one partner is barely legal and the other is barely not, but these laws are not in the books in all states. Also, depending on where you are, if you are a man and get drunk enough to think you are discreetly peeing in the bushes when you’re actually in clear view of a minor, you can be classified as a sex offender.

    Back to the original letter: I think Donna, who suggested that the librarian considers tattoo, and piercings clear signs of criminality is probably right.

    To the letter writer: It appears to me that you have been traumatized. I have no idea by what. Please stop displacing your trauma onto parents and children who are coming in to use this public resource, and find a counselor to work out whatever is bugging you.

    And as others have already said, free range =/= feral.

  156. Terzah November 21, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Here’s another librarian perspective (from a librarian who is trying to be a Free Range mom of 6-YO twins):

    As a reference librarian in adult services in a public library, every week I deal with parents who come in here, sit down at my desk and (the conversation reveals) are DOING their child’s research project for them. Sometimes the kid is with them, sometimes not. If the kid IS there, usually the adult does all the talking. These kids are not necessarily young. I’ve had moms of college students (in college in other states) and moms of grown men (researching business plans) doing this kind of thing. I want to slap these parents and tell them to get a life.

    How refreshing, how AWESOME it is when a middle schooler or high schooler or an elementary student who is smart enough to need grown-up books comes to me on his or her own, doing her own homework, and actually learns something about how to do research! It doesn’t happen often enough!

    My library recently implemented a rule that no child under 11 (!) can be here on his/her own. I had to bite my tongue hard. I spent lots of time alone in my local library when I was a kid. No librarian ever had to reprimand me. And my parents never did my homework for me (if I tried to get them to, my dad would say, “Sorry. I already went to high school” or something along those lines). Being hands-off was the biggest favor they did for me.

    I’m not going to lie to you and say there are no perverts who come into my library. I saw one of them get arrested first-hand. But it doesn’t happen often at all. And Lord knows there are lots of adults here attuned to that, and we have a security guard. I maintain this is a safe place for kids. Kids belong here. Let’s not scare them off by requiring their already burdened parents to supervise them as if they were toddlers.

  157. Maegan November 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    “I’m still not going to discount a known child molestation conviction and let them around my child willy nilly without specific knowledge of the facts to convince me it is safe.”

    Yes, obviously. None of us are advocating hiring known child molesters as nannies. But barring people who seem unsavory from public spaces? That’s extremely bigoted. We’ve obviously gotten off-track here. The point that many commenters are trying to make is that the line between criminal and unshowered individual has become blurred. We’re throwing around the word “creeps” in a way that makes me uncomfortable. What is a “creep”? Someone who stares at you? Someone in ragged clothing? A socially awkward older man? Someone with mental handicaps? It seems everyone is fair game, but none of these people should be considered outright dangerous. That’s discrimination.

  158. Donna November 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    “Also, how many of those accidental oops situations lead to actual prison time?”

    MANY MANY MANY of them. If the recipient is a legal adult (17 in many states), he gets the same prison time as anyone else with kiddie porn in my jurisdiction. The number of counts may vary based on the number of images found, but a single image still gets you prison in my jurisdiction. The 17 year old with an image of his 16 year old girlfriend may provide an extreme exception that we could get SOME of our judges to agree to (2 yes, 2 no, one maybe). The guy who unintentionally downloaded kiddie porn believing it to be adult porn will not.

    Does your registry give the age at the time of commission of a crime or the date of the actual crime? If not, you have absolutely no idea how old person was or when the crime occurred. When he entered the registry is completely irrelevant. You don’t enter the registry until you are released from prison. Prison sentences can vary from 1 year to several life sentences for the same offense. Registration requirements also usually only pertain to those who committed the offense after a certain date, however, there are sometimes certain triggers built in that could make someone who committed the offense much earlier have to register for the first time after many years (probation violation usually but probation violation need not mean another offense). And laws change requiring people who didn’t have to register before to suddenly have to register many years after the initial conviction.

    It is 100% feasible that a 30 year old man just entering the registry committed the crime when he was 18. He also could have committed his crime when 30. The guy charged with child porn could have had one image he downloaded believing it to be a link to adult porn or he could have had an entire computer full of images. The guy on the registry for kidnapping a child may have committed a stranger abduction of a 5 year old or he may have gotten into a dispute with his drug dealer who just happened to be under 18 at the time (actual case on the registry in Georgia). Who knows.

    This is the problem with the registry. Few users give it more than a cursory review. If you are on it, you are automatically a pedophile and threat. What you were actually convicted of is irrelevant. And even those who look at it with a closer eye don’t really get enough information to make a meaningful determination of the threat level.

  159. Rob November 21, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    I feel the need to reiterate that dealing with exposure to guys who weren’t cool made us realize the guys who were not cool. It’s really that simple.

    I can’t believe this thread is this long. This has been an eye opener for me.

  160. Diane November 21, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    This just sounds like a grumpy librarian that doesn’t like kids. She talked about horror stories but had none to share. I think she is straight out of “Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians”.

    We went to this one library near us and every time my kids made a noise or touched the toys set out for kids, a librarian would yell at them and tell me that I needed to control my kids. That library was so creepy. There were never any other kids in there and it was dead silent. So we decided to drive further to a kid friendly library with nice librarians who don’t yell at kids for making kid noises or running down an isle of books. I think other parents must have decided the same thing because it isn’t like there are no kids in that part of the library. I can only imagine how many kids this librarian yells at every day. Maybe someday she too will have her dream library with only adults or maybe she should just move to this library near us.

  161. Diane November 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    Okay so I just googled librarian horror stories and they are all about mean librarians not about kids getting mugged or raped in the library.

  162. SKL November 21, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Donna, I may not know the precise details of the people on the registry, but it’s enough for me that these people messed with juveniles who were much younger than they were. I don’t believe that in my neck of the woods, a guy is going to spend years and years in prison just for having a slightly younger girlfriend when he was a teen. Maybe in your neck of the woods, but not in mine.

    And I think it’s up to me to decide whether I believe a child sex crime on one’s record is relevant x years later. I have been fondled (at age 12) by a dirty old man who was half toothless. I don’t know why I’d assume that someone who offended at, say, age 25 would never do it again. It’s not like adults grow out of their perversions. The statistics don’t support this, either. As far as I’m concerned, that guy is not safe to be unsupervised with my kids.

    That said, I don’t think we have the tools to keep pervs out of kids’ rooms in libraries without inconveniencing the innocent. But I wish we could.

  163. Matthew Fulton November 21, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

    Either this librarian is totally fake like the post or she is seriously psychotic.if anybody in that library I don’t want around children is her. I think she is a phony.

  164. Donna November 22, 2012 at 12:57 am #

    @SKL –

    Actually the statistics are extremely skewed. ANY offense that sends a sex offender to prison is generally considered recidivism. However, the vast majority of sex offenders who return to prison do so for something other than another sex crime. Most often it is a registry violation.

    Almost all sex offenders I’ve dealt with were first time sex arrests. They may very well have other criminal convictions. They may even have molested before (who knows). But they have never been convicted of a sex crime before. I can count in one hand with fingers left over the repeat sex offenders we’ve represented. We do represent many people on the registry so they are not all in prison; they are simply either not reoffending or are not being caught. Now thieves. About 90% of them are in our office for another theft-type crime within a year.

    I didn’t say that you should discount someone who molested a 5 year old because the crime was many years ago. My point was that a guy who just entered the registry at 30 may very well have only been 18 or 19 when the crime occurred. For a 5 year old victim, that is irrelevant. A 15 year old victim is a different story.

    And life changes but the law is slow to change with it. For example, Romeo and Juliet exceptions to stat rape laws are extremely new in the states that have them. Your state may not slam someone today for having sex with a teenage girlfriend, that doesn’t mean that it didn’t 6 years ago. That also doesn’t mean that other states don’t. A large number of people on your state’s registry were convicted in different states. And the law has not kept up with modern technology so statutes that cover texting, etc. don’t really fit the crime. There are MANY people in prison for convictions that occurred a few years ago that would have much lesser sentences today.

    Look at the “war on drugs.” We’ve mostly conceded our loss on this one. Today it would be extremely rare to get a lengthy prison sentence for drug possession or even sale. 10-15 years ago that wasn’t the case at all. That was the height of mandatory minimums dictating YEARS in prison for simple drug possession. We run into clients with old drug convictions who were sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession of cocaine, something that would get them probation in the exact same courtroom today.

  165. SKL November 22, 2012 at 1:55 am #

    Well Donna, what I’m saying is that we should be able to get the right info from the registry to know what the guy was convicted of and when. My state does this to some degree, though it could be better.

    Instead of telling people the registry means nothing and we should therefore steer clear of it, we ought to be pushing for it to be more meaningful. I do think progress is being made in that regard.

    As for recidivism rates, when it comes to child molestation, it’s not low. And we all know the majority of such offenses are not reported in the first place. A person who can get sexual pleasure with a child is wired that way. The wiring doesn’t change from day to day. It’s not like “oh, that day I was in the mood for chocolate flavor instead of vanilla.”

  166. Donna November 22, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    Personally, I think that the registry should be completely abolished. I don’t care how correct the information is. It’d be helpful to know where all criminals live. But for every other type of crime in existence, once you’ve served your sentence, it’s done. I have yet to here a valid reason for treating this particular type of crime different than any other, other than it is the crime du jour of this century so far.

    And conviction is not the operative date. It is date of offense. Convictions often come many years after offenses in sex crimes. I’m interested in what was at the time everything occurred, not what was at the time the criminal justice system creeped along to an end.

    As for recidivism, do you have any evidence that it is high? Statistics incorporate every post-conviction arrest. Very few people on the registry have multiple convictions. The number of offenders identified as “predators” are usually well under 100 although the registries have tens of thousands of people on them. My personal experience says that it is extremely rare for sex offenders to end up back in the court system for new sex offenses.

    It is extremely common to have other victims come out of the woodwork when someone is accused of a sex crime, indicating a high level of offending prior to being arrested. And, yet, extremely few reoffend after being convicted. It can’t all boil down to they are better at hiding it. There does appear to be some deterrent effect to prison for many sex offenders.

    Not all sex offenses boil down to sexual pleasure. Very few do actually. It is not that simplistic, nor is human sexuality that simplistic. Nor is it impossible to control your sexual desires if you choose. In fact, we all do it all the time. If we didn’t, we’d mate like bonobos (one of only two animals other than humans – dolphins being the other – who engage in sex for pleasure and they have ALOT of sex in many variations).

  167. Kate Wing November 22, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    I’m a children’s librarian. Children in the library are job security for all public librarians. In fact, I tend to refer to them as “little taxpayers”. Something a public librarian should not forget–60% of the people coming in our doors are children.

    Yes, sometimes they are ill-behaved, even neglected, and it is not my job to be a babysitter. But those are individual cases that can be dealt with….individually. I have no problem talking to the parent or caregiver of children who aren’t following the behavior standards that are clearly written in our policies. I have no problem calling parents, or in some cases, the police.

    There certainly are some creepers in libraries….and churches, and schools, and scout groups. Give children the skills to care for themselves, and most of it will never become a problem. Now, Uncle Andy on the other hand…..

  168. Tim Haynes November 22, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    Wow – that librarian really flew off the handle there. I would hate to have her working in any of my libraries! She sounds more dangerous than the kooks.

  169. SKL November 22, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    Donna, I did a little internet research on recidivism and it’s actually something like a third (or higher, depending on the study) of convicted child molesters of unrelated children are guilty of another similar offense within 5 years after being released from prison. So yeah, that’s pretty high in my book; especially given the fact that lots of these crimes go unreported. Keep in mind that the recidivism rate of “sex crimes” varies depending on the category of crime.

    You argue that once they serve their time we should act like it never happened, same as with robbers etc.? Well, let’s get real. If you know you’re living next door to a murderer or robber or rapist or even a burglar, you aren’t going to leave your doors unlocked at night, or leave your valuable stuff in plain sight etc., no matter how many years the guy spent in jail. I don’t see that we’re different about child molesters. Just that the potential victims of a child molester is different. Most criminals don’t target children; in fact, most will go out of their way to not harm a kid.

  170. Emma November 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    When I was 12, I was followed by a man in a library. At first I just thought it was coincidental that he kept showing up in the next isle, looking over the tops of books at me. Then I realized he was masturbating with a hand in his pocket. The same thing happened to a friend of mine – different guy, same library. The place and town has a vibe of safety, and I now let my own daughter walk over there by herself, but I do worry and I have told her to be mindful. I just don’t think anyone should be too quick to dismiss the librarian as alarmist – perverts do like libraries more than the average place in my unfortunate experience.

  171. Thomas Arbs November 25, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    Dear Freerangekids, I don’t think you should have given a person like this a platform. What do you wish to prove? That 171 of your readers scream her down – which they did – to show us what we already knew? I think this was an unnecessary exercise for her, and it was an unnecessary exercise for you. (And it probably was unnecessary for me to even state that, too…)

  172. An November 25, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    The thing is, the parents that actually follow the “free range” philosophy are in the minority and the parents this librarian is frustrated with are simply the neglectful type looking for free babysitting. How’s she to know who’s who, and when she hears the term “free range” she takes it to mean parents who let their kids roam free without boundaries. So I sympathize with her, as I too used to work in a library and can remember kids who were loud and messy. And I can vouch for there being a good number of homeless regulars who I found somewhat scary-behaving. This was a large city library. At this very library when I was younger my sister was cornered by a man who exposed himself to her. Face it, free public spaces DO often attract all kinds.

  173. Aimee November 26, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    “Public places, including libraries, are filled with people you would never want your children knowing.” Funny, they’re also filled with people I WOULD want my child knowing.

    I am a member of the Advisory Board of our local library, which is adjacent to a public elementary school, a Catholic K-8 school, and a five minute walk from a public middle school. Children are welcome to use the library without parents present. They, like every other patron, is expected to behave in a way that doesn’t interfere with other patrons’ enjoyment of the library. Our children’s librarian has created afterschool book groups especially to attract more children and “tweens” to use the library after school, and to read and enjoy books outside the classroom.

    Also, the children have their own girls’ and boys’ bathrooms, which are on one side of the circulation desk; the adult restrooms are on the other side of the circulation desk, and you need to get a key from the desk to use them. Our library has thought this all through….

    My goodness, I could think of LOTS worse places for my son to “hang out” after school than a library…..

  174. Warren November 26, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    It was posted, so that we can see some of the issues that we have to deal with, while trying to raise our kids.

  175. Jess November 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    I’m also a librarian in a public school. Whenever I stop by the public community library after work it always delights me to see my students in the children’s room reading books and playing on the computer together. They are usally well behaved and happy to be in a space that is meant for them. It’s ironic, they will often be better behaved in the publi library than the school one!

  176. Samantha November 28, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Wow– she is a real ray of sunshine.

    The thing is that cluelessness does not equal Free Range. It is quite the opposite but this librarian doesn’t seem to get that.

    I congratulate her on raising a successful 21 year old daughter in spite of her holier-than thou parenting style.


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