“Who would leave a 10 year old in the library in these times?”

Folks — The idea that a 10-year-old is not allowed to read at the library without a guardian is nauseating to me, and not just because I spent my formative years at the Wilmette iizfteiank
Public Library
(reading the Harvard Lampoon). I can’t imagine my mom having to spend her whole weekend at the library just because she happened to have a reader for a child. Alternatively, I can’t imagine NOT spending my afternoons at the library because my mom had other things to do besides bodyguarding me in the reference room.

And yet, that “No One Alone Under Age 10” edict is the law of the land in Knoxville, Tenn. — a law this lovely letter-writer most eloquently protests:

Meredith C. Kuester, Knoxville

I want to express my displeasure at the new policy banning children younger than 10 from all branches of the Knox County Public Library System unless they are accompanied by an adult. Though I understand the idea behind this policy, the freedom of education envisioned by the founders of our public library system is being jeopardized. The librarians have the right to ask any disruptive individual to leave, regardless of the perpetrator’s age, but a mature, responsible person, using the library for its intended purpose, should not be discriminated against because of age.

My children, who have been “model citizens,” according to our branch librarian, often walk to our neighborhood branch to do their homework, check out or return books. The neighborhood library had, historically, been a safe place for well-behaved children to exercise a bit of freedom, individualism and independence, while enjoying the thrills of reading and education. It is one of the wonderful privileges allowed us in this great country. What childhood would be complete without the excitement of going to the library and checking out your own book, and if a child is allowed to walk to the library alone, shouldn’t that child be allowed to enter alone?

Please do not penalize all children because of the actions of a few. I kindly and respectfully ask that the Knox County Library Board reconsider this policy. I have one daughter who will be 10 in two months, but my younger child, who is 7, walks with my older child to the library and can no longer enter or wait on the grounds. Has fear of lawsuits caused this childhood rite of passage to become a thing of the past? My suggestion is to let individual libraries write their own policy, especially the small neighborhood branches within walking distance of schools.

And now — sigh — the responses:

“The writer should appreciate having a library so close to home and obey the rules without grousing.”

“My grandchildren are 10 and 11, but I wouldn’t leave them alone in the library or any other public place.”

“I think most all of us parents don’t think that having our child disappear, perhaps the victim of a child molester/rapist/murderer, is something that we could stand to go through.”

“This is not a place where 10 and a 7 year old should be going someplace by themselves and staying for hours without a guardian to protect them.”

And the one that seems to speak for everyone I totally disagree with:

“…My generation didn’t have to grow up like that. In these times parents have to protect kids in such places. I don’t blame them for having that rule and it doesn’t seem unreasonable. It seems to me just good old fashioned common sense.”

Ah me. I don’t suppose I should point out all the crime stats on the right side of my blog — the ones that show that crime is DOWN since today’s parents were kids. But point them out I must, along with the fact that Knoxville is focusing on an unlikely scenario — children at the library molested or even murdered — rather than considering the far more likely scenario — kids NOT reading and NOT loving books, because the library doesn’t welcome them. Or doesn’t that matter? – L.

When children finally become responsible young adults, they are most welcome at the library without a security detail!

109 Responses to “Who would leave a 10 year old in the library in these times?”

  1. ifsogirl September 10, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    It really is sad, I also grew up spending a lot of my time in the local library. Now with my children, I wouldn’t trust my 8y/o for long on her own because she can be quite disruptive and has been told when she can behave she will have certain privliges, but my youngest is 5 and I’m pretty sure in 3 years I will be able to let her go to the library on her own, Just a different personality.

    I find most places won’t supervise your child not for the childrens safety, but for their own. The fear that if a child falls and gets hurt or something worse they will end up being sued.

    I had to go to my Dr’s office the other day, once inside I realized I left a form in the car. I asked the girl at the front desk if it would be ok to leave my 5 year old sitting on a chair in the waiting room with a book while I took the 2 minutes to walk back out front to get this from my car. That was recieved with a horrified look and “Oh no she must stay with you.”

    A few weeks later I was at the Chiropractor, my kids were playing with the toys in the waiting room and when I was called in asked to stay. I said oh well you can’t you have to stay with me. The wonderful lady behind the desk said nope they could play all they wanted and she would gladly keep an eye on them. She made sure they knew what room I would be in, just in case they wanted to see me and everyone was happy. Now every time we go I make sure the kids know what room I’m in and sometimes they come in and wait with me, most times they play and talk to the receptionist.

  2. Matt September 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    I find this idea disturbing in the extreme. At 10, not only was I at the library alone, I went there and back on my bicycle with no adult supervision! And no, I didn’t grow up in some idyllic age – I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, which by all accounts at that point were very unsafe times (there were a couple of high-profile child abduction cases in my area at the time). What the hell is wrong with these people?!

  3. AW13 September 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    This is getting beyond ridiculous! While we’re at the library, I allow my son to go to the children’s section and browse by himself. He is much better behaved when under the supervision of “library authority” (usually the teenager who watches the children’s section) and in the presence of other (often older) children who are behaving well than he is when I’m dragging him around and browsing in the adult sections of the building. He also gets a kick out of exercising his new independence. I’m just tired of the worst case first thinking. I’m wondering if there is any correlation between the rise of anxiety and depression disorders and this 24 hours of “terrible news from a dangerous world” culture we’re now living in.

    On the other hand, was this rule implemented due to worries about kidnapping/molestation/harassment? Or was it implemented to prevent unruly children from running amok in the library?

  4. Alex September 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    My mother and brother are both librarians and both have to deal with parents who want to use them as babysitters. So many children don’t know how to behave without supervision.

  5. C.J. September 10, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    Unfortunately these kind of rules are usually created because of kids that don’t behave. They wreck it for everyone else.

  6. Carrie September 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    I have to disagree with your stance. So many patrons view the library not as a place of learning but instead as a free babysitter. Policies like these aren’t aimed at the friendly, responsible 10 year old who wants to check out books. They’re (in my experience) not aimed at the molester behind every bookstack. They’re aimed at the parents of the 8 year old in charge of their three younger siblings, dropped off at the library at 9 am and retrieved at 7pm.

    Librarians are trying to do their jobs as best they can, often with reduced professional staffing and nearly non-existent paraprofessional staffing. We cannot abruptly stop our day to babysit the scared/bored disruptive child. Perhaps the writer of this letter could suggest a child pass of some sort? Possibly set up a system in which well-behaved children can earn a pass to visit the library on their own? With poor behavior the child would lose their pass and require adult supervision? While piling policies on top of policies isn’t ideal, its better than a blanket ban.

  7. Lollipoplover September 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    Thankfully, our library has no such restrictions in place. The only posting I saw recently was about making sure children were picked up before closing (if they were being driven home) as employees were not allowed to give rides home.
    It’s a library. It’s not like they will be juggling knives.

  8. Warren September 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    @Alex and CJ

    Then deal with the individuals, and stop making the rest of our kids responsible for them.

    Am so sick of the fact that people are to lazy or scared to deal with individual trouble makers, so they make a ruling that denies the whole group. My kids are well behaved, and yet they would be essentially punished because of the few that are not well behaved.

    When I send my kids on their own, no matter where it is, I am not asking or expecting others to take care of them. So for all those who take it upon themselves, thanks but no thanks.

  9. Library Diva September 10, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    C.J, I was wondering the same thing. Recently, my public library, in its infinite wisdom, moved the kids’section next to the adults’. It used to be in a separate room, which seemed to work well. I try very hard not to be “That Cranky Lady,” but nothing irritates me more than people being loud in the library. And, to be diplomatic, let’s just say that I’ve noticed that kids and adults use the library in very, very different ways. Maybe this rule was put in place to keep the library quiet for everyone.

    It’s harder to kick out an unsupervised 8-year-old who may or may not have anywhere to go for the next few hours. There are certainly parents who would just drop their kids off at the library, regardless of whether or not they wanted to be there, and enjoy a few hours to themselves. I read a very entertaining librarian’s memoir that recalled one sad, sad group of such kids. They were too young to sit still in somewhere like a library for four hours, but their mom left them there anyway. Some nights, the librarian would be there well after closing time with them, with the doors locked, trying to get someone to come get them. IIRC, the ultimately banned these kids from the library and implemented a policy about unaccompanied kids younger than a certain age.

  10. Jennifer Jo September 10, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

    Our library has a new policy: no children, ages 12 and under, can be left unattended. It makes me starve raving nutty just to THINK about it! http://bit.ly/O9Ho8o

  11. Warren September 10, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    I understand that some parents dump their kids, and that is wrong.
    Then deal with those parents. Do not restrict my kids, because of those parents with no respect. Why should the well behaved ones pay for the rotten apples?

  12. Ariel September 10, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    Alex. CJ, and Library Diva,

    Again punish those that can’t behave rather than the whole group and thus deny those who can and do behave the experience of wandering the treasure trove of shelves.

    My grandparents would drop me off at the library for a specific amount of time then pick me up. This started when I was ten and the memory has stuck for this near half century. I would leave with an armful of books, mostly astronomy, some history, and an occasional science fiction book.

    I won’t go deeply into Disneyland (on my own, more sweet memories of adults and other kids) or the County fair, but the latter meant taking four step or half-siblings around for a full day.

    I do understand baby-sitting. If you are baby-sitting a well behaved kid sans parents, you are using your time poorly. If you are baby-sitting children unable to behave: in this day and age the solution is a cell phone call away, and a ban list. It would be an easy and better step to have parents sign in unattended kids with contact info.

  13. C.J. September 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    A Warren and Ariel
    I totally agree. Everyone else shouldn’t be denied because of the few. Too many people don’t teach their kids to behave anymore. Too many people expect everyone else to be responsible for their kids. They should just deal with those that are causing the problem. No one seems to want to do that.

  14. Donna September 10, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    This has nothing to do with misbehaving kids and everything to do with the fear of kids being out alone ever.

    One day this summer, I let my 6.5 year old run ahead to the library while I finished something up at work — in the building right next door to the library. About 15 minutes after she left, I got a phone call from the librarian demanding that, although she was being perfectly behaved, she had to leave because it was not safe for her there alone. A fire, earthquake, tsunami or child molester could hit the library at any minute (the librarian’s actual examples).

    I ignored the librarians dire fear of a sudden tsunami and told her that I was not aware that there was an age limit since it is not posted anywhere in the library. I then asked her to send my daughter back over to my office. She refused to do so. She would only allow my daughter to leave the library in my custody and threatened to call the police if I didn’t walk to get her.

    This is a very small island and all the expats tend to know each other. I had only met the person I was talking to once, but another librarian present was the stepmother of my daughter’s classmate. They knew exactly who I was and where I was. They called the main number for the office to find me. They knew that the trek back to the office required nothing more than crossing a small parking lot – one my daughter crosses alone all the time because there is a play structure in front of the library.

    This librarian is the neighbor of my daughter’s best friend. A short time later, I am talking to the best friend’s dad and he mentions how much he loves being in their neighborhood because the kids – including the librarian’s daughter of the same age as mine – are constantly running around outside unsupervised. Even just a few feet from the ocean. So apparently only the library is subject to sudden tsunamis.

  15. RobC September 11, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    You know, for the Greatest Country In The Worldâ„¢, the US sounds like an incredibly dangerous place.

    Just the other day, I let my kids (11 and 8) go on ahead to the library while I ducked across the road to pick up a couple of things from the supermarket. Apparently, I’m lucky they were’nt killed in a fire caused by an earthquake that triggered a tsunami, all while being molested by the local pervert.

  16. Kurt Kemmerer September 11, 2012 at 12:17 am #

    For those who think there’s a huge problem of parents using the library as a baby sitter:

    1) Really? I’ve never seen it, and I’m at the library several times a week.

    2) Why would that be so bad? It’s much better than using the television.

  17. Lisa September 11, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    Policies like this make me crazy! I am all for having rules for behavior, and kicking anyone out who does not obey them. But my 10 year old just got interested in going to the library last year, and I’m all for it! A couple of times, she asked to go after school. She walked, or got a ride from a friend’s parent (because her friend wasn’t allowed to walk there alone). They spent 2 hours there, and I picked them up when I got out of work. I found 3 girls sitting quietly in the children’s area, reading silently, with their homework already done and books checked out. If my kid were at the library and bored or needed space to fool around and be loud, she would go to a park instead (or my yard, for that matter). I don’t think very young kids (who need supervision) should be left alone… but that age is not the same for every kid, and parents know their own child best. When a kid is in a public place without a parent, why do we assume the parent is looking for free babysitting? I am not assuming (or asking) anyone to take care of my kid; I have made the decision that SHE can be responsible for herself. And if anything comes up that she can’t handle, she has my phone number and change for a phone call.

  18. Marion September 11, 2012 at 12:32 am #

    Our library established a similar policy, which we have been fighting. They also have introduced other equally idiotic rules, making it fairly hard for a mother with 2-3 kids to even visit the library.

    One rule states a adult cannot bring 5 children to the library. God forbid you have a large family, right? But the teachers at the school bring their whole classes in weekly. Makes no sense.

  19. Vicki September 11, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    Our library has a similar policy, but thankfully my boys were always big for their age, so we fudged a little. As for the person whose library has the rule for 12 and under…I was a volunteer in our library by the time I was 12!!!

  20. Emily September 11, 2012 at 12:40 am #

    In response to the “question” in the title of this article (quotation marks because I knew from the moment I saw it that it was rhetorical), yes, I would leave a ten-year-old alone in the library in this day and age. My mom started leaving me alone in the library when I was about eight. I loved to read as a child (I still like to read, of course, but I have less spare time on my hands now), and she’d leave me, and I’d just browse, read, check out the books that I wanted, and that was that.

  21. Earth.W September 11, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    The Penrith City Library(an hour west of Sydney, Australia) has a sign up advising parents that if they leave their children unattended, they will be reported to DOC’s(CPS). I am going to drive down today to take a photo of this sign.

  22. Stacey September 11, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    Maybe instead of making it so kids can’t go anywhere without their parents, society should be working toward making public places safer!

  23. Library Diva September 11, 2012 at 12:54 am #

    I agree that the majority of the good kids shouldn’t have to pay for the misdeeds of a few. But unfortunately, the world seems to work that way a lot. One kid makes a gun out of Tinker Toys and they’re put away for the year. A handful of kids can’t wear hats respectfully like everyone else, and they’re banned from the school. Two or three kids are caught smoking across from the high school and everyone’s restricted to campus. A couple of people get caught abusing the coffee break policy, and the boss alters it.

    It sucks, and it’s not the best way of dealing with people at all. I bet everyone posting here has felt the sting of it at one point in their lives. I’m just saying that it might have been more in response to misbehavior than because of OMGpedophiles.

    And Kurt, a library is not a daycare. Librarians have a lot more to do than to try to keep children who don’t want to be there quiet. I’m not talking about children who love to read going there voluntarily without their parents. I’m talking about a parent, quite literally, using it as a free daycare, regardless of whether their kids have an interest in books, or are even developmentally able to be quiet in public for several hours without supervision.

    I think there’s a better way to deal with that problem than this, too. I think that too many places are afraid of confrontation, so they make ridiculous blanket rules to address specific situations they want to avoid. I’m just saying there may have been more at play when this rule was made than fear.

  24. Donna September 11, 2012 at 1:06 am #

    For the record, I live outside (mostly) the US on an island in the Pacific Ring of Fire which was decimated by a tsunami 3 years ago with very little by way of a fire department so fires, earthquakes and tsunamis are not completely irrational fears in general.

    The belief that the fact that they can happen means that we must keep our children with us at all times is irrational. And how come we only care about those under 10? Are you suddenly given magical fire, earthquake and tsunami surviving abilities on your 10th birthday? As a parent, I’m not sure that I’d be cavalier about my 10 year old being next door alone during a tsunami any more than I would be my 6 year old. I’m just fairly certain that one is probably not going to happen while my child is in the library alone for 20 minutes and that, if it did, people in the library would happily help my kid out if she needs it, whether she is 10 or 6.

  25. Mel September 11, 2012 at 1:25 am #

    Our local library has taken the opposite view. It’s wonderful. In order to encourage children to love the library they run many children’s sessions, one is an after-school program which includes Wii, board games, and literary activities. My kids are not quite old enough for these, but when they are I would not expect to have to accompany them. When I was taking my preschooler to story times I would go to another section of the library. It was great- the librarian had no problem with it but occasionally I’d get funny looks or comments from other parents. I encourage my kids to choose their own books and check them out themselves, they love that step of independence.

  26. Jen Connelly September 11, 2012 at 1:29 am #

    I’m kind of glad this topic came up again because I meant to write you about the perfectly logical rules we have at the libraries around here. Our library belongs to a larger group of libraries that covers the county and several surrounding counties. Ours is a small town library that is downtown next to city hall.

    The only policy I could see about unaccompanied minors was this: “Be responsible for the safety, well being and conduct of children or other dependents in your charge. Young children must remain under the supervision of an adult or responsible family member at all times. Library staff cannot be responsible for children.”

    The other library contracts with our system but are independent. They are in the next town over (just a few miles away). Their policy is:

    Unattended Children at the Camas Public Library
    The Camas Public Library welcomes and encourages children to use its facilities, materials, programs and services. Parents and legal guardians are reminded, however, that libraries are open, public buildings. The well being and safety of young children left alone or unattended is a matter of concern. Parents are reminded that they are responsible for supervising their children’s access to library materials. It will be assumed that children who visit the library unattended are authorized to use the full range of materials available to our customers.

    Appropriate Behavior
    Young children, and those older children with special needs, should be attended and adequately supervised by a parent, guardian or caregiver who is a responsible person of at least 12 years of age. Older children may use the library unattended provided they, like adults, are able to maintain proper library behavior. Everyone who uses the library is subject to the posted Rules of Conduct. Parents should be advised that children who misbehave or disturb others may be asked to leave the library, or the police may be contacted to assume responsibility for the child. Parents, even in their absence, are legally responsible for their child’s behavior.

    Abandoned and Latchkey Situations
    The library is not equipped—and it is not the library’s role—to provide short or long term child care. Preschool children are not to be left alone in any areas of the library at any time. If a child is being disruptive, is habitually left unattended for long periods of time, or is deemed to be at risk of coming to harm, an effort will be made to locate the responsible parent, guardian, or caregiver. If the responsible individual cannot be located in the building, or within 30 minutes at home, the child will be placed in the care of the Camas Police Department.

    Children at Close of Business
    If a child is found unattended at the end of the library’s business day, a senior staff member will attempt to call the child’s home. The senior staff member and another employee will wait for 15 minutes after closing for the child to be picked up. If attempts to contact the child’s parents or responsible person fail, or if the transportation does not arrive within the 15 minutes, the police will be called to assume responsibility for the child.

    I thought it was awesome when I read it. I figure our libraries basically follow that same logic. My kids have gone to the library alone. It’s 2 miles away and at the beginning of summer they walked there to return library books. They are 10 1/2, 9 1/2 and 6. They were welcomed by the librarian, nothing was said about them being without a parent and they were thrilled to find they were doing some kind of demonstration about snakes so they got to pet and hold snakes (all without a parent’s permission-GASP!).

    I wouldn’t allow just my 6yo to go alone but the older kids can come and go to the library as they please and the 6yo is allowed to go with them.

    The policy leaves the decision of when to allow this normal, childhood behavior in the hands of the parents and specifically states that unruly children will be asked to leave or the police will be called.

  27. mollie September 11, 2012 at 1:31 am #

    Warren said: “When I send my kids on their own, no matter where it is, I am not asking or expecting others to take care of them. So for all those who take it upon themselves, thanks but no thanks.”

    Yes, that is is exactly for me. My kids showing up alone somewhere is not a request for active guardianship! If I wanted that, I would have asked! No, I just want them to be treated as anyone else of any age who shows up alone to use a facility, browse a store, or purchase groceries.

    If they get hurt somehow, or ask for some assistance, well, by all means, do what you can from your heart. I’m 43 and I’d hope that someone would help me out if I fell down and hurt myself, or got turned around and didn’t know what street I was on.

    But I don’t expect that I’m going to be “adopted” by the librarian, receptionist, storekeeper, or usher, and “kept an eye on.” Hey! People! Leave my kid alone! (Think Pink Floyd)

  28. Donald September 11, 2012 at 1:58 am #

    Adulthood can have some highly stressful times. To deny this is very naïve. Children grow up to reach adult years. If you fail to recognize this fact then you live in denial. Therefore, children will eventually have to face some highly stressful times.

    If don’t allow children to become self-reliant, then by default we’re forcing them into adulthood unprepared.

    Kids reach a mature age. We can’t stop that. However we can stop them from becoming mature.

    If we force kids remain immature then we sentence them to face these stressful time unprepared.

    And then we wonder why anxiety and depression is such an epidemic these days.

    I can’t understand why people that think that bubble wrapping kids is looking after them.

  29. ThinkBannedThoughts September 11, 2012 at 2:03 am #

    Oh yes, I was soundly chastened for *gasp* leaving my then 5 and 7 year old alone in the children’s section while I went all the way upstairs to locate two books. I had already searched them and written down their Dewey Decimal numbers. I was gone all of 3 minutes and 42 seconds.
    My kids had not caused a disturbance, they knew exactly where I was, they had followed all the rules and had even helped another child locate a book by their favorite author. That child’s loving and concerned parent turned them/me in so that when I returned downstairs, victorious in having made it though the adult section without a single whine or shushing, the children’s librarian was waiting for me.
    I was informed that children are NEVER, EVER to be left alone in the children’s section. EVER. For ANY reason.
    What about a dad with slightly older daughters who has to use the rest room – he can’t dash in and have a wee without dragging them into the family restroom with him? Or a mom with sons?
    Seriously, never, ever, for any reason, even for 4 minutes? Really?

  30. CrazyCatLady September 11, 2012 at 2:07 am #

    I started letting my older two (12 and just 10) spend time at the library instead of going to vision therapy appointments with their little brother. If they didn’t come with me, I would let them stay home. I made sure they knew the cell phone number so they could call if they needed me.

    Every time that I went to pick them up, they were reading quietly. One librarian told me how wonderful they were – respectful, wait their turn in they need something (usually how to find a specific book) and in general good mannered. It was nice to hear as the younger is diagnosed as ADHD, but he is always on task when in the library. (He doesn’t take meds.)

    One place where I used to live encouraged kids to come afterschool for homework help. They got high school kids who needed community service hours to graduate to come and help with the kids. The kids had to sign in and out so that if some kid left, mom would have an idea of when. The library actually got grants from the community to do this, bringing in more money, not necessarily costing them more. Yes, the library was louder during those times. Just like it is louder during toddler story time (which in the case of my kids was always lunch or nap time!

  31. celiadelia September 11, 2012 at 2:10 am #

    If I hear one more sanctimonious version of ” nowadays/ these days you can’t blah blah” I am going to paint myself blue and run naked down the street. So aggravating. Thank goodness our library is not like that.

  32. kristycat September 11, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    I have nothing but sympathy for librarians who have to deal with unruly, unsupervised children being dropped off at the library whether they want to be there or not – or for those children, for that matter. It’s unpleasant and unfair, and using a library as free daycare is something that needs to be stopped.


    Stigmatizing an entire group with the misbehavior of the few, and punishing the guilty along with the innocent, is generally regarded as a Bad Thing. It’s unacceptable among adults – we call it “prejudice,” or “racism” or “sexism”, and protest it indignantly when it rears its ugly head. I hate to put it so bluntly, but banning quiet, well-behaved children from the library just because others in the same age group are acting up is, at its core, the same moral sin.

    I remember my absolute joy, as a shy, bookish kid, when I learned the public library was within bike-riding distance. This was a way to combine riding my bike long distances AND spending an entire afternoon reading, two of my favorite things. I even remember the furtive, guilty glee of sneaking – at age 8! – into the adult section and reading, over the course of a month (because I didn’t dare actually check it out, lest the library police stop me), my very first grown-up book. (It was “Jurassic Park”, long before we knew there would be a movie. Someone in my 3rd grade class had brought the book in, and – opened to one of the gory scenes – it had been passed from small child to small child in horrified fascination. So of course I had to read the whole thing. It had grown-up concepts and long words whose pronunciation I could only guess at and illustrations that taught me the concept of “fractal.” I loved it.) It was me-time, time to be by myself and just sit and read, or even just sit and think and daydream, and if someone had suggested that I’d have to give it up because someone else had misbehaved, I would have been quite appropriately outraged.

    (Also, child molesters and rapists and kidnappers and murderers? Seriously? I mean, the librarians at my library weren’t babysitting me, but I don’t think they would have turned a blind eye if someone had tried to drag me kicking and screaming out the door. If anyplace in the world was safe, the library was – it was FILLED with responsible adults, and if one of them turned out to be bad, well, he would be outnumbered! Like any other kid, we learned safety precautions and “stranger danger,” but it never occurred to anyone that the library could be considered unsafe!)

  33. Kimberly September 11, 2012 at 2:21 am #

    The branch of Harris County Library I go to is positively crawling with well behaved kids. When they are not reading, or working on computers, they are helping the librarians shelve books, make things for story time groups, set up the pop corn machine for movies, and a host of other things. I can honestly say I’ve never run into a misbehaving child there. They hold doors open, recommended graphic novels for my 4th graders, helped me carry things to and from my car.

    The kids regulate themselves and will jump on newcomers that misbehave.

    Here is a link to the policy http://hcpl.net/about/problem-behavior-policy. I love the first line of their Unattended Children policy

    Children have the same rights as adults to be in the library. They spell out what they will do if a child is disruptive, or is unable to get home at closing. (They pretty much have to walk, bike, or skateboard because public transportation doesn’t really exist in Houston. )

  34. Elizabeth Dill September 11, 2012 at 2:34 am #

    Both sides of the issue are reacting emotionally and without logic. Sorry your kids can’t go to library alone like you used to as a child. Sorry that crime stats don’t support your stance that children shouldn’t be left alone at the library. The cold, hard fact is that if something did in fact happen to your child at the library (as unlikely as that might be), the city or county could be sued. We live in a litigious society. Arguing your feelings are a fruitless activity unless you just venting or are seeking sympathy.

  35. Warren September 11, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    @Elizabeth Dill

    File suit for what?

    If one does not pay for supervision of one’s child, then there is no reasonable expectation of such.

    As for say a bookcase falling on a child, wouldn’t matter if a parent was there or not, now would it?

  36. Earth.W September 11, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    The sign at the Penrith City Library warning parents about leaving their children unsupervised with the threat of having their children as reported as being ‘at risk’.


  37. Jennifer in MamaLand September 11, 2012 at 3:01 am #

    I think it really varies. Our local library, in an underprivileged neighbourhood, is often full of unattended kids but they are not checking out the books, they’re using the computers. Noisily. The library has had to hire a security guard who stands around tormenting the kids because they’re making noise. Now, I am all for kids having a non-commercial place to hang out and play online, but give them a separate room or something, because this library was designed so every sound on either the upper or lower floor travels to every corner. It just seems like the unattended kids are there for a totally separate reason than me and my kids are there – a reason which detracts from the central purpose of the library.

  38. Sarah September 11, 2012 at 3:06 am #

    I’ll admit I didn’t read all the comments, but as a librarian who has had to enforce these rules let me tell you my experiences.

    About children possibly being abducted: we had a 16 year old with a car that saw a teenaged neighbor at our branch and offered him a ride home. He never made it. His body was found in his burned out car a week later and the neighbor admitted doing it. No we don’t want your 10 year old here unsupervised. If someone drags them screaming out of the building we will assume it is a parent and they just don’t want to leave yet.

    Unruly children: We had a 2 year old found wandering in the parking lot. Dad was inside on a computer, when we figured out who he was he accused US of not watching his kid properly.

    Another toddler was running screaming up and down the aisles. We tried for 20 minutes to find a parent ( No intercom) After failing that we were about to call the police about an abandoned child when the mother came over and expressed how glad she was that the librarians were responsible for watching her children while she was busy. She was offended when we told her we did not watch her children and we were about to call the police.

    We had a middle school drop off students in the gifted program. Parents often didn’t pick them up until 3 hours later. They snuck pizza into the library and created a huge mess, they harassed other patrons, moved books to wrong locations for fun, and were generally a nuisance until we told the school they had to drop them off somewhere else. The parents said we should have watched them better. We can’t watch 30 kids for 3 hours every day and still get our work done!

    We are not babysitters. We have a lot of work to do and patrons that need assistance. we cannot follow your child around all day to make sure they are safe and happy. I can tell you that the parents who drop off their kids unsupervised are the first ones to threaten to sue the library for not watching their kids when something happens.

  39. C.J. September 11, 2012 at 3:14 am #

    @ Library Diva
    Our public library has the kids section in it’s own little area. You can see it from the adult section but it is far enough away that you can’t hear the little ones chatter. Seems to work well. I can understand why you would be annoyed by them taking away a perfectly good children’s room and putting them right next to the adults. I used to enjoy the children’s area when my kids were little. They could wander around it without me following behind them in case they disturbed someone. They knew not to leave that area. They used to go to afternoon children’s classes at the library where the parents didn’t stay. They got to spend an hour at the library without me once a week. It didn’t cost much and they learned some independence. When I would go pick them up all the little one’s would be wandering around the children’s area waiting for their parents. None of the adults were bothered by it because it was far enough away. Your public library seems to have dropped the ball. I would think a whole children’s room would be even better than the little area we have.

  40. Stacey September 11, 2012 at 3:20 am #

    Don’t let kids do anything that can be remotely seen as dangerous and then wonder why kids are obese.

    don’t let kids go anywhere or do anything on their own, including go to a library and read, then wonder why kids are doing poorly in school.

    don’t let kids have any fun, whether it’s playing outside or expanding their minds by reading, and then wonder why there are teenagers who are so bored they have nothing better to do than commit crimes.

    don’t let kids learn how to do anything for themselves or have any sort of responsibility, then wonder why they’re so unprepared for adulthood.

  41. Elizabeth Dill September 11, 2012 at 3:40 am #

    @Warren “As for say a bookcase falling on a child, wouldn’t matter if a parent was there or not, now would it?” What? In either case an argument could absolutely be made that the library was negligent. However, I don’t see any correlation with your example.

    I’m actually surprised that this is a recent policy change in this library. Most libraries have not allowed unsupervised children for quite some time now. I’m a librarian and work in one. If you don’t believe me feel free to ask any attorney.

  42. Yan Seiner September 11, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    @Sarah: I understand the frustration. But the cases you mentioned are one offs. What you did not say is how many kids you saw that were responsible, mature, and properly using the library.

    The problem is when we close off avenues for kids to be responsible because a handful of kids are irresponsible. It’s like shutting down a park because a few people throw trash around.

    Most kids I come in contact with are responsible. There are some 11 and 12 year olds that I trust implicitly. There are some 15 year olds that I would not trust under any circumstances. But to say that all kids are bad because a few are is grossly unfair to vast majority of kids.

    How do you teach a child to be responsible? Do you ban him / her from every place where they can enjoy some small measure of independence until they are “old enough to be responsible”?

  43. hineata September 11, 2012 at 3:49 am #

    @Donna – so much for relaxed island living! You reallllly need to find some way of hanging out with the locals – Im sure they would be considerably less pedantic :-).

    We are very fortunate to have a library close by that actually does function as a sort of drop-in centre for a few children from difficult backgrounds. The librarians help with homework and generally keep an eye on these kids. Said library is very small, and there’s a playground beside it that the kids come and go to. That said, of course we don’t have a litigous (?) society yet.

    Our main library tends to frown upon unaccompanied kids, but unless they’re a disruption doesn’t do anything about them. What strikes me as very silly though about rules in my city generally is that although leaving a child unsupervised at a library is frowned upon, you can leave a child unsupervised at city pools from age 8. This in a country obsessed about its poor child drowning stats. Making sense, anyone?

    (Should add I leave my kids in both places unsupervised, as they are publicly well-behaved and good ‘pool’ swimmers).

  44. Sarah September 11, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    @ Yan: The children who we using the library properly were there with their parents who were monitoring their behavior.

    These aren’t one offs – I don’t have room for everything that happened over 3 years. We have the police there 3 times a week – mostly for 12 to 16 year olds. At one point we had nightly police walk-throughs. teens were fighting, being disruptive, harassing legitimate library users.

    This isn’t the inner city – this is an affluent suburban area. The problem isn’t the kids – it’s the parents who don’t teach them proper behavior, who think the librarians are babysitters, and who blame us – and complain to the county- when we don’t take responsibility for there children.

  45. John September 11, 2012 at 4:51 am #

    Is the reason behind this ban the SAFETY of any kid under 10 being unsupervised OR does it have more to do with the fact that kids under 10 having the tendency to be naughty and disruptive when an adult is not supervising them in a place of study? I’m guessing that is the real reason behind hotel rules that state any child under 10 is not allowed to use the elevator unsupervised by an adult. Perhaps they’re afraid the kids will be naughty and start pressing buttons causing the elevators to jam. I mean, these type of reasons would make more sense than the fear of some creepy old man with horns on his head and a pitchfork in his hand abducting them! Although I STILL think rules like that are extreme.

  46. Amy C September 11, 2012 at 5:01 am #

    I’m the daughter of a librarian and from a young age I spent a fair amount of time in the library essentially on my own (my mom was there, but she had work to do). I was well-behaved and as far as I know, nobody minded me hanging around. I don’t see any reason why a kid like I was shouldn’t be allowed in a library without an adult around.

    That being said… I also remember my mom complaining about parents who would use the library as free babysitting. A lot of kids were dropped off and had no interest in being at the library, so they would get disruptive. Of course, back in the day they could kick disruptive kids out of the library. I can only imagine the uproar today if somebody’s little “angel” got kicked out of the library. For that reason I can understand an age limit.

  47. Jenny Islander September 11, 2012 at 5:33 am #

    I am so glad that this nonsense hasn’t infected our public library. Disruptive children are asked who their parents are and where they are. If the parents are not in the building they are called. If the child can’t or won’t give a name, the police are called. Naturally, older children are simply asked to leave.

    My 8-year-old goes to the library by herself frequently with the understanding that she must be on her best behavior (reviewed each time she heads out the door) or she will be disinvited because the librarians will call me.

  48. Donna September 11, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    So Sarah, as you blatantly stated, the rule is completely meaningless. The kids causing problems are children over 10.

    And I fail to see that the library had any part in the first story. Good grief, the neighbor didn’t abduct the boy from the library. The boy simply offered the wrong person a ride home from the library. The exact same thing could have happened if the had run into each other anywhere. The library portion of the story is irrelevant.

    Considering my local library IS in the inner city and, while there are disbehaving children, the ones behaving far outweigh those not behaving I seriously doubt the only kids in your library who behave are those with their parents.

  49. Donna September 11, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    Hineata – Sadly the woman who made a stink is a longtime resident – married to a Samoan with near teenage kids. You’d think she’d have toned it down a little.

  50. hineata September 11, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    Yep, Donna, you would. How did her pedantic attitudes last that long? Impressive, really, in a sad kind of way……

  51. Brian September 11, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    Hey, sorry to impose, but next time how about including addresses to said library? You’ve got a loyal following who can make a huge difference if provided such small details.

    I used to work in Parks and Rec, another unofficial babysitting service. The simple answer is to kick unry patrons out, regardless of age.

  52. Kimberly September 11, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    I once ran into a criminal on a trip to the library as a child. I had checked my books out and went next door to get an ice cream. The guy in front of me was trying to short change the clerk. I recognized it from reading Paper Moon.

    I yelled out for the manager and explained rather loudly that the man was short changing his clerk. The manager kicked the guy out and watched him drive off. Then he looked at me and said “what am I going to do with you.”

    I said I was going home, and started to walk out. The manager stopped me and asked how I was getting home. I was using a bike path that goes next to the bayou away from the street. He followed me to the bike path and saw me off.

    I don’t know if he recongized me from the start or if he clicked who I was later, but he called my Dad’s office and told him what had happen. (Dad worked for a beer distributor). Dad told me if I ever spotted someone short changing someone again – to whisper to the manager instead of yelling.

    Then he had me demonstrate how to short change someone using money from a game.

    Later he told me that he was very thankful that I was extreamly honest – because before the age of 9 I could pick a lock (Hardy Boys) and short change an adult (paper moon), and I was trying to figure out how to open a padlock/safe lock.

  53. BL September 11, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    “A fire, earthquake, tsunami or child molester could hit the library at any minute.”

    And Mommy won’t be there to turn back the tsunami. Riiight.

    (Wait, aren’t tsunamis forecastable?)

    Might as well worry about space aliens invading and turning the library into anti-matter.

  54. Linda September 11, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    I really hate it when you do this story. Every single time you fail to acknowledge that there are parents who read you are different than the parents who these rules are made for.

    We have at least five well behaved kids who get left at our library for 6-8 hours at a time because their parents cannot afford care for them. They are mostly not disruptive to the public but they are to us. Every single day, the same exact questions about material locations, library programming, and whatever else they can think of because they are lonely. Those are the well-behaved kids who take up a minimum of two hours of our time.

    I don’t mind doing my job. I love doing my job. But those kids ARE asking us to parent them. You might not be but your kid can and does.

  55. Nicole September 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    I’m so glad these policies weren’t around when I was young! When I was in third grade, we moved temporarily – from a large house on a nice street to a small apartment on a rather run-down one. My mother was worried about bad influences, but all I knew was that the library (complete with a playground) was now only two blocks away! So what if had a smaller room, I had a larger WORLD! I could go on my own, while she stayed home with my little brother napping, and I loved it! I still credit that phase of my life for how much I love reading today.

    Fast forward – Near the end of last school year, my fifth grade son asked if he could walk from school to the town library (not far, and with a crossing guard on the busiest street), start his homework, and have me pick him up there later, instead of taking the bus home. I was a nervous wreck that I was going to get a phone call saying it was not allowed, but remembering my own childhood, I let him try. I’m happy to report that not only did I not get a call, he found that there were several other kids doing the same thing! He got his homework done without a fuss, and made a new friend on the walk.

  56. TRS September 11, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    I don’t think Libraries want to babysit kids. I don’t think this means a parent can’t let their child browse the childrens section while they are in the adult section.

    My 12 year olds get dropped off at the library and that is allowed.

  57. TRS September 11, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    I am a Psychiatric RN and I know that group homes and homeless shelters kick their residents out for the day – where do they go hang out? The Library. If you drop your kids off at these places it is wise to figure out if these are also hangouts for malingerers. There are several libraries I would never drop my kids off at. There are several I do.

  58. Warren September 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    @ all those ready, and willing to deny my daughters a few hours here and there, of library time.

    I am so very sorry that you have to put up with parents that use the library as daycare. On the other hand, you do not. You have a voice and a brain. Deal with those cases, on a case by case basis. Do not tell my kids that they are thrown in with the undesireables, and deny them access to reading and research materials.

    In this day and age of type in key words and click, the actual skill of doing research is getting lost. And rules like this will only make things worse.

    Just for the record, my kids would be the first to offer a librarian assistance, with a large loads of books or what not.

    Funny how so many people will stand up and yell at injustice, until it comes to their own line of work. And then it is just fine and justified.

  59. Ken September 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Reference; Carrie, on September 10th, 2012 at 10:19 pm Said:

    “I have to disagree with your stance. So many patrons view the library not as a place of learning but instead as a free babysitter. Policies like these aren’t aimed at the friendly, responsible 10 year old who wants to check out books. They’re (in my experience) not aimed at the molester behind every bookstack. They’re aimed at the parents of the 8 year old in charge of their three younger siblings, dropped off at the library at 9 am and retrieved at 7pm.”

    SO, the kids have to pay, ie; leave, for the comfort of the adults? Free Range Kids has hit the nail on the head…we now are so afraid of “lawsuits” that we will not let our kids be “free” to be kids…and people wonder why “kids” are still relying and living with their parents when they are 40. Age discrimination is illegal by federal law…so, if I am not mistaken…age laws are being broken as we speak and should be reported to any library that may be breaking them and asked to correct them through their local government. As for the librarians, as well as anyone who accepts a job that involves children……..If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! Just so you understand, this is from a man who has dealt with your children since 1978 and still does. Thank you for your time.

  60. Sandyrara September 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    I recently took my 8 year old to a library run childrens program where the group was activly being supervised by library staff I was told I had to be “in the building, just in case”. In case of what I asked? ‘shrugs’
    I believe that Free Range Kids should be in every baby shower gift basket.

  61. Ken September 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    @Linda, on September 11th, 2012 at 11:52 am said:

    “Every single day, the same exact questions about material locations, library programming, and whatever else they can think of because they are lonely.”

    So, As an adult if I asked you these same questions…what would you think? Did you ever stop to think that as most libraries are “publicly” maintained, ie; by the local, state or federal government, that you are there to provide a service and not for your own comfort or benefit? I maintain that librarians who feel that they are just babysitters and have laws/rules enacted for their “comfort” should find different employment away from children, before they infect our children with their attitudes. Again, I state, this is from a man who has dealt with others children since 1978. But, I will add…and never walked away while they were seeking attention, but willing stayed, listened and answered their questions….hoping to make a difference in their young lives.

  62. TRS September 11, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    “we now are so afraid of “lawsuits” that we will not let our kids be “free” to be kids…and people wonder why “kids” are still relying and living with their parents when they are 40.”

    I think most 40 year olds living with there parents it is because of the economy (no job) or they have a disability. If you are in your 40’s such as I – you grew up in the 70’s – the ultimate free range kids. Alas there were helicopter parents even back in the 70’s but their kids eventually cut the cord and probably more excited to move away than those that were given freedom to roam. I was 27 and living with my mom and they were the ultimate free range parents.

    The funny thing is – I am unable to parent my kids as my parents did. I have to drive them everywhere and follow guidelines on the proper age for them to be left home alone or in public places. At least my 12 year olds tell me they can not wait to go to college and be on their own. I don’t blame them. They will probably be excited about it and learn as they go. I told them that they are always welcome to move back if times get hard. Their response is – “I hope I don’t have to do that.”

    Honestly – I think my kids will do better. Unlike me – their freedom and independence has been more of a gradual process.

    As I look back at my childhood. I remember being afraid i.e. latchkey kid when The BTK strangler was murdering people in their own homes back in the 70’s. My parents told me – “When you get home from school – check the phone line. If there is no dial tone – leave the house and go to the neighbors.” I remember being in situations that could have gone bad fast. One time I was walking home from school – a man asked me if I wanted a ride to my dad’s football game (he was the coach). I said sure and jumped in the car. Luckily he was nice and knew my dad. When my dad saw me get out of the man’s car. He flipped – called a time out and ran across the field to yell at me for getting in someone’s car! I still don’t know why he was so upset about that particular man but he was shaking.

  63. Linda September 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Ken – I don’t expect the public to cater to my comfort. My job is to cater to theirs. But I also have to cater to my bosses and you can bet that they are wondering why I haven’t ordered the next copy of the fabulous YA series, why in the hell my programming calendar isn’t done, when is it that I plan to get that bulletin board up, and why oh why are there not books on the shelf?

    It’s still a job. I work very hard to make our young people feel welcome but I still have to balance that against the rest of my responsibilities.

  64. CrazyCatLady September 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    For the librarian who said the kids were lonely, after being there 6 to 8 hours a day….why not put them to work? If you asked them if they wanted to do something for you, I bet they would jump at the chance. Have them come with you and show them how to shelve the books properly. Let them cut paper for people to write on, have them help organize kid craft stuff (well, our library does that, maybe yours doesn’t) have them read books and make suggestions for toddler reading time….I am sure there are a whole slew of things that they could do, and would be more than willing to do if you asked. Instead of taking up your time, they could be helping you move on to more important tasks.

  65. Stijn Hommes September 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    AW13 said: “On the other hand, was this rule implemented due to worries about kidnapping/molestation/harassment? Or was it implemented to prevent unruly children from running amok in the library?”

    It shouldn’t matter. The first is ridiculous, the second means that if one person misbehaves they wreck it for everyone else. Each child should be judged on their own merits. If one adult misbehaves, they’re not going to kick out all adults, are they?

  66. Warren September 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    Again common sense is out the window.

    Identify the parents that abuse the system, as daycare, and deal with them. Period.

    Identify the kids that abuse their privelages and deal with them. Period.

    Noooooo it is just easier to punish all the kids PERIOD.

    I have a great deal of respect for libraries, librarians and the service they provide…………oh wait so do my kids.

    Again so many will scream about injustice, until they actually have to do something about it.

  67. Andy September 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    If the kid is asking the same question 25th time out of the boredom, tell him: “I’m sorry I have a work right now. Try to handle it on your own and I will get back to you when I finish.” or “I’m sorry, I have to handle this big queue of other people. Please wait for your turn.”

    Then finish whatever work you need to do and handle other customers. That is what used to happen when kids alone in library used to be normal.

    The kids back then used to be bored occasionally and they used to be unruly once in a while. It is just that nobody seen that as a reason to ban all kids out of anywhere where adults might be too.

  68. KC September 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    Good grief, what is the world coming to when LIBRARIES are deemed dangerous places, or places kids shouldn’t be in.

    We have a fantastic recently upgraded library and the place is always full of kids. Weekends, after school, most of the people you’ll see are are students studying. Sure, sometimes things can get a bit noisy but that’s usually the older kids in high school.

    As a child I loved spending time in the library and could easily while away a few hours just browsing the shelves or getting stuck in a good book.

    If the children are being disruptive….tell them. I don’t know but it seems like we’ve become a society too afraid/lazy/worried to tell kids when they’re wrong.

    By the way…why 10 years old? Who picked that age?

  69. Stijn Hommes September 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    @ Kimberly: That has to be the best policy I’ve seen so far.

    “Children have the same rights as adults to be in the library.” More policies should spell that out, because a lot of adults tend to forget it.

  70. Yan Seiner September 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    This is one of those situations that I see more and more….

    Kids are not behaving responsibly, therefore ban the kids until they are responsible. Then at some point you realize the kid is now 18, still not responsible, and you stick him in jail.

    Ever raise a dog? It’s like that. Puppy pees on rug, you put him back in the pound. Get another puppy, pees on rug, back to the pound. Then you ban all puppies in the house until they are housebroken. You get an adult dog raised by those methods, and he pees on your rug AND eats the sofa. Now what? Do you shoot the dog?

    The way you teach a kid to be responsible is hold him accountable. You have a problem with unsupervised kids in the library? You set up a “junior member” program, where a kid has to go through training and learn about the library. As long as he’s responsible, he gets to keep his card. If he’s irresponsible, you yank the card and call his parents to get him.

    That way when he’s 16 he knows how to behave. But to ban 10 year olds because a 16 year old got in a fight just makes no sense.

  71. Lark September 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    We have at least five well behaved kids who get left at our library for 6-8 hours at a time because their parents cannot afford care for them. They are mostly not disruptive to the public but they are to us. Every single day, the same exact questions about material locations, library programming, and whatever else they can think of because they are lonely. Those are the well-behaved kids who take up a minimum of two hours of our time.

    This! I used to work at a community center that was the de facto baby sitter for a lot of little kids. Some of the kids were lonely, some were troubled, some were hungry, some had had so many bad experiences that they were constantly acting out, sometimes with violence. We had some truly bad – and one actively scary (large ten year old, small and fragile adult volunteer) – experiences. We actual had a couple of parent complaints because they felt that we weren’t supervising the kids well enough – and it’s true, we weren’t. Trying to run a community resource and also run an intense program for abandoned/troubled kids is really difficult, it turns out.

    In the end we restricted unaccompanied youth hours. It was an awful decision to make, but here’s why we made it:: we had to run the place and allowing some children but not others was incredibly disruptive and it wasn’t that great for the kids. The kids who got to come in were in conflict with the kids who couldn’t; the kids who couldn’t come in were constantly dashing for the doors and having to be retrieved/kicked out. There was a constant “trial” atmosphere that really interfered with relationships with the kids – kids were tattling and challenging and it was pretty terrible. We were also losing volunteers because as it was everyone who volunteered – computer staff, shelving, events – was a de factor youth coordinator. There was no way to work in the place and not be.

    So we decided that we’d restrict our unaccompanied youth hours but staff up on the youth days and provide more youth events. Surprisingly, it worked really well! The kids adjusted, we were able to schedule kid-friendly volunteers on the kids’ days and programmer/introvert volunteers on the other days, and parents were happy. We had better relationships with the kids, too, because we were genuinely able to focus on them when they were around.

    Now, I certainly don’t believe in restricting youth access to services just because people are young – and I think that a children’s library has the responsibility to deal with children!….but I also know from experience that it is very difficult to provide a service if there are large gangs of roving kids who don’t want to behave and who are high-needs kids. I also know that saying “kick them out if they’re behaving badly” is a lot easier than doing it.

    To my mind, this isn’t an individualist problem. Libraries should provide youth services, but that means paying for them and staffing for them, not just expecting already-short-staffed libraries to do even more. If we had been able to have a qualified, skilled full-time youth person, for example, we could have had full time youth hours.

  72. Warren September 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    I applaud your efforts, at your center. Great job. As for strictly libraries, when I let my kids go, yes let them. I am not sending them, they are there because it is what they wish to do. When my kids go, I do not expect the staff to watch them, cater to them, or wipe their butts. Say hi if you want, but my kids are there to read or research. They may ask for advice now and again, about possible research options or if the system shows a book to be in, but physically it is not. These are things that adults do all the time, and more often than my kids, because adults generally expect to be served.

    They are not there to be in a program, they are there to read.

  73. Jenny Islander September 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    @TRS: “I am a Psychiatric RN and I know that group homes and homeless shelters kick their residents out for the day – where do they go hang out? The Library. If you drop your kids off at these places it is wise to figure out if these are also hangouts for malingerers. There are several libraries I would never drop my kids off at. There are several I do.”

    The old and chronically ill “malingerers” from the homeless shelter just up the hill from the library “malinger” quietly over chess games, jigsaw puzzles, and magazines. The mentally ill “malingerers” get escorted out by the police if they can’t talk to themselves quietly. Meanwhile the kids go in and out freely. What’s the problem?

  74. EricS September 11, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Maybe those ignorant, and paranoid responders should spend more time at the library themselves. So they can educate themselves of the REAL world, and not the one they trap themselves and their children in with paranoia and ignorance. I grew up where children as young as 6-7 riding bikes or walking to the public library and hanging out there for the majority of the day reading. From my recollections as being one of those children, I’ve never heard of any incidences that would warrant fear. Adults back then too, found it ABNORMAL when children weren’t in the library by themselves. Although, in a way, I do find it unsettling and unnerving for my kids to be out in public places like a library and parks. Because there are too many ignorant adults out there that are to fearful and have no common sense, and they may affect my kids mental and emotional well being. It is about 1 000 000 to 1 that a predator may get my kids. It’s about 2 to 1 that my kids will run into a know it all, fearful, arrogant, and ignorant adult. Now THAT’S scary. lol For anyone who would agree on the people that replied to the mother who let her kids go to the library…you mind your children, we’ll mind ours. And while you mind your own children, you should mind your own business as well. If you can’t be smart, don’t be any more stupid. 😉

  75. SKL September 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    Now this is one area where I’d like to go back to the good old days! It would never have occurred to me to drag my parents to the library at any age. No wonder kids don’t read anymore.

  76. Lysistrata September 11, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    I am a fan of the free range child and encourage it with my friends. But as a librarian, I must encourage everyone to take a moment to cool down. Libraries have been doing more with less for well over 8 years due to the recession. We are at the busiest we have ever been. We must consider all aspects of running a library and this is includes unattended children. Most libraries if there is not a problem will not care children are left unattended if they are of an appropriate age this is considered to be 6 or 7 for brief periods of time -no more than 30 minutes and 10 for all access of the library all of the time. But as the economy has declined, we also have seen a rise of the library being used as a babysitter. While we loved to address this issue on a case by case, we do not have the time or the man power to this do this. This is the frequent reason for a blank policy such as this. I will tell the decision was not made lightly nor without a lot of debate of the library staff. Librarians never want to reduce access to their resources if they have to. I would suggest that you talk with the branch manager and express your concerns. A dialog between the library and yourself is the best way to discuss this instead of raging about how unfair it.

  77. Donna September 11, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    If you have 5 kids who are bored and annoying you, talk to the parents about leaving their kids at the library for 6-8 hours a day. Talk to the kids about the fact that you are at work and can’t entertain them. Maybe introduce them to each other.

    I’m sure you don’t like that the kids are stuck at the library bored and feel bad pushing them away but the solution is not banning everyone their age from the library to avoid you feeling bad about telling a handful of kids to leave you alone.

    These are not insurmountable problems. If kids are annoying, tell them to stop. If kids are unruly, ban them, and only them, from the library. I’m not sure why there is all this hand wringing about this concept. This is the only difference between today and our childhood. Kids weren’t better behaved then. Adults just were willing to deal with it on an individual basis.

  78. Mary Sun September 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    This seems to be more about the behavior of the children than a lack of safety at the library. It doesn’t seem reasonable to ask that they just throw out kids who don’t follow the rules. What if they’re not within walking distance of the library? Where does the kid go after he/she is tossed?

  79. Christy September 11, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    Lenore, love your crime statistics, but some of those links are 404 – specifically the ones pointing at wordpress.

  80. Lysistrata September 11, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    It is a myth that libraries have been a “safe” place to visit. All libraries have homeless and mentally ill individuals visiting them. I worked in affluent suburb of Denver and still saw this.
    Librarians today are not just information providers, we are social workers, business consultants, and event planners. We must also juggle the issues funding. We must look at how each reaction reflects on the library. Many of you tell us that we should just through out the children who are misbehaving. We must think what happens when these children complain that their “little angels” asked to leave when others were allowed to stay and go to the newspaper and talk about how we have endangered their children. Or that we are throwing out children who have no other place to go. Please think about this where in community could an unattended child go besides the library. So to balance things, libraries often make policies that appear unfair or heavy handed. We are again are balancing the needs of our community, the management of a the overall library, and how this will appear in the newspaper headline.

  81. Uly September 11, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    Christy, a major webhost is down due to being hacked. That might be why some of those are 404s.

  82. Lollipoplover September 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    @Lysistrata- It is a myth that ANYWHERE is a safe place to visit. Gosh, your home isn’t even safe- there are all kinds of accidents to happen there. Please don’t try to restrict kids from libraries with this line of logic. As for the homeless and mentally ill being present and a danger to children- do you feel they are a danger to you? Can a homeless person come in your library to use the computer and apply for jobs to get themselves out of their situation? I don’t understand how their presence endangers children reading…

    As a librarian, I hope you realize these children are your future taxpayers. They will be paying your salary in the coming years. Don’t you want them to value libraries as a place they can enjoy books and knowledge without discrimination based on their age? Mental function? Housing situation?

  83. JessicaD September 11, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    When I was about 10,my mom would drop us off and run to the grocery while we browsed our small branch library. By the time I was 13? my brother and I rode bike the 4 miles and went alone. And when we forgot our library card, we had to ride home and get….

    I now live about a mile from a small branch and I eagerly await the day I can send my boys out and tell them to go read books!

  84. Jenny Islander September 11, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    I literally grew up in a library because my mother was a librarian and she couldn’t afford after-school child care. We had “crazies,” as we called them then, in the library every day. I can recall exactly one time a “crazy” had to be removed from the library by police. That was Art the Bird Man, who later came in and apologized for having gone off his meds. All he did was yell at people until the police showed up. Some of the other “crazies” over the years might talk to themselves or stare at nothing in particular, but as long as they kept it quiet, so what? A current mentally ill patron just doesn’t have a filter on his mouth so when he’s reading the paper all of his mental commentary comes spilling out (quietly, because he can’t turn it off but he can turn it down). And so? This endangers children how?

    And what about the status of having to sleep in a shelter provided by someone else makes a person into a child molester or child murderer or whatever? Seriously, what? Should children who sleep in the family shelter be banned because they’re homeless too?

  85. Lysistrata September 11, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    @Lolipoplover –
    Yes we do know these are future tax payers which is why the majority of libraries feature a wide away of programming for kids and teens so that they will value the library. We work to encourage life long reading through book talks, book clubs, and reading programs. Libraries are trying to be the go to spot for teens that have no other place to go in the community. Many libraries have created teen specific areas but there is normally an age library limit on who can go there and it normally 12 and up.
    Trust me the decision to restrict access to the library based on age included that discussion.
    As professional manager of a large public organization that must balance the needs of all patrons and not just the child who reads quietly in the corner, I ask that you to respect the decision of the library manager as you would respect any other business manager. Again, I would suggest that you talk to the branch manager to bring your concerns to light. They can provide you with more information on what motivated this change. You can also check the library board minutes as any change that like would have likely have required board approval and you can see what the discussion was surrounding this request.

    On the other comment, you are correct that there is no safe place but homeless and mental illness creates a while new spectrum of issues. I had to deal personally with a homeless man who appeared harmless until something set him off and he became violent. At that point of time, I am dealing with trying to keep him contained and assure no other patron is harmed, calling the police, and trying to handle the other patrons who have never seen this and also freaking out. All of this happened with, about 4 other staff people in the building because of budget that limits our staffing. Another example was when I was at a library conference where we were discussing library safety and a security manager of a midsize metropolitan library described how a mentally ill patron walked up and slit the neck of another patron. This is not designed to suggest libraries are an unsafe places but to emphasis libraries have changed since we were all children. The deregulation of mental health care in the late 70s and early 80s changed the face of the libraries with the influx of mentally ill people.

  86. Jodi Bakken September 11, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    It’s so sad we live in a world where this has to even be debated. I have an 8 yr old. I would hope for short times they could be in the library by age 10. I guess it depends alot on the child also.

  87. Donna September 11, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    “We must think what happens when these children complain that their “little angels” asked to leave when others were allowed to stay and go to the newspaper and talk about how we have endangered their children. Or that we are throwing out children who have no other place to go. ”

    These are pressures that you take on yourself. If you legitimately kicked a kid out of the library for misbehaving, why do you care what the parents think? People didn’t used to be so afraid of standing up for themselves.

    I don’t care if the child acting up has no place to go. I wouldn’t kick them out on the street but I’d certainly call the police and get him removed. The parents can pick Junior up at the police station.

    Libraries are not prisons that must deal with all types. If libraries choose to treat themselves that way, then they are to blame for the repercussion. But in reality, they are no different than any other public service – school, parks service, etc. – where if you don’t follow the rules, you get asked to leave or even arrested. My gosh, kids are mandated by law to go to school and yet schools still find a way to suspend them and even expel them. If kids can be fairly easily (I would argue too easily) kicked out of places that the law REQUIRES them to be for misbehaving, I can’t imagine that it is that hard to kick them out of places that have no duty or obligation to serve them.

    As for homeless and mentally ill, you cited a single example of a homeless person causing an issue. This is not an every day occurrence. It is a pain to deal with while it is happening but unfortunately we have homeless people in America. The same thing could happen on the street or in the grocery store or the myriad of other places that the homeless and mentally ill go and people have to deal. In fact, a mentally ill person stabbed a cop in my local grocery store of few years ago, very nearly killing her. One time occurrence, although I’m sure other schizophrenics shop there daily. Should the grocery store now mandate that all children under 10 must ride in a cart? Or should we strive to improve mental health care in this country and end homelessness so that this ceases to be an issue?

  88. Jules September 11, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    The age is 12 at my library 🙁

  89. Lollipoplover September 11, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    “This is not designed to suggest libraries are an unsafe places but to emphasis libraries have changed since we were all children.”

    What is so different from when we were children?
    What do these children do nowadays that is so different from past years?
    Our library in town is adjacent to two museums (one fine art, one history) and a cafe. My middle daughter takes art classes offered by the art museum, and my son (11) will often go to the library to pick out a few books and read while waiting for his sister. I often go to the exhibits with my youngest (we are members) and may even stop for a coffee. It is time enjoyed by everyone.
    Thankfully, our library doesn’t have crazy age restrictions and many of the children’s activities sponsored by the library are drop-off because they don’t have room for parents to stand around. The only posted issue regarding children is for parents to please pick them up before the library closes.

    Somehow, THIS library has figured a way out how to deal with children in a positive way. Why can’t yours?

    As for random acts commited by the homeless and the mentally ill, our local news yesterday featured a story about a bus stop of kids and parents who were struck and killed by an out of control SUV. How do you stop that?

  90. AW13 September 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    @Stijn Hommes: You’re right, the reason doesn’t matter. I was just wondering what the justification was.

    As for children who are looking for positive interaction with parental substitutes, well, yes, that does happen. As a former high school teacher, I have had may students like that and I can tell you that these kids will suck the life out of you if you let them. Sometimes you just have to cut the kid off and go on with your day. Nicely, but firmly.

    That being said, where are the other patrons when these children are misbehaving? I recall a few years ago (before my son was born), there was a fire alarm at my library, and we were all hustled outside. There were two young teenage boys (probably 12 or 13) outside, swearing up a storm, and there were parents with little kids around. The parents stood around, shuffling their feet and glaring at the boys, but not saying anything. Finally, I made eye contact with both of them and in my classroom voice said “Knock it off, there are little kids around. That behavior is inappropriate.” If someone is misbehaving, why don’t the other patrons also step up and tell them to knock it off?

  91. Lysistrata September 11, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    @Lollipolover -you have missed my point. The children haven’t changed. The atmosphere has changed because of the increase of very mentally ill people. These are folks aren’t just talking to themselves. Also, you sound like you have a very small library. The issue that started this discussion was the Knoxville County Public Library that has over 20 branches. I can’t find there stats right off the bat but I assume they probably have over 1,000,000 visitors per year.

    @Donna — Oh my god!. Of course we will just call the cops and ask them to haul away all of the disruptive children because of course they don’t have anything better to do. (Read with sarcasm) especially in a city like Knoxville, TN. Do you know think that a manager and director who holds the equivalent of an MBA and is running what would be a large big box store -think Best Buy wouldn’t go for that easy of a solution. Please regulating a certain set of people is a lot more work than letting the children be there. It requires policy and processes to be setup to handle this and have somebody monitor it. Again this is not about one child or restricting you right to be a free range parent but to service ALL the patrons who enter the library which includes every tax payer. So you as a tax payer can object to such a policy and talk to the branch manager.

    @AW13- it is not the responsibility of other patrons to handle children. If the parent choose to let the behavior happen it is very difficult to step in and change it. It is the responsibility of parent or the librarian who becomes the substitute parent when a child is left unattended and again we are not sitting around on our asses just reading at the desk. We are trying multitask in a world of limited resources serving a variety of patrons.

  92. Lollipoplover September 11, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    @Lysistrata- maybe the increase of very mentally ill people are parents who couldn’t send their children to the library without a security detail.

  93. backroadsem September 11, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    “This is not a place where 10 and a 7 year old should be going someplace by themselves and staying for hours without a guardian to protect them.”

    Wow. That must be one scary library.

    I completely agree with the letter writer. If the kid can’t handle being in the library, the librarian can boot him out. That should end any problems.

  94. backroadsem September 11, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    Another thought…

    I don’t think a truly free-range parent would consider using the library as a free babysitter… at least not think of it in those terms.

  95. Buffy September 12, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    @Elizabeth Dill, who said “Sorry that crime stats don’t support your stance that children shouldn’t be left alone at the library”, the crime stats don’t support this AT ALL.

  96. AW13 September 12, 2012 at 12:43 am #

    @Lysistrata: I realize that it isn’t the job of the patrons to handle the children. My point was that the patrons also have the ability to say something to these kids rather than stand around waiting for you, the librarian, to come and take care of it. And I never implied that you were sitting around on your ass. However, yours is not the only job where children will see you as a surrogate parent and try to establish that sort of relationship with you, while you have to get X, Y and Z done. I had a number of students who were simply crying out for attention, and I had to learn to draw the line, kindly but firmly, so that I could attend to my lesson plans. I don’t think that the library should be used as a babysitter, and you have my sympathy in trying to regulate the conditions in your workplace. I know how difficult it is to deal with unruly children whose parents condone their rude, antisocial behavior. I think those children should be individually removed from the premises and their library access should be sanctioned. But making a blanket rule such as this is not the way to go about handling this problem (which, by your own responses, seems to be an issue with teenagers, who by this rule would be allowed in the library anyway).

  97. Taradlion September 12, 2012 at 12:58 am #

    I also used to spend hours at my library. When I thought about it, I realized, my brother did not. He hung out at the baseball field or playground. He didn’t want to be at the library…he didn’t have to go. My parents didn’t drop (or send me on my bike) to the library because there were adults there. I went for the books, not for the supervision. Perhaps, some of the issue here is the kids that don’t want to be at the library, but have parent who won’t let them go other places where there is not a “responsible” adult. In other comments, people mentioned kicking the kids out (or having the police pick them up) and fear that parents would be furious. Maybe that’s the difference “now”…parents not being okay with their kids being “unsupervised”….the arguments of free range parents who aren’t looking for supervision are not the parents that would have a problem with their kids being somewhere else if they don’t want to be at the library (and are being disruptive).

  98. Heather P. September 12, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    In our former city, all children under 12 had to be in visual contact with an adult caregiver at all times.
    Right. I’m going to take the 4-year-old son into the bathroom with his 11-year-old sister. She’d LOVE that. Or take all of them in to change the baby’s diaper.

    Where we live now, Daddy went with them just once–to get them library cards of their own. We’ve lived her more than two years and I *still* haven’t made it to the library, but the kids have. One even parked his bike there when he went to get a package from the post office for me. At the post office, they gave it to him, as he had my driver’s license (or maybe were too stunned to argue).

  99. Jenny September 12, 2012 at 1:44 am #

    I used to work in a public library and unfortunately, there were several irresponsible parents who used the library as free after school care. The kids weren’t there for a love of libraries. This was when the economy was good, so I imagine many libraries are being overrun by hordes of kids who would be better served on a playground.

    I imagine the real reason for this policy is to eliminate the free daycare, but they couched it in the socially-accepted guise of “stranger danger.”

  100. Donna September 12, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    @ Lysistrata –

    Hmm. If a person is being disruptive in the mall, they are asked to leave. If they refuse to leave, cops are called and they are removed. If a person is being disruptive at a museum, they are asked to leave. If they refuse to leave, cops are called and they are removed. If a person is being disruptive in the park, they are asked to leave. If they refuse to leave, cops are called and they are removed.

    The library is different, how exactly? Other than the store owners, museum employees and park personnel don’t have a problem having disruptive people removed. At some point, the library has to assert itself or kids and parents will keep walking all over it.

    I live in the inner city. I believe my city ranked as the poorest city of it’s size in the US. I’ve been to the library during off-school hours. It is louder than usual, but extremely rarely disruptive. There are also occasionally police officers in the area and the librarians – a friend of mine is one – don’t have a problem dealing with disruptive kids. As a result, it is well known in the community that the library doesn’t take crap and little crap is given.

  101. Donna September 12, 2012 at 3:19 am #

    Further, it doesn’t sound to me that the under-10 set is the problem. Librarians here, while defending the rule, have repeatedly cited to problems involving OLDER children – teens, mostly. At some point, you have to deal with disruptive children as individuals unless you are going to ban ALL children from the library. There is no reason that it can’t be done with the under-10 set as well.

  102. DH September 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    When I was ten, every day during the summer, my mom would take us kids to aqua (for those not in the midwest US, that was what we called a pool facility that was outdoors, open only during the summer, and you purchased a summer pass for). While my mom and sibs went into the pool, I’d walk myself over to the branch library a few blocks away, hang out there and get my books, walk back to the pool, get myself into my swim stuff in the locker room, and then find my mom to deposit my books with her (she hated the water and sat under an umbrella in a grassy area) and go off to swim. There are so many points in this description where I was completely unsupervised by my mom: walking to the library, at the library, getting myself into the pool, swimming at the pool.

  103. Lark September 12, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    All this discussion suggests that framing library access as merely a “free range” issue is a mistake. The problems seem to be two-fold: one, as our social safety net falls apart, parents have less time to manage their kids and are probably more stressed so have less energy, leading to kids being dropped off for hours at the library/public space and probably being in a stressful family environment even when they’re at home; and two, the libraries are losing funding and staff to the point where it’s very difficult to meet the needs of the community. (Which is what I hear from all my librarian friends.) This is going to be an insoluble problem if it’s treated as a merely ideological (“free range versus restrictive”) or individual (“libraries should kick out problem kids”) situation. We need a change in our tax structure and a change in our national priorities so that we can provide libraries and public services which can meet the needs of the kids.

    Let me tell you my experience with “kicking out the problem kids”:

    – it’s exhausting, because by the time a kid is a “problem” at that level, they’re going to yell and curse and maybe break something on the way out. “Problem” kids often have “problem” parents – usually parents who are themselves overwhelmed and can’t give the kid the attention/parenting/support that they need. So the parents don’t back you up, even if the kid is breaking things or stealing.

    -it is heart-breaking to kick out or ban a needy child. It is demoralizing to realize that you’re putting the needs of the ‘average’ functional kids over the needs of a handful of children who are at risk or marginalized. It’s awful to realize that you’re kicking out a kid who will probably roam around on the street getting into worse trouble, sometimes very much worse trouble – some of these ‘problem’ children have friends or family who are involved in crime or drug-dealing and they can easily get involved themselves.

    -Most of the “problem” kids have friends among the other kids – some of the problem kids are popular and charismatic. You can end up in an adversarial relationship with all the kids. And that is really tough – until you’ve dealt with a roving group of hostile kids who see no reason not to break things, curse or steal, and who never stop, god, you don’t know what dread is. It will absolutely make you dread your workplace.

    – At the same time, you may like a lot of these kids, even when they’re shoving you or smashing something. You may see a lot of good in them and yet lack the skills or the resources to bring it out. You’re just a librarian/staffer/volunteer, not a trained social worker or crisis counselor.

    – When you kick kids out, you have to police the doors. You will have to kick them out again, sometimes over and over. That is exhausting.

    -Kids who are kicked out may vandalize – we’ve had bikes vandalized in retaliation.

    -And while all this is going on, you’re trying to offer a service – you have other patrons who need help with the computer, who need help with some other life thing, who maybe even need help with books! You’re trying to do all your other tasks – organizing, cleaning, maintaining the space, running events, managing financial stuff.

    Again, I feel like the solution is more staff, including staff who specialize in youth work and (if appropriate in the location) crisis youth work.

    As far as the situation with homeless mentally-ill people goes, I feel like there’s some confusion. Obviously, there are very occasional dangerous people, and that’s pretty awful. But what there really is, is more work. If someone is not well, you need to keep an eye on them. If someone is homeless, they’re taking sponge baths in the bathroom sinks and making a mess. (And I sympathize, absolutely – I will totally mop up. But it takes time.) If someone is self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, you’re finding syringes – and you don’t want your patrons, or god forbid a toddler dealing with those. You may also be dealing with people who are noticeably drunk or high, who fall down, who throw up, who seize, etc. I absolutely support libraries and community centers being open to homeless and mentally ill people – but again, it’s the lack of other services that make this so hard. Where are the programs to get homeless people housed? Where are the programs to get the disabled and mentally ill treated and housed? Shelters are few and often violent themselves; half-way houses are getting shut down; there aren’t any jobs. These problems are real and they place pressure on all public services, and immense pressure on all public service providers.

    Again, I feel like this is not best understood as a “free range” or individual problem – if we want accessible public services like libraries, they have to be staffed and funded at reasonable levels.

  104. Shannon September 12, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    “About children possibly being abducted: we had a 16 year old with a car that saw a teenaged neighbor at our branch and offered him a ride home. He never made it. His body was found in his burned out car a week later and the neighbor admitted doing it. ”

    Horrible, but it has NOTHING to do with younger kids being at the library alone.

    My 16 year old WORKS at the library. He is certainly allowed to be there alone 🙂

  105. Donna September 13, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    “All this discussion suggests that framing library access as merely a “free range” issue is a mistake. ”

    I disagree because I don’t believe at all that this specific rule – no unaccompanied children under 10 – has anything whatsoever to do with unruly children. It has everything to do with people believing it dangerous for young children to be unaccompanied in public.

    Kids don’t suddenly become model citizens at 10. In fact, their citizenship seems to begin to decline at around that age. There is either a policy to deal with unruly 10 year olds that can be extended to unruly 7,8 or 9 year olds or everyone is simply allowed to be unruly while the librarians wring their hands and say they can’t do anything about it. Neither situation calls for a ban of unaccompanied kids under 10.

    There are certainly a number of social problems that are evident in the library that we, as a society, should address. THIS rule does nothing to address them nor is it aimed at addressing them. So to justify this rule on unruly kids is nonsense. It seems that a lot of librarians here are saying “libraries have issues” (I totally agree) so any rule that the library gives is okay because libraries have issues, even if the rules does absolutely nothing to address those issues.

    “it’s exhausting, because by the time a kid is a “problem” at that level, they’re going to yell and curse and maybe break something on the way out. ”

    I agree. But this is just evidence that we are simply not talking about the kids under 10 to whom this rule applies. An angry teen kicked out of the library may break things on the way out. He may retaliate at a later time. This is not going to be common behavior for a 6 year old or 7 year old.

    “-it is heart-breaking to kick out or ban a needy child.”

    It is heart-breaking. I truly like many of my clients and would love to solve all their problems. I realize that doing so is the equivalent of chasing a rabbit down a hole. I would spend months of my life dealing with one client (while neglecting hundreds of others), bleed myself dry emotionally and in the end would probably fail because I don’t personally have the resources to address the myriad of problems in their lives. I have to stick with addressing their legal problems and pointing them in the direction of people who can address their other problems.

    If we want to do it well, we can only do one thing. Librarians are not social workers and shouldn’t try to act like them. Getting books and other resources to people who want them is really all that the library is about. Referring people in need to other services to the right location is certainly possible but the library shouldn’t aim to be a one-stop shop to addressing youth problems.

  106. Michelle September 13, 2012 at 4:33 am #

    This is one of the times I’m glad my daughter looks old for her age — people judge her based on her behavior, not assumptions about how old she is. No one looks twice when they see her on public transportation alone. She’s about to turn 12, but has been traveling to/from school via public bus (in San Francisco!) since she was a bit past 10. She and her friends regularly call after school to ask if they can go to the library rather than coming straight home!

  107. JP November 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    The autumn of the year I turned 9 years old, my librarian presented me with some good news. I was forever after allowed to check out an unlimited number of books! It was a red-letter day in my life.
    From that Saturday morning on, I became addicted to literature. (Still am, many decades later.)
    I recall then – it took an oversize basket carrier on my bike, and a rather large cardboard box to carry all my stuff home.

    All this happened on my own time, and at my own speed, completely independently. Just as it should have. A book is a private conversation between yourself and the author.
    Library rules and etiquette were a simple matter of course….what lay stretched beyond them endlessly – was what was inside the books. Powerful motivation.
    You know – even as a nine year-old, I was a bit of a late starter (at that time.)
    Perhaps it’s an old fashioned notion – but doing everything in our power to encourage kids to READ should be a hallmark of child-raising.
    That a library…..should be presented to a child as something somehow dangerous? is ridiculous.
    Learning how to connect with books and all they can represent – independently, is something that no end of rhetoric about our “freedoms” can surpass. It is absolutely fundamental to intellectual growth.

    Rather than becoming “dumbed down” in ignorant compliance, we become ever more vigilant, as needs be.
    Nazis didn’t have to deny access to books: they just burned them.

  108. Frustrated November 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    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.


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