The Pervert Lady in the Library

Hi Readers — This story makes me sad and sick but it doesn’t surprise me. The same thing is happening at playgrounds: No adults are allowed without a kid — as if every adult who LIKES or even LOVES kids must also want to MOLEST them. Good ol’ “worst first” thinking. Anyway, here’s the latest:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Thought you might be interested in what happened to me today. My husband and I had some appointments and arranged to meet afterwards at the recently renovated Cambridge Public Library. I had brought my laptop and my husband some paperwork, and we planned to do a little work while we were there. I suggested we visit the children’s room: a huge, sunny, room with a ceiling papered to look like a leafy canopy, pillars decorated as tree trunks, and a rug sculpted to look like a stream bed of river stones.

It was 9:00 am and the department was empty except for the librarians. We were the only patrons. We found a corner and settled in until one of the staff came over and informed us that the children’s room was reserved for people “accompanying children.” She was a little apologetic, and explained that it would get busy and loud shortly and there were plenty of other, quieter places for us to work in the library. (True.)

So we settled down in another part of the library and did some work, and when it came time to leave I went in search of the information desk to find the audiobooks for kids. I got directions and asked the woman behind the desk about why we had been shooed from the children’s department. It was explained to me that “they can’t have people hanging out there, looking at little children.” I somehow felt dirty for even having questioned the policy.

This isn’t really about my rights being infringed or really even inconvenienced: I can use the rest of the gorgeous library and am free to use the children’s room, so long as my son chaperones me. But I think this is a chilling development, and I hate what it says about how fearful we have become as a society.

I’m a parent of a 10 year old, a published children’s book author, and I grew up in and around libraries…working as a library page at my hometown library in Falls Church, VA, and at various libraries in college. I love to browse and hang out in the children’s rooms, to watch how kids and their parents interact with books, and to work surrounded by “the canon” of authors who have gone before me. I’m baffled and sad that a library would decide that a huge segment of their patrons are assumed to be dangerous to their youngest patrons. The reasoning seems to be that if you don’t have a child in tow, you can have no legitimate, innocent reason for being in a children’s section of a library. If we’re trending toward a society in which the only people with access to minor children are their parents, teachers, and caregivers, everyone loses, potentially the kids most of all. — Ann Downer

150 Responses

  1. This disgusts me. I was actually in the library minding my own business when a group of women with a few kids came by. I was smiling at the kids who were playing a cute game in a circle, and I kept getting so many “looks” from the women, who soon swept their kids away.

    It actually makes me want to avoid kids, simply become being a male interested in kids makes me out to be some sort of sicko.

    Anyway, looking forward to your talk today! I’ll be in the very front row, a couple of seats from the very centre, in my black Sunn hoodie! I hope you’re selling your book so I can get a signed copy!😀

  2. Oh, and don’t forget Daylight Savings.

  3. Oh this is really sad. I often browse the young adult section of the library for reading material – and I think I’d have to throw a major hissy if the librarian told me I couldn’t enter that room unaccompanied by my own young adult.

    If the library is so concerned about “creepy library ladies,” why don’t they insist that CHILDREN be accompanied by a PARENT instead of the other way around?

  4. This is a tough one. We recently did have a pervert exposing himself in the children’s section of the library. So I do understand the “no children without adults and no adults without children” policy. Children’s museums, indoor playgrounds, etc. have simliar policies.

    That being said, I love children’s and young adult literature and I don’t think that will change once I no longer have tots in tow. I wonder where I’ll be then…

  5. what if i leave my kid at home with his dad to steal a few quiet minutes to myself? can i not check out books for the kid in that case?

  6. As a teacher with no kids, I guess I’m lucky my local library doesn’t have a similar policy for their children’s section. I frequently check out books to read to my students. Ironically, if the policy mentioned in this post were in place, I’d have to kidnap someone’s child (or borrow one, at least) to do this… and I do it because I love children/my students, not because I’m a creep… sigh?

  7. I am a big believer in free range kids, but as a librarian, I have a different perspective on this policy, because I do know that libraries can attract all sorts of freaks and perverts. Seriously. Public librarians are on the front lines of dealing with a range of people who need social services but can’t or aren’t getting them. Every university library where I’ve ever worked has had a problem with men using the computers for extensive porn viewing–while students are sitting right next to them trying to study. And I’m not talking about the kind of viewing that’s for a class or a project.

    I suspect this policy in particular was not developed out of nowhere. And please note: the librarian didn’t say that adults without children couldn’t be in the children’s area at all, and couldn’t browse for and select books. But adults without children shouldn’t be hanging out in the children’s area.

    I also think it’s marvelously consistent of this library not just to make the men leave the children’s area, but also the women. I am sure this conversation had nothing to do with Ann herself, and everything to do with problems they’ve had in the library.

    Ann seems to assume this is a preventative policy, when I think it well could have been in reaction to something that happened.

  8. I’m a teacher. I’ve been moved temporarily to 4th grade. Due to student numbers, I’m hopefully moving back to the Tech Lab next year. On one hand I want a variety of reading materials for my students, on the other hand I don’t have hundreds of dollars to build a classroom library for one year.

    I am in the children’s section of my library 2x a week. The place is full of largely unaccompanied children. They have gotten to know me, and we talk about books. Several of them have recommended books for my students. I’ve shown them how to request books from the system. The library itself is very small. Not much bigger than my “pod” (group of 4 classrooms) at school. But we can access any book in the Harris County system by request. And if they don’t have it there is inter-library loan.

    Some of the kids get to the library under their own power. The librarians have even made an space for the kids to store their skateboards, avoiding the tripping hazard in the small space.

    Many are dropped off (by the school bus) and picked up by parents. This is off a 4 lane black top with 45 mph speed limit. It goes up to 50 mph about a mile down the road. Because of this the library does have a policy that includes calling the police if a child is not picked up on time and can’t contact an adult.

    I like this part of their policy on disruptive behavior
    Guidelines For Dealing with Problem Behavior

    1. Assume that all customers have a legitimate reason for being in the library.
    2. Be consistent in enforcing behavior standards. Use behavior, not appearance or assumptions based on stereotypes, to determine if action should be taken.

    If the OP’s library was using this standard she wouldn’t have been asked to leave the area. She was not behaving in any manner that required the staff to say boo.

    They also have this policy
    Children have the same rights as adults to be in the library. They must follow library rules of behavior.

  9. Lenore, the reactions I’m seeing to this post seem a bit over the top. Can you please clarify for us that Ann said she wasn’t allowed to hang out, NOT that she wasn’t allowed to browse and choose books? There is a HUGE difference, and readers seem to be getting worked up about something very different.

  10. Hmm. I don’t care if a pervert does get into a library, such rules are wrong. Well, I mean, of course I care, and he/she should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, etc., etc., but I don’t see that as an excuse to have either a “no adults without kids” or a “no kids without adults” policy. Both are insane. Both adults and kids should be booted out of the library if they behave inappropriately (okay, in the case of kids, held in protective custody until a parent is located) — but never assumed guilty simply for being a certain age.

    Why would an adult want to be in the children’s section if not for nefarious purposes? Well, I could think of a dozen reasons, but for starters (1) adults who are themselves new readers may enjoy reading children’s books, (2) adults who are learning a new language find children’s books easier to handle (that’s how our daughter practiced both Japanese and German), (3) intelligent, college-educated adults (me) sometimes enjoy reading children’s books — my feeling is that if a children’s book isn’t worth re-reading as an adult, it wasn’t really worth reading as a child, (4) teachers and education students (me again) might be there doing research, (5) lonely, non-perverted adults may just enjoy being in a bright, happy room with lively young children around, (6) all the card catalog terminals in the adult section may be occupied, while there are several available in the children’s section (me once more), or (7) the adult’s own children may be busy at home and have asked their mother (once again, me), “please pick us up some good books while you’re at the library.” Oops, the last reveals that I actually left my kids home alone while I went to the library…. Luckily our state is progressive (retrogressive?) enough not to have a minimum age for that, relying on the common sense of the family involved. 🙂

    And yes, I also left my kids alone in the children’s department. Never a problem.

  11. Veteran of a large urban library system here, chiming in on the librarians’ side. Our system has a policy that adults can’t loiter in the department w/o children. The only attempted molestation that I’m aware of actually happened in a bathroom in another part of the building, though.

    I have to say, since the poster and her husband were visibly working on something, I’m a little surprised they were asked to move. Maybe they have to be actually using the department’s resources in order to stay.

  12. Wow. I’m so sorry that’s happening, and it’s really not fair. It’s kind of talked about in librarian circles that adults in the children’s room can be trouble but what happened to you was not fair. When I was in library school I took a class in children’s literature and frequently had to use the children’s room of the Boston Public Library for my research- every week I had an assignment involving reading childrens’ books that I had to get from the library’s children’s room. I don’t know how I could have done my work with rules like that. Even now from time to time I have to use the Cambridge children’s room for work-related work. Now I’ll think twice before I go there, I guess.

  13. I am basing my assumption that adults can’t even use the children’s room to check books out for their kids on this quote: “I can use the rest of the gorgeous library and am free to use the children’s room, so long as my son chaperones me.” The important part here, that is probably causing so many to assume that you would not be able to select books for your child unaccompanied is “so long as my son chaperones me.” Because she says she can only use the room if her son is with her, I assume that she would be asked to leave if not accompanied by a child. I could be reading it incorrectly, or the OP could have been expressing herself unclearly, but that’s how I take it. I’d be happy to see clarification as well, however. As Daisy points out, it is a fairly significant distinction between not being able to sit and work in the room and not being able to enter it at all.

  14. One more point in defense of librarians at public libraries: oftentimes parents drop of their very young children and leave them unaccompanied in libraries, despite librarians’ fervent wish (and often policy) that parents not do this. Librarians are NOT babysitters, and cannot act in loco parentis. Yet parents still do this (and, again, I don’t mean in a free range kind of way–kids way too young to be alone get dropped off).

    So this policy might be a reaction to some poor parenting decisions.

  15. When I was a young child, there was a friend of my father, and elderly gentleman, who regularly took me to the library. He fostered my love of reading and education. He had been a lawyer. He was like the grandfather that I never had as mine had died before I was born. He taught me to play chess. Interested me in history. Had he not taken me to the library, I would never have been able to go because it was not something that my parents did.

    Years later, I heard rumors that tried to make him out to be a bad person. He was estranged from his family and had no one in his life. He was always a gentleman with me, taught me things, and encouraged me to strive for anything intellectual. I went on to become a scientist and an avid reader. This was at a time when women were few and far between int he scientific area.

    If I were to point to the person who did the most to foster my love of reading and intellectual pursuits, I would have to say it was this person.

    It is sad that we are so suspicious of people that we deny our children the chance to have people in their lives that are “unusual” or out of the norm. Sometimes these people do more to stimulate the mind of the child than others might. They do not always want to hurt the child. Many times they want to share their talents with the future.

  16. I am a children’s librarian and yes, I have had to “shoo” adults from the children’s section who are there by themselves using the computer. This is not because I think that people are there for untoward reasons, rather that the children’s area is *for* children. We get adults in the children’s area all the time — looking at children’s materials, searching for books, even reading children’s books. This is totally fine. However, the issue is when the adults are either a)using the children’s computers or b)sitting on their own computer. They are basically taking up space that is intended for children and their caregivers. There’s lots of other space in the library and we reserve the kids are for..well..the kids! Incidentally, we shoo the teens out as well.

  17. Interesting to hear the librarian’s perspective. I have a friend who is a librarian and I was very surprised to hear how common it is for her to have to deal with hair-raising situations, some times ending with a call to the police in extreme circumstances (IV drug use in the bathroom, violence and assault). She works in a library in a small Canadian city, not a huge metropolis.
    As she pointed out, it’s easy to see the attraction of the library: open long hours, warm, public bathrooms and free.
    A big round of applause to librarians who have to deal with such difficult situations, balance the needs of all the library’s users and who work to keep libraries open and accessible to all.

  18. I just want to second ulunyc’s sentiments.

    It also sounds as though the librarian treated you with dignity and respect and did not ask you to leave because you were prohibited from accessing children’s materials. You were asked to leave the children’s area because there is already an area designated for your use.

    In addition, whether officially or unofficially children’s librarians are tasked with protecting children from predators (yes, their parents leave them alone in the library) by our library. I don’t know what a child molester looks like, I only know that an adult who could be using the adult area has chosen to sit amongst (mostly) unaccompanied children looks like. I’m going to make my job easier and perhaps the kids safer by asking you to use the adult area. Don’t make a children’s librarian’s job harder than it already is.

  19. This is just like those “public” playgrounds that ban single adults from being around the area. Like the playground, the library is a PUBLIC place, paid for by the tax dollars of that so-called creepy single adult. That gives the creepy single adult the right to use all the facilities whenever they please.

    As for the argument that it makes the parents uncomfortable, tough tilly for them! When did the world start to revolve exclusively around parents and children? What about rights for the rest of us?

    What does it teach children also, to always be segregated from single adults who aren’t preauthorized to interact with them? At some point, these children are going to have to learn how to deal with the big bad world without Mommy and Daddy guarding them. Are we going to have a generation of adults too petrified to set foot beyond the walled garden of childhood? It certainly seems that way to me.

  20. It just makes me wonder, why is our culture (and country) so saturated with these deviants? I really don’t have the answer. It makes me sad. What I can tell you, having lived abroad is that you do not have these stories of baby snatching, molesting, abduction etc. airing everyday. I don’t think it’s media censorship either (because I know some people would say news in other countries is more controlled.) I lived in the Czech Republic and saw babies in strollers parked outside a store front because they were too large to get inside. It was not seen as neglect nor did mothers have fear that someone was going to scoop their child out from under their nose. It was a culture and community of neighbors looking out for each other. As an American, I was totally shocked the first time I saw it –we’d never do that here–but there are an extremely high number of violent crimes and crimes against children in the USA. Why?

  21. I don’t much care for this policy. As Lenore said, it’s thinking the worst first. To me, that’s just unacceptable, regardless of the creepy things which have occurred before–and I mean no disrespect for the victims of those incidents.

    This reminds me somewhat of when I was shooting photos at the park about 18 months ago, I ended up with a killer shots of the ducks in the lake.

    Well anyway, while I was there taking shots, some paranoid type came by screaming “don’t be taking photos of my kid, you pervert.”

    First-off, legally, I can take photos of kids in the park, it’s 100% legal. It’s not necessarily creepy, either, simply Wikipedia photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson for more about an art form of this very type known as street photography. (This was covered before in Lenore’s prior post about taking photos of children.)

    Second, as Lenore stated, this is a classic “assume the worst first” type of thinking. Even if my taking photos of a child in the park was creepy–and I’d argue it isn’t if it’s street photography–but still, even if we accept it is creepy, it’s not what I was there for. I was there to take photos of the ducks in the lake, and that killer shot I showed hangs on my wall as a 16×20 decoration that’s far more personal than merely buying something at WalMart.

    As I told her–and anyone else who gives me that whole “don’t take photos of my kids you pervert”–I tell them, “don’t worry, I only take photographs of things which look good.”

    Works every time.

  22. I am usually a big fan of your blog. This topic though, is misguided at best (for many reasons, including those highlighted above by some comments) and is just one more unnecessary attack on an already dangerously bullied public service at worst.

    Libraries enforce their rules uniformly due to being sued for allegedly enforcing rules for certain people. We’ll ask people to leave if they are asleep no matter whether they are the smelliest, dirtiest person, or a person in an expensive suit. We even have to waste countless hours writing our rules so that we can’t be interpreted as discriminatory. We even have to spell out that we don’t allow illegal activities. (see: http://www.spl.org/default.asp?pageID=about_policies_conduct)

    Most public libraries have many reasons behind their “no unaccompanied adults” rule. And most also build into that rule that adults may be in the space as long as they are actively using the resources (computers not included). For instance, here’s the SPL’s policy:

    Public Use of Children’s Areas Policy

    PURPOSE
    Children’s areas within Library facilities are special parts of the Library housing special collections, programs and services designed especially for children. The purpose of the Children’s areas in Seattle Public Libraries is therefore to provide children and their caregivers with access to these special children’s materials, programs and services.

    POLICY
    Children’s departments are available for use by those patrons who are accessing the special materials contained in the children’s collection and for use by children and their caregivers, to attend children’s programs, and to utilize other services provided by children’s departments. Patrons not included in these categories may be required to leave the children’s department and instead use other areas of the Library.
    ———————————–

    This isn’t *just* about keeping out the perverts. This ALSO ENABLES FREE RANGE CHILDREN. It gives them a space that is really for them. Many children do not have the freedoms of a free range child, and this is the closest they’ll get to it. Especially if their helicopter parents can feel safe leaving their children there. (Parents who drop off their under-5 year old children for hours not included.)

    Furthermore, before you go picking on libraries more, remember that public librarians tend to encourage children to read whatever they like. That includes going into the adult sections and picking out whatever materials they desire. You of all people should be the strongest supporter of public libraries.

    But don’t worry, if public libraries continue to get negative press – even from people like you who enjoy their use – we’ll continue to lose funding, more of us will shut down completely or be taken over by union-busting private companies, and you won’t have to concern yourself with us ever again — we’ll be gone.

    And while I realize that you weren’t intending to bash libraries completely, just read some of the comments from people who “agreed” with your point, to see the negativity that you spread.

  23. “4. For the teens, what teen would come in if their room was full of adults?”

    A teen who was more interested in the books than in avoiding icky adults at all costs?

    This is a library, not a teen dance club. I can’t imagine why a loathing for adults would keep a kid away from books, if said kid actually wanted to read books, which is the purpose of being in a library.

    This policy is NOT defensible. Not if it is a blanket policy against all adults in all kids’ areas, all the time. I could see it if is strictly limited to not letting adults “camp out,” since after all there is little reason to do that in the kids’ room rather than another area. I still think it’s an overreaction, but at least not one that interferes with dangerous activities like “grabbing some books for my kids while out running errands without them” or “teachers getting books to use in the classroom.”

    Bizemom, it’s not censorship vs. freedom. It’s sensationalism vs. the lack of it. There is NOT more crime against children in the the U.S., there is a more sensationalistic approach to it in the news.

  24. BTW, I’m right there with the “librarians shouldn’t have to be babysitters.” But what I’m hearing from some quarters lately is “librarians shouldn’t have to be distracted from their other tasks by having to deal with disruptive patrons, so they should be able to make up all kinds of excessive restrictions on people so they don’t have to worry about anything.”

    In an ideal world, librarians would only have to do librarian-tasks. But the reality is that in any environment where you are dealing with the public and the public is entirely free to come and go because you are on public property, dealing with inconsiderate patrons is part of the job. Patrons who are not actually causing a problem should be free to move about in a normal, non-disruptive manner.

  25. Besides, doesn’t being the “adults can’t be in the children’s room” and “children can’t be unaccompanied” police also distract from a librarian’s “real” duties?

  26. @pentamom said “This is a library, not a teen dance club. I can’t imagine why a loathing for adults would keep a kid away from books, if said kid actually wanted to read books, which is the purpose of being in a library.”

    Part of the biggest charge for librarians is ATTRACTING NEW READERS. If a teen comes in, but is too embarrassed to look at books, we’re doing it wrong. Making a welcoming space for teens helps bring in kids who are not yet – but could become – avid readers, who no adult could keep from books. In the meantime, let’s not make it harder to get kids reading, please.

  27. Fair enough, Mim. It’s just that if “having adults in the room” goes on the list of “making it harder” for kids to get interested in books, it must be a near impossible task. Of all the things in the world that should make it hard for anyone to do anything, having someone in the room that you aren’t interested in socializing with but don’t actually have to interact, speak with, or even look at if you don’t want to, would have to be pretty low on the list for anyone who is ever, actually, going to get interested in reading.

    Does it really make it harder, or is it just an excuse for kids who really aren’t going to be interested in reading anyway?

  28. I love stopping by our children’s section and immersing myself in books whether my children are with me or not. Our children’s section is not blocked off from the rest of the library and adults and children share the same computer system. The policy described is silly, and I hope that libraries with similar policies rethink them. Indeed it is a little scary to think that they thought up that rule in the first place. Imaginations sometimes can bring out the worst in people.

  29. What no one seems to have pointed out (forgive me if I missed it) is that this rule only makes people feel like they are doing something.

    A majority of kids being molested are being molested by family members, immediate or extended.

    So, kicking someone out of this environment actually reduces the chances of a child facing this problem being noticed.

  30. I agree with daisy. If there is a rule about not hanging out, thats fine. I’ve seen many a weirdo hanging outside our public library🙂 and agree that libraries do attract many people who need social services.

    I do think this is an ingrained thing though. I pride myself on being a (little) free range. I like it when people chat to my children (in a nice way) but even I second guess myself.

    I took my kids roller skating and there was an old grandpa roller blading at the rink. He was sans any children or grandchildren. there were about 4 other adults skating (me included)

    I went home and told my mother about this cool grandpa who was skating at the rink (he had moves for an old guy) my mother said “oh I hope he wasnt a pedophile!!”

    Just the other day I took 5 kids to the pool alone (one was a neighbour) I was swimming holding my baby and trying to make sure the kids didnt get into too much mischief. My 4 year old ended up swimming (annoying) an old man who was there for physical therapy.

    In my head I kept thinking, I dont think I should let her play with that man. Both for she is probably annoying him, and I felt a little uncomfortable. Anyway I let it go and they chatted together while swimming for half an hour. As I left the man asked me ‘if all the kids were mine!!’ and how delightful my 4 year old is. And he said ‘oh she s a cheeky one’

    I’m glad I let her swim with him. I think having older people around is good for kids.

    We used to visit my husbands grandma in an old peoples home and many people there would want to hold my baby. One lady even said it had been 20 years since she had even SEEN a baby.

    Letting various generations mingle is important.

  31. I was done, but I had to respond, and I hope my tone is respectable vs becoming a “flame war” if you will.

    That said, (@Mim Librarian), I understand that as a librarian you are concerned with keeping order & not losing funding due to things becoming creepy & so forth. However, I do not agree for a minute that Lenore Skenazy is spreading negativity per se as you state. Ms Free Range Kids (Lenore) simply takes exception to an environment, and policies that reinforce this, that assumes adults have evil intentions where children are concerned. This especially applies when it becomes a “think the worst first” as she says. She disdains this both for the chilling effect it has on adults who’ve done no wrong and, probably most of all, because of what children are missing out on when they could otherwise interact with adults around them and experience so much joy and life lessons in doing so.

    Yes, I have no doubt that there have been weirdos flashing themselves to kids in a library, the management of the library will often-times assume a “CYA” disposition to prevent lawsuits and negligence, and it’s distracting from your “real” job to have to interpret the intentions of every adult who would be in the child’s section, it becomes easier to just restrict it altogether at which point there is no risk.

    However, if Free Range tells us anything, it tells us this–going for zero risk too often results in a loss of quality of life due to excessive reactions fueled by an understandable desire to prevent tragedies. You can only go so far in that pursuit before you end up causing as much harm in the “quality of life” realm as you are preventing in the “tragedies” realm.

    In short–yes, everyone is alive, but what kind of life are we living as a result? And if it’s that empty and as sterile as a hospital room (and as boring and lifeless), then maybe we’re going too far to try to be perfect and 100% risk-free.

    It’s like the swimming pools that ditch diving boards because of fear of accidents & lawsuits, the lake in Patagonia AZ I used to go to where the park rangers would eject from the premises anyone of ANY age caught diving from the vantage points, and the public parks in southern FL (forget which city) which seek to outlaw adults from visiting if they don’t have children with them.

    In my opinion, the new gasoline cans with those “safety nozzles,” a concoction which I find extremely annoying to deal with, are another example of this. It is too bad that the children died from their curiosity with regards to the “old” gasoline cans at their home, but now, thanks to an overreaction to this, all new gas cans are ridiculously anal & annoying to even begin to try & use.

    Me: I buy the “old” kinds wherever I see them (typically at garage sales), I keep them around the house, and yes–I have a 1½ & 3½ year-old. And yes–I have the expectation that they are to listen to me & leave the gasoline cans absolutely alone. They do, because they know I mean business and back-up what I say.

    I also let these same 2 kids approach strangers to say hi even as I teach them to NEVER run off with them. I let them run up & down the sandy beaches of a local lake, the entire beach–while I’m in the water simply looking out periodically to make sure they’re still good. I let them play on the swings at the park, just the two of them–while I’m about 50 yards away playing basketball, watching them as I do so. And if any kids come up to play with them, great–so long as my own kids don’t run off out-of-sight.

    And yes–if I went to a local library & they told me I should stay out of the child’s section because they can only assume that I am a pedophile, pornographer, or pervert–i.e., as Ms Free Range Kids would say, assume the worst first–then yes I would take that as an insult, and rightly so. This does NOT conflict with my respect for the hard work that librarians do and their need to maintain a quality environment for all. But this does NOT mandate treating all adults like would-be child molesters just preening for a chance to pounce.

    (I hope there are no spelling errors and/or typos.)

    LRH

  32. A dance party in the teen room sound like a great idea! I’m filing that one away for winter break.

    But seriously, we don’t ban unaccompanied adults from the kids room just because of child molesters. That would be an over reaction to a small risk. Libraries are heavily used, super crazy busy.
    How would you feel if you showed up with your kid and there was nowhere for them to sit and read, because the room was full of adults on laptops?

  33. I suspect the response given by the librarian regarding ‘looking at little kids’ was not the intention of the rule and was just personal interpretation.

    Our library has both a children’s section and a teen section in which there is space designated specifically for those groups that no adult is allowed in (without an accompanying child). The way it was explained to us was that the kids were more comfortable without as many adults shushing them and it allowed them some independence.

    If that’s not free range, I don’t know what is.

  34. @Larry — I appreciate your points, and I too am against this “assume molestation” mentality.

    Molestation is not the only reason to ask child-free adults to not use the space in the children’s area, IF they are not using the children’s books. Unaccompanied adults are welcome in almost all public libraries’ childrens areas — if they are using the books.

    I also agree, that in most situations, the world is not oozing child molesters left and right. But have you ever spent a lot of time at a public library?

    I have had to ask adults, who are yelling about being off their medication, to leave the library. Not just because they are being loud – but because *and this is a REAL situation* they had deficated in their pants and then sat in multiple seats around the library.

    The library takes all sorts, and we need to write our policies to deal with these situations. Libraries have been sued by people who fit the above description of the “problem patron” because we discriminated against them when they didn’t have the money to shower. If we do not enforce our policies uniformly, then we leave ourselves open to lawsuit. And Americans love to sue. Libraries have been bullied into this position. I would love to see you fight the cause, not the symptom.

  35. The people who pointed out that parents with sick children and teachers also are taxpayers who have a right and a reason to select and check out books are 100% dead right on this.

    The librarians who are justifying this policy because there once was a pervert are dead wrong.

    You know what happens when there is a pedophile exposing himself? You call the police and have him arrested!!! Duh! Why is that not OBVIOUS! This really makes me mad that CALLING THE POLICE for actual pedophiles is NOT the answer and the answer instead is to wrongly pre-indict accuse the 99.999% of us that are NOT looking for to expose our wee wees to the wee ones.

    Outrageous. Librarians, come to your senses please. If this hasn’t made an impact I can come up with lots of relevant analogies, just let me know if it has to come to that.

  36. I gotta say, the librarians make some good points, especially Mim above, who points out that libraries are just as much victims of our too-happy-to-sue society as anyone else. They, like many of us, have been put in a place where they are not allowed to just use common sense in some instances, lest they be accused of singling someone out, etc. . Also, to Scott and others who say “Well if someone exposes themselves, THEN you just do this or that,” I have to say that obviously the goal here is PREVENTION (and yes, even as a FR mother, that does appeal to me on one level). Let’s face it, librarians do deal with the spectrum of humanity, and it’s not wise to pass judgment on someone whose job/experiences you don’t fully understand. It’s not exactly an easy call here.

  37. People, what is your obsession with molestation? This is not a molestation issue. A child can wander anywhere in a library and get molested. This is about providing a space for children, and a space for teens, and you know what? most of the reason we do this is because ADULTS complain about the noise that teens and children make.

  38. We call the police all the time in my library. There were men advertising for other men to meet them at the ‘glory hole’ at one of the bathrooms in my library. Can you imagine your kid going into the bathroom stall at a library and seeing a penis stuck through a hole in the stall all? This is not paranoia–this was happening at my library, in a city that is not especially big or especially crime-ridden.

    I really invite you all to have a conversation with the librarians at the reference desk the next time you are at your local library, even in wealthy suburbs. You will be really surprised by the stories you here.

    In regards to the person who said adults shouldn’t camp out in the children’s room: the original post said, “We found a corner and settled in…”

  39. I feel for the librarians, but I do think it is misguided to reserve a space for “only” children. I feel it is good for kids to be around various adults, and vice versa. I agree they need space and all that, but personally, I’ve never been in a kids’ area of a library and found it crowded. Maybe I live a sheltered existence. If it were crowded, one would hope that normal adults would get out of the kids’ way.

    I don’t agree with the “shushing” comment. If it’s a kid’s area, no adult patron has any business coming in there and hoping for a quiet place to work. An adult who is sitting in the kids’ area because it’s nice to be around kids is not going to go around “shushing” them.

    Personally I have always gravitated to the kids’ section of libraries, bookstores, and any other establishment. I have always been involved with literacy and education, so I like to browse just to see what’s out there – what kinds of easy-readers have come out recently, etc. I also love to watch kids because I find it fascinating to see how their minds work and how they learn. And I would never complain or give a kid the “evil eye” for making a little noise in the kids’ section of any establishment. That is for his mom to do.

    I think having people like me around in the kids’ section would make kids feel more comfortable and trusting toward adults, not the other way around.

    I understand there are weirdos and that in some places they would be very tempted to hang out in libraries because it’s comfy there. But wouldn’t a child be safer in a room where “normal” adults often hang out, versus an area where “normal” adults are unwelcome and so only “weirdos” are willing to go there?

    And the statement “can’t have people looking at kids” is frankly very offensive.

  40. Stories you *hear

    Listen, I’m not interested in getting into a flame war here. What I’m really baffled by is why, when free range parents who are also librarians say that libraries have a good reason for certain policies, why other free range parents can’t seem to consider that maybe we know a bit more about libraries than they do.

    You all seem so caught up in your outrage that you sound as reactionary as the parents who don’t let their kids ever leave the house.

    Some of the other librarians on this thread made excellent points: namely, the children’s library is for children. Get your books, visit, read to your kids there. But don’t hang out. Go to the rest of the library for that. Why is this policy so terrible, again?

  41. Pretty much we see the libraries with this policy teaching children that all adults are dangerous perverts to be eschewed unless they have proven otherwise, apparently by being accompanied by an adult.

    Of course this doesn’t make much sense, I recall that that old guy who kidnapped and raped that girl for over 10 years would take her out in public and she was homeschooling her children she had by her abductor with library books. I am sure they went to the library many times together and it was OK for him to be there because he was with the girl he had kidnapped and was raping. That is OK, just as long as the abductor accompanies the victim, but if a school teacher enters the area, well watch out, we have a pedophile on the loose until proven otherwise, perhaps as was noted the teacher can abduct a child and then she will be allowed to browse the children’s section.

  42. correction: Pretty much we see the libraries with this policy teaching children that all adults are dangerous perverts to be eschewed unless they have proven otherwise, apparently by being accompanied by a CHILD.

  43. This rule is ridiculous. I also think that the rationale is based on my first feelings when I first read this article – Why the hell would any adult actually WANT to hang out in the children’s section of a library? I like kids and don’t worry about people thinking I’m up to no good but I prefer to spend my minimal time away from my child in less kid-oriented environments. It’s easy to see how some make the leap to they must be there for nefarious purposes when many adults would rather eat nails then spend time in the children’s section of the library (or at the playground) if they don’t have to. People need to take a step back and realize that not everyone feels that way.

    This rule clearly feeds into the growing division between children and adults. Am I the only one who feels like we are heading into some weird Jim Crow-like society where adults accompanied by children (there are no more unaccompanied children) and adults without children have to ride in separate cars on the train and drink from separate water fountains? And it’s coming from both sides. Adults are being pushed out of the children’s section of the library and children are being pushed out of certain restaurants and into “crying areas” on planes. I think that they are a reaction to each other – the more we handcuff adults unaccompanied by children from interacting with children, the more children are going to be pushed out of areas where adults congregate. And, personally, I don’t want to be stuck eating at McDonald’s for the next 13 years because I have a child.

    As for the matters that the librarians mention, I completely understand rule of: Kids get first dibs on everything in the kid’s area. If the place is packed and kids are looking for a place to be, adults w/o children hanging in the area can be asked to leave. If a kid wants to use the computer, the adult needs to go. But a blanket rule that just assumes that adults get in the way of children is no better than an airline making some flights kid-free (yes, it’s been considered). Kids and adults used to be able to be in the same sphere without rubbing each other the wrong way and we need to get back to that somehow.

  44. Let’s talk about mental child abuse. Any library that is teaching children that all adults are potential pedophiles through such a policy like this is ABUSING children. These teachings are SO damaging to a child, making him paranoid and distrustful, that the teaching itself is plain and simple child abuse.

  45. daisy, you have made some good points, but I don’t see any logic for the thought that kids are more comfortable, more productive, or more safe in an area where normal adults’ presence is discouraged.

    Allowing adults in the kids’ area is a lot different from subjecting the kids to adults’ standards of behavior.

    Why do we feel scared when we walk through a dark alley? Because there’s nobody there, and if we meet “one” person, that person might be any kind of person. If we see three or four people acting normal along the way, we feel a lot safer, even though we know nothing about those people. It’s just a lot less likely that something perverted is going to happen when there are a bunch of normal adults around.

  46. I don’t understand why libraries often seem to raise the most ire on this blog. I just don’t get it.

    Our library system recently (about a year or so ago) redid their teen/YA section. They moved all the materials to a separate area in every library – separate from the children and the adult areas. They put signs up to the effect that no one except teens were allowed into these areas.

    For me, this has raised a couple of issues. First of all, why are those materials forbidden to others? There’s not any such policy for the children’s area (where the policy is just that you must be there to check out children’s books or with a child). Second, the policy is upsetting to me because it’s completely unenforced. I dislike the policy, but I’m even more upset that they made a policy that they clearly never intended to take seriously in the first place. When I’ve gone looking for something in the children’s section and it has turned out to be in the YA section, the librarians themselves have told me to go get it from there! And they can clearly see that I’m not accompanied by a teen – only a couple of elementary schoolers, who probably shouldn’t see some of the content in the graphic novels kept in there.

  47. Dear Mim, I think the “obsession” with molestation is the reason given by the librarian in the original story was “they can’t have people hanging out there LOOKING (emphasis mine) at little children.

    If there was some other reason for the policy, the librarian was free to say so, and not start all this fuss. The reason for the fuss was not primarily the policy “No adults in the children’s section w/o a kid”, it was the explanation which was basically that the library starts with the assumption that all adults are perverts.

    At least, that is my impression.

  48. See now I could see the library asking them to leave IF they were showing any predatory tendencies. But 2 adults sitting and minding their own business? Thats not right!

    I think the person writing the letter should have mentioned that she is a CHILDRENS book author and was looking for more subject matter.

    Yes people think of parks and childrens rooms in libraries as “feeding grounds” for bad things and a library should do what they can to protect kids from that. But that means being watchful and IF there is a problem, THEN doing something about it.

    My local library just went through a 16 month renovation. much of which was the childrens area. They rearranged the shelves so they aisles can be seen from the desk, added 2 staff members during “peak” times, opened up the entrance area visually with window walls and added computers near the entrance (instead of in the back room where they had been). With all that renovation, I have often been tempted to go there to sit and read instead of to one of the “back in a corner” seating areas they have in the adults sections.

  49. I actually think the bigger risk at the library is to teens, not to little kids. I was never bothered as a child browsing the library alone, but starting at around age 14, I was repeatedly chatted up, followed around, and asked out by men (and once, by a woman) while I was trying to read or study. I do let my sixth-grader look for books in the kids’ and teens’ sections by herself, but she knows that if anyone makes her feel uncomfortable, she should head straight for the nearest librarian.

  50. Another thing. I used to have a neighbor who was a children’s author. He liked kids and often had them over his house. He encouraged them intellectually, etc. Unfortunately, he also happened to be a pedophile.

    But if he had gone to the children’s section of the library, I guess he would have been allowed in because he was a children’s author. And I would not be welcome without my kids, since I haven’t published anything. Hmm.

  51. To everyone who thinks that this rule is a good rule, is it ok to ask an adult to leave a childrens’ park? The park is for children. If the adult is just sitting on a bench inside the park, they are utilizing it.

    If it is ok at the library but not at the park, what is the difference?

  52. (@daisy). The reason why people take offense is obvious. According to the original post, the author of the letter states that she was told that “they can’t have people hanging out there, looking at little children.” That is a FAR different matter than the understandable aspects you mention–eg., having a place where children don’t have to be “shushed.”

    I’m sorry, but I just refuse to believe that there are really THAT many perverts & weirdos in the library. I’m sure there are some, I’m not trying for a minute to assert that there are none at all, but I simply do not believe that there THAT many, certainly not to where we need to be assuming that anyone in the children’s area is a likely pervert.

    And yes, it’s been awhile, but for quite awhile I was a heavy user of the library myself, I went everyday and stayed sometimes for 2 hours or more. I never observed it to be anywhere near as full of weirdos as others had made out to be the case. Maybe that’s not the same level of experience & knowledge as someone who works there all day everyday, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to dismiss what I’ve observed and just assume that I’m operating out of ignorance with what I think of the matter.

    Nobody here, I think, means to disrespect your job & the possibility that librarians know some things. However, to me that doesn’t circumvent or override that a USER of the library has their own concerns, too–and frankly, I think their concerns matter just as much, if not more.

    After all, the library is for the people who use them, not the ones who work there–just as a restaurant is for those who eat there, not those who work there.

    The real issue here is this: the person was told to move to a different area of the library NOT because the children need an area to themselves with regards to not being “shushed” or to make sure there’s enough room for them, the person was moved under a “guilty until proven innocent” view of presuming her to be a potential molestor or pedophile, and to do so–risks of lawsuits and etc notwithstanding–is just plain wrong, and you don’t need to work in a library to inherently understand this.

  53. “What I’m really baffled by is why, when free range parents who are also librarians say that libraries have a good reason for certain policies, why other free range parents can’t seem to consider that maybe we know a bit more about libraries than they do.”

    Because I haven’t read a single good reason for a blanket rule from a librarian yet. The kiddie rapist reason is not any more valid at the library than it is at the playground. Sorry, but the exact same people who hang out at libraries hang out at the park when it’s nice. The logistical reasons can be handled by less reactionary rule.

    Some adults LIKE to be around children. A senior whose children are grown may want to be reminded of her younger days for a few minutes. A divorced dad who now only sees his kids once a month may want to hear children playing for a little while (I actually had a friend who went to playgrounds after his divorce for this reason). A mom working out of town away from her kids may find their antics endearing. A couple may need to be in the library to work but want to discuss things slightly louder than they’d be able to in the adult section. A parent may want to read a book before getting it for their kid (or with their kid or just for their own enjoyment) and that’s easier to do without moving to a different section of the library. It may be the prettier part of the library. We could go on with the millions of reasons that adults may have for being in the kid’s section of the library but the main one is that I don’t think we need to prohibit anyone from being anywhere based solely on their age. I don’t want to be prevented from bringing my kids places that I want them to be and I don’t want to prevent adults from being where they want to be.

  54. Last school year, I mentored a student who was interested in mythology, and we spent a lot of time in the library together looking at both the kids and adult collections on the subject.

    The sad thing was that this father of two didn’t feel comfortable waiting at a table in the kids’ section, so he headed upstairs and we ended up phoning each other when his son and I were finished browsing.

    What are we doing? We’re kicking out some of the people who would be most likely to intervene in a bad situation. What decent parent could stand by while anyone’s child was being groomed or victimized? These are your eyes and ears.

  55. Ok, I thought of myself as a free-range parent, until I read all the self-centered, unreasonable, and plainly ridiculous responses above of those who fancy themselves the same.
    As a mother of two voracious young readers in the lower grades, who enjoy browsing the children’s area independently and love to settle down for an hour or two reading in our NYC public libraries, I wholeheartedly support the policy of reserving the children’s area for children and their caregivers..

    Have you seen the number of mentally unstable, aggressive, or homeless people with poor hygiene who seem to spend most of the day at the NYPL? And how about the crowd of yuppie laptop users who make any place their personal business office for hours, occupying large tables with all of their papers and never giving an inch to others?? When I visit the library on my own, I never stay in the children’s area for longer than to pick out new books. Let’s give the kids a comfortable, stimultating environment where they can foster their love of learning and reading without having to deal with clueless, sef-centered and obnoxious adults for once.

  56. I tend to agree with a policy that keeps adults from loitering in kids’ sections. But looking at books for a few minutes, no. As for segregating generations, I usually see kids all around every library, even those with separate kid and teen sectons.

    I am much more concerned about keeping kids out of the grown up books than keeping adults and teens out of the kids’ area, however. I was told more than once at age 10-12 that I wouldn’t be allowed to check those books out anyway. (Those books were great classic literature that would be in my high school library later.) I was even “watched” by the afternoon librarians. I thought at first she was worried that me and my pal were going to get too giggly at our table. It turned out I had been branded. This painful situation went on for months; I stopped reading books for a while, as I had no school library. What did I read instead? The newspaper stories about war and poverty, the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe (book of the month club), and other light reading! So I tend not to believe that you can or should “protect” anyone from ideas.

  57. First of all, the librarian seems to have made a pretty offensive comment to the letter writer, but I’m inclined to believe the other librarians who post here saying that such policies are actually more about defining space for particular age ranges who would otherwise be less likely to get as much out of the library. So better training, and perhaps more of an emphasis on customer service in the role of the public librarian’s job may be in order. But you get thoughtless and offensive comments occasionally from people in virtually any service job (though not nearly as many as those in service jobs hear from the public).

    From a political perspective I’m not that comfortable with the idea of enforced age segregation. But I think libraries are in a hard place with this sort of thing. In our society (and I am generalizing here) kids have a culture which is separate from adults’. As a parent I’m beginning to see the negative side of this, though as a kid and a childless adult it really didn’t occur to me. But libraries have to work with reality, and if they are going to cultivate a space where kids and teenagers are comfortable they may need to do this. Since kids are a vulnerable population (i.e. in practice they have less power and less of a voice than adults do) I think these efforts are OK.

    I would like to see society change somewhat so that there is more acceptance of children in the public sphere and more intergenerational activity and intercourse. But I don’t think libraries can be the change agent for that.

  58. So as a teacher then I cannot go in the library’s children’s department and pick up some books.

    Or if I had children I would not be able to go and pick them up some books if they were poorly. ( I do have children but they are grown up)

  59. I really don’t have a problem with policies preventing adults without children from loitering in kids areas — parks or libraries. At the library in my hometown, a lot of homeless folks congregate in the adult section on cold, winter days. I’m glad they have a place to go to stay warm. It doesn’t bother me. But, I’m glad the place they go isn’t the kids section where my children are reading stories and checking out books. Same goes for playgrounds. When I lived in NYC, there were a number of gated playgrounds for little ones to play. These aren’t parks, they’re playgrounds for kids. Inevitably, in the wee hours of the morning you would encounter someone sleeping it off on one of the benches. I want my kids to be exposed to the real world, but it’s nice for them to have comfortable places where they can just be kids — like the library and the playground.

  60. Checking back in to thank you all for your perspectives and comments. To clarify, I think that I would have been free to come in and choose books, but I was not welcome to settle and stay in the room, a gorgeous, inspiring space and kind of temple to the imagination. As a children’s book author, it makes me very, very sad that the library assumes I am a risk, and shoos me from a room that, at that moment, had no children in it. I have never been asked to leave the children’s room of other libraries, including the children’s rooms in nearby Somerville, Arlington, and the main branch of the Boston Public Library.

  61. Also, I wouldn’t have identified myself as a children’s book author unless it were relevant to my book search, or I was offering to come in and work with kids. I don’t think I should have rights in the children’s area that aren’t extended to all patrons. And I am sure that if I had come in and asked for help finding a book, or come in to select books for a sick kid, that would have been fine. The librarians in the children room, as I say, were a little apologetic and in fact did not mention the real reason behind the policy, which was only revealed when I question the woman behind the information desk. What was the issue was the idea that we weren’t welcome in the space itself, because the presumption was our gaze was “dirty.” I’ve received the message loud and clear, and I won’t be back to their children’s room any time soon. We have access to their books through inter-library loan and I’ll take my library patronage to the children’s book in my own town.

  62. First off, homeless does not equal criminal or pedophile. I deal with criminals day in and day out and extremely few are homeless. They are definitely more likely to be harassed for loitering but that’s about it. As a matter of fact, I seriously doubt that most of my clients know where the library is let alone spend much time there. At least half the population in prison doesn’t know how to read so libraries are not big hangout places for them.

    Second, many pedophiles actually have children. An adult alone in the children’s library is not anymore likely to molest a child there than an adult in the library with children.

    Third, no children’s area that I’ve ever been in is an adult-free zone. The place is swarming with the parents of the children using the children’s section; frequently two adults for every one child. Far from “having a space of their own,” they are under the constant supervision of librarians, their own parents, other people’s parents. Please explain how a a couple other adults – ones who are probably largely ignoring the children or relishing in their antics – somehow impact the children’s culture and enjoyment of the library but the constant supervision of their own parents and librarians does not. I wouldn’t have a problem with this rule if it was addressed to ALL adults – even parents – so that kids could truly have a space of their own but we all know the librarians don’t want that.

    Fourth, as a kid who wasn’t a fan of kids books, I have a real issue with telling kids what books they can read and at what age. A number of posters have mentioned that kids are kept out of the young adult and adult sections. Really! I would have never read as a 9-12 year old then – instead of reading at least a book a week. Certainly sounds more like a library interested in itself more than one interested in fostering reading. But in all honesty, quid pro quo would require that children can’t go in the adult sections of the library if adults can’t go into the kid’s section of the library. Mostly dictating where ANYONE can sit and read in a public building is completely ridiculous.

    Fifth, I find it very interesting the number of comments, on this thread and others, who claim to be free range but appear to only apply that to children. They appear to have a problem with putting limits on children, but have no problem telling adults where they can be and when. It seems to me that they are not actually very free range. They want a sanitized world for their children to free range about in. In other words, it’s okay to let your kids go to the library or park alone as long as there are no adults or anyone else who might actually molest them there. You haven’t disregarded the fear at all but have instead expected the adult world to cater to your children and to stay away from where ever you want them to “free range” to make you feel safe.

  63. I am an architect. I designed a Children’s library a number of years ago. The old one was on the main floor and was rather open to the rest of the library. The homeless would often wander in, find a table and fall asleep. Thanks to the ACLU the library could not kick them out. Their smell and appearance was repelling. The decision was made to move the children’s library to an area in the basement. This allowed rules mentioned above to prevent the homeless from loitering without singling them out. The elimination of that fear (and the design of the space) greatly increased the use of the facility.

  64. A separate “teen” part of the library?

    This raises two issues for me.
    Firstly, I was reading “teen” books from age 9. So how was I get access these books?

    Secondly, now aged 22 I at times enjoy a “reliving” of my childhood, and will go borrow old favourites, from the “teen” section.

    This segregation is ridiculous.

    (besides… adults sections tend not to have beanbags in which to read a book!)

  65. Lenore, this is totally off-topic, but I figured commenting was the easiest way to get ahold of you.

    Have you read The Last Child in the Woods? If not, you should. You’d love it.

  66. @baby-paramedic

    We welcome kids and adults to come in and get materials. Heck, come talk to us about them, we read them all the time, maybe we could recommend some new ones for you. I don’t know any librarians who would prevent access to a collection (other than a delicate historical archive). That’s censorship, period.

    We have reasons for not allowing adults to “hang out” in the Teen Room when school is not in session. I think they are good reasons, they are based on our professional experience, and they’ve been laid out by the other librarians posting. I realize other posters may not agree and that’s ok, we don’t have to. That’s one of the great things about libraries, we provide access to, and encourage, different viewpoints on the issues.

  67. And also, why shouldn’t adult sections have bean bags ?! Get involved with your local friends group, raise some money and get some beanbags.

  68. I think a lot of people are missing the point. True, there are reasons why you wouldn’t want adults camping out with their laptops in the children’s area, mainly because they’re taking up the space. But from the description, it sounds like this library is like my local library: the children’s area is near large windows with lots of natural light, making it an ideal workspace that is easy on the eyes. The “adult” seating areas are tucked away in a far corner of the building, have only a couple of small windows, and are lit primarily by fluorescent lighting, making it rather unpleasant for work or study in comparison.

    Libraries spend so much time making the children’s area inviting that often the adults’ area seems like an afterthought. Personally, after being told I couldn’t sit in the only area of the building with sufficient natural light for comfortable reading, I stopped using that particular library at all.

  69. To everyone who thinks that this rule is a good rule, is it ok to ask an adult to leave a childrens’ park? The park is for children. If the adult is just sitting on a bench inside the park, they are utilizing it.

    If it is ok at the library but not at the park, what is the difference?

    Its already happening

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/07/31/1752570/new-playground-rules-no-lone-adults.html

  70. Dude, are we on Australia time or what??

  71. Paula – if the rule is brought in because it is believed any unaccompanied adult could be a pedophile (as the Miami one seems to be) then I’m dead against. But if adult presence at a playground has meant that children were, or felt, pushed out of the facility then I could see it being a reasonable way to help ensure access for those for whom it was intended. I’d prefer to see other alternatives attempted first, but I could see such a rule being a practical approach.

  72. In my city, I see a lot of adults alone in the children’s section who are clearly recent immigrants working on their English skills. I’m curious, how would they be dealt with under such a policy?

  73. “We have reasons for not allowing adults to “hang out” in the Teen Room when school is not in session.”

    I don’t disagree with you about a teen room being adult-free. ALL adults, even parents, to give the teens the ability to be adult-free and possibly look at some books that they’d be embarrassed to look at with parents, teachers or other adults present (books on sex, maturing bodies, homosexuality, etc.). However, this was not a teen room. It was a children’s room and adults were more than welcome to spend all day there reading their own books and doing exactly what this particular couple was doing, as long as they had a child in tow.

    I think this, and many of the other things discussed on this blog, comes down to our complete unwillingness to interact one-on-one with people. The people who run libraries want a blanket rule that says “no unaccompanied adults” because it’s easier than having a rule that says “no curmudgeons” and saves them from actually having make judgment calls. It’s so much easier to prohibit every adult on the basis of “protecting the children” than to say to one person “This is the children’s section. Children are loud. If you are not comfortable here, there are quieter places to read in the library” or “This is the children’s section and there are some kids in here now who don’t have a space to sit. Since you are not using the children’s room resources, please move to the adult section.” Zero-tolerance rules, sex offender registries, policies against leaving kids in cars, kids walking to school, etc. all really boil down to our unwillingness to deal with each situation and each person as an individual and possibly needing to confront a particular individual about his/her particular behavior.

  74. I do think the idea that librarians should only start asking unaccompanied adults to leave once the section fills up are naive – managing a public space requires thinking ahead. By the time the space is filling up librarians wouldn’t have time to do things like work out who is unaccompanied and ask them to leave. So if kids do have priority on the space practically the only way to maintain that is likely to be to ask people not to be in the space well, well in advance of any likely filling up by kids.

    I think Kym might have a point about how appealing children’s areas can be compared to the rest of a library. When we start to make public provision better for any particular group there is likely to be a widening of the audience that wants to use those better facilities.

  75. My library has a policy like this, too, but it’s not a Stranger Danger/safety issue, but a child advocacy issue. Even with the policy, we continually have altercations with adults who are unable to comprehend that children have just as much right to use the library (computers, tables, etc) as adults, even in the children’s room. “Well, all the computers in the adult section are taken, so just have one of those kids get off the computer.” “I need to check my email and those kids are just playing games.” “It’ll only take a minute, and what he’s doing isn’t important, anyway.” We do excercise judgement–if the department isn’t busy, we’re not going to kick an adult out if they want to take up a table or use a computer, but if the room is full and/or they start acting entitle or belittling of kids, we will. (Also, Ms. Downer–we love your books! They’re beautifully written and the main character is so believable!)

  76. It is fairly obvious that many of the commenters here are neither parents nor working in a capacity that brings them in close contact with children on a regular basis.

    What’s more, there doesn’t seem to be a single benevolent thought toward children from the likes of Donna “quid pro quo”. It’s truly frightening and repelling to read her posts, because she is clearly an educated person who will never “give an inch” to a child.

    Donna: what motivates you to come to this forum in the first place? What exactly are you looking to learn or do here? There must be a better way to voice your anti-social tendencies.

  77. @prkcslog:

    My thoughts exactly! I’ve seen these attitudes displayed all the time: when my children stand in line to check out their own books, often adults will simply cut in front of them, without even apologizing or explaining why they are in such a rush.

  78. It makes me very sad that people are not ‘permitted’ to just have joy in children, that it has to be taken as something sordid and sinister.

    Many people, especially older people, really have their hearts lifted by watching and having contact with children, but now the old geezer who likes to wave at the children in the school playground across the road, for example, is not a friendly old man but some proto-molester, apparently.

    No wonder society displays increased fear of children and young people when people are not longer allowed to enjoy the presence of any child that isn’t ‘theirs’. What a sad state of affairs.

  79. Whew! Who’d have thought a post about libraries could provoke so much action? If our library had this much attention from taxpayers, it could be a much better place! I love libraries and use them all the time. This isn’t a rant against libraries or librarians, but against a society that has put many of them into an impossible position.

    @Mim Librarian — if teens are uncomfortable looking at books in the presence of adults, someone may be doing something wrong, but it’s not a library who allows age-mingling. Why are the teens uncomfortable? Because an adult is leering at them? Then the proper response is for the teen to report it, and for the librarian to ask the misbehaving adult to leave. You said “teen,” not “four year old,” but even a four year old should know what to do in that situation. Is it because the teens are looking at books they know they shouldn’t be (whatever that might be) and don’t want to get “caught”? Then fine, let them be embarrassed. If adults and teens are merely uncomfortable in each others’ presence, then we need MORE places for that to happen, not fewer.

    Interesting perspective, though. I would never have thought a library’s job was to “attract new readers.” All I ever wanted out of a library was to have plenty of good books, magazines, and other resource materials available to the public. Frankly, if parental example and 13+ years of schooling don’t get someone interested in reading, expecting a librarian to pick up the slack is ridiculous.

    Your next comment illustrates exactly what I mean about faulting society, not libraries. If you can’t eject someone who is fouling the library furniture, be he 2 or 62, that’s just plain wrong.

    It reminds me of a fuss made here several years ago. I forget the details, but the gist of it was that the library was sued because they were blocking their computers from accessing pornographic websites. And they lost! Hello? Since when is it the library’s responsibility to provide porn? Are they also required to subscribe to porn magazines? Carry the latest XXX videos?

    @Christy — “the kids were more comfortable without as many adults shushing them and it allowed them some independence. If that’s not free range, I don’t know what is.” I don’t know about others, but I wouldn’t call that free range. More like a “chicken tractor” (floorless coop that allows chickens to forage but still keeps them penned in and segregated).

    @Donna — “Kids and adults used to be able to be in the same sphere without rubbing each other the wrong way and we need to get back to that somehow.” AMEN and AMEN.

    @NYC MOM — “Have you seen the number of mentally unstable, aggressive, or homeless people with poor hygiene who seem to spend most of the day at the NYPL?” Yep, I sure have. And it makes ME uncomfortable, even without children with me. Then again, it also makes me uncomfortable when, after school lets out, the research room is inundated with people who obviously have no interest in research (sprawling at a table for an hour, playing with an iPod, but never cracking a book) but are … what? Meeting friends? Waiting for a ride?

    Maybe what we need to do is figure out just what libraries are FOR. Maybe we could let libraries be libraries, and invest in some community centers or such for needs unrelated to reading and research.

  80. Claudia:
    I completey agree and it goes both ways: my children (and many of their friends) don’t have the presence of older adults in their lives often enough because both sets of grandparents live 4000 miles away, and I feel that their lives are poorer for it. One way to solve this problem for both the elderly and the kids is to find ways to bring them together. We visit the Senior Home in my neighborhood, asked an older neighbor to read at story hour in school, and have “tea parties” with a wonderful lady we met at a museum. We have also found that crafts are a great way to involve people of all ages, such as my teaching knitting to both my kids and older adults.

  81. Here’s how my county library handles the thorny, confusing, near-insurmountable problem of adults being in the children’s room and hogging the computers:

    they put signs on the computers saying, “Computers are for children’s use.”

    I’ve never seen anyone attempt to ignore that, but I suppose if it happens, the librarians tell them not to.

    Seems much more sensible than driving them out of the space entirely.

  82. Pentamom, I was thinking along similar lines. Why not post signs letting adults know (in a nice way, of course) that the resources are designed and intended for kids’ use, and would adults please enable kids to be catered to first in the kids’ section.

    At a park, one would expect that adults would not keep preschoolers waiting for their turn to swing, either, but unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen. A whole family of clods, with the youngest being in his teens, made my 3-year-olds wait for them to get their fill of swinging. However, that is an unusual case. Most people are programmed to watch out for the little ones. And if we think this is a good thing, then in my opinion, we need to celebrate it as part of our culture, not cut it off.

  83. @ NYC MOM –

    I was actually being sarcastic with the quid pro quo comment. I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t believe that ANY person should be prohibited from entering ANY part of the library. Said so repeatedly in the very post that you are quoting.

    I’m curious as to what anti-social tendencies you are mentioning. The fact that I, along with many here, don’t believe that adults unaccompanied by children need to be removed from the children’s section? The fact that I’m not automatically repulsed by homeless people nor do I want my child shielded from the knowledge of their existence in society? The fact that I realize that pedophiles have children and may not be coming to the library alone? The fact that I agree that the children’s section is primarily for kids but that that aim can be reached without outright prohibiting a specific group of people from using it? The fact that I understand that some adults just enjoy being in the presence of children, may just want to hang out in the children’s section of the library and shouldn’t be made to feel like a pervert for doing so? The fact that I think kids and adults should be able to co-exist and use the same world without having to be kept in separate corners and getting on each other’s nerves? The fact that I have a problem with the demonization of adults without children (whether for the moment or permanently)? The fact that I believe that children should not be raised to have such a fear or dislike of adults that they are not comfortable with them in the same section of the library? The fact that I think that everyone has a place in society and we don’t need to partition it into adults-only and children-only sections? The fact that I adore my child and love interacting with other children but don’t think that they rule the universe and that the world needs to be ordered exclusively for them. Okay, then. Being antisocial seems better than whatever you consider social.

  84. @ prkcslog; thanks for the kind words about my books. I started my first novel when I was 13 and wrote quite a bit of it, and the novels that followed, in the children’s rooms of public libraries in Alexandria and Falls Church, VA when I was in my early twenties. This was in the early 1980s. The latter was the library where I served as a library page during high school and discovered I wanted to be a writer. I’ve never stopped thinking of them as the part of the library where I most want to be. I’m just sorry that our culture has become one where I may no longer hatch my stories surrounded by both the writers I read when little, and the brand new readers who might some day read me.

  85. Frankly, if the librarian is properly supervising, who needs the parents there either? Let it be a true kids area.

  86. […] The Pervert Lady in the Library Hi Readers — This story makes me sad and sick but it doesn’t surprise me. The same thing is happening at […] […]

  87. I think it is a prudent policy. There is a man in our town who has never been arrested, but is PLAINLY inappropriate with children, and this includes an incident with my own daughter. Consistent with the pedophile profile, he makes a habit of being where there are children. He frequently tries to engage children (mostly little girls) in conversation, and does not hesitate to pick up or “help” other people’s children. He frequents the library and I would often see him using the computers in the kids’ section. I questioned the librarian, and her reply was that he was visually impaired and could not use the monitors in the adult section which are recessed into the table for privacy. This made me so uncomfortable that I had a police officer friend check him out. He thankfully had no record.

    I was never so relieved as the day our county library system instituted a “no unaccompanied adults” policy. This man continued to use the children’s section, until I complained. The library then set aside a special area for adults with vision problems such as his.

    People need to understand that pedophiles try to find reasons to be around children. It is not an innocent behavior. It is calculating, and predatory. Parks, libraries, anywhere that children might be unsupervised. And like others have said, this does not mean you cannot get books from the kids’ section of the library… if the librarian questions you, simply explain yourself. But there is no reason for an adult to simply hang out in the kids section unless said adult has a child in tow.

  88. If people keep using pedophilia and stranger danger as an excuse to cordon children and adults off from each other, it will only fuel the paranoia that has mad innocent interactions between adults and children suspect. If someone’s being inappropriate, then that should be dealt with individually, not with hysteria and sweeping laws that further ostracize children from the world in which they will one day have to fend for themselves.

  89. @Christy I’m glad my library doesn’t have that rule. I have a right to access those books, just like the kids have a right to access any part of the library. I don’t have kids, but need kids books for my class.

  90. Donna — great words!

  91. @Hayley. I am sorry if you had a close-call with your child, that would disturb anybody. You didn’t deserve that, nor does any parent.

    Even so, I am sorry, but consistent with Free Range, I just don’t believe predators & molestors are anywhere near as common as is made out to be. I just don’t believe it. The statistics strongly suggest otherwise. To design the world around the whole “the predators are coming” is just not the kind of world I want to see set-up.

    You experienced what you experienced, not me, so you know the specifics. Even so, I think the fact that the person in question has no record and has never been arrested speaks volumes. I really have an issue with believing that he has “behaved inappropriately” or else he would’ve been arrested by now. I just don’t buy the notion that predators are “that devious” as to be able to dance right on the very razor-thin edge of the line without crossing it.

    And even if this situation WERE like that, the other thing is, why punish every other adult out there for what 1 has done? Eject the one person, under the whole “management reserves the right to refuse service to anyone” banner. To segregate ALL adults for what he alone has done reminds me of when I was in high school in the 80s, our school allowed no shorts to be worn at all, even though many of the rooms had no air conditioning. Their reasoning? Because of the 2-5 people (out of the entire high school) who would wear shorts that were too short.

    It was always told to us that those people were ruining it for us. My reply was always–no, you are just using that as an excuse, you’re LETTING them do so when it need not be that way.

    I think “no adults in the kids section because you might be a molestor” policies are the same sort of thing, and equally wrong. You’re punishing a great deal of adults who are totally innocent of any wrong-doing, all over the actions of 1 deviant. That is unsound policy at any reasonable level of thinking, and the original poster has every reason to take offense to how she was treated.

    LRH

  92. Like many, I see two sides to this subject.
    As an adult male with facial palsy, I constantly see parents look at me funny. Because they can’t immediately pinpoint what it is about my looks that is different, they’ll assume that it is I that is the threat. The last time I used the children’s section of the library was to see if a book was one my godson would like for his birthday, the wi-fi in that part of the library isn’t strong enough for me to stay.
    On the other side of the argument, it would do me no good to try to point out crime statistics to our local library. They had some guy that was a “client of the state” that took the bus from the nearby city and sat in the main library area wearing women’s underwear. It is understandable to be nervous, but does not always justify the extreme rules that are often put in place. (My town made it into Free Range Kids for its over-reacting solution to a different type of children’s issue.)
    Broad rules and laws tend to target and punish the decent folks more than those that they are intended to address.

  93. Is the “teen section” the books with a J for Juvenile? I always hated that. Juvenile also means immature, so these were the books for the immature.

    A couple years ago I wanted to read 1984 again and in our local library it was in the J section. When I tried to check it out I was told that adults were not allowed to check out J books because they were for the local school kids and all were on permanent reserve for them. Fortunately I was able to find a different edition of the same book in a different section. The policy seems insane as do the policies of book segregation. Will we next tell white people that they are not allowed to check out african american literature? It’s the exact same principle.

  94. Larry Harrison – “Eject the one person, under the whole “management reserves the right to refuse service to anyone” banner. ” I think one of the points the librarians on this forum have repeatedly made is that public libraries are not constitutionally allowed to do this.

    Libraries (and public schools) have an extra difficulty dealing with the constitutional requirements and political micromanagement that private institutions do not have. I don’t agree with the way some of them have handled this (i.e. zero tolerance rules in schools). But it’s important when suggesting alternatives to remember that they aren’t private institutions and do have different constraints.

  95. “man in our town … PLAINLY inappropriate with children … had a police officer friend check him out. He thankfully had no record. … pedophiles try to find reasons to be around children. It is not an innocent behavior. It is calculating, and predatory.”

    Ok, so you judged some old guy wrongly, and rather than get over the fact you made a mistake, you became even more convinced he was a predatory even though the facts were that he wasn’t.

    God help us.

  96. @helenquine. I do hear what you’re saying. I tend to think, in that situation–and I know this is operating in “no man’s land”–that a little civil disobedience would be good. That is, throw them out anyway. Even if a suit occurs, even if you lose your job over it. Do it anyway.

    I know we don’t advocate lawlessness here & in general I don’t either. I wouldn’t expect anyone to actually do that–but I’d sure love to see it happen. I know I could never work in a job like that, because I’d be prone to that very type of thing. Hence, when I’m between jobs & looking, I don’t bother applying for such positions, even if they pay well. I’m not going to put myself in that position, I stick to jobs which don’t entail such conflicts.

    I do well with not being insubordinate as a general thing, doing as I’m asked whether or not I agree with it–but some things I just can’t seem to let go. It’s sort of like the pharmacy workers who won’t fill prescriptions for the morning-after pill because of their pro-life beliefs–yes they’re not the ones to make that call, I understand their job is to fill the prescription not judge people–but even begrudgingly (I once got a morning-after pill when I thought my wife might’ve been pregnant) I admire that they’re so passionate about their beliefs that they’ll lose their job if need be to stand up for them.

    LRH

  97. At my local library’s kids’ section, there’s a sign that informs everyone that children have priority over all the resources in the area. So adults are welcome to use the computers, read the books, or just hang out, but they have to yield all of those to kids who want them. Perfectly reasonable, legal, and could only offend the most self-absorbed.

    aside: Most homeless people are harmless, some have kids of their own, and yes, some of them are stinky. But so are lots of people who bathe in scents like deodorant and perfume: I doubt they get treated with as much suspicion and prejudice. I don’t envy the few difficult aspects of librarians’ jobs, but scapegoating perverts (I’m one and have no inclination toward children whatsoever), homeless people, and other adults with blanket rules only exacerbates the problems of unwarranted fear and suspicion in our society.

  98. Ann, if it’s such a gorgeous space, I’m sure you’re not the only one who would love to spend all your time in the library in that room. Can’t you see what the problem then would be?

    The space was built with the express purpose of being the children’s area of the library. The space, esp. in a city as populous as Boston, surely doesn’t have the capacity to accommodate everyone who would probably like to sit there.

    You and your husband were taking up space doing your own work. You weren’t even using the facilities, e.g., checking out books at that time. It seems only right and fair that the group for whom the space was conceived — children (and by DEFAULT the adults with them) — not be “pushed” out by all others, who, because it’s a lovely place to be, all want to sit there, too.

    I can think of an awe inspiring library space designed for adults. The reading room at the NYPL on 5th Ave (the one with the lions). There’s a wonderful hushed, contemplativeness in that magnificent room. That would decidedly not be the case were it also a space for children. As far as libraries are concerned, I can understand, and indeed, agree with, the principle idea of separated areas (whereas keeping adults w/out a child from entering playgrounds is for only one purpose — just worse case thinking and terribly mean-spirited).

    I’m sorry when you later asked about it, you felt bad (were made to feel bad?) about the answer. Of course it’s horrible, sick even, that there’s an attitude of “guilty until proven innocent” regarding adults’ motives concerning children that’s prevalent in the US right now. But as others above had added (esp. the librarians) the two issues are not mutually exclusive.

  99. Tuppence, I was just trying to say that I have spent most of my life being welcomed into the children’s rooms of libraries: as a child, teenager, and finally adult and parent. No one has ever questioned my motives for being there, told me I was hogging resources, or asked me to prove that I was actively using the materials in order to use a table. The primary motive for excluding me from the children’s room at the CPL appeared to be the assumption that I would ogle little children, and that saddened me and seemed to be an indictment of where we find ourselves as a society. Nothing in the above comments makes me feel any differently. I am lucky that the spectacular children’s room staff at the Somerville Public Library doesn’t feel as you do.

  100. If a librarian told me to move, I probably would. When I was growing up, librarians were near the top of the authority ladder.

    Just under cops and school custodians🙂

  101. I’m a children’s librarian.

    We treat both our taxpayers AND future taxpayers the same. Same behavior guidelines, same policies.

    We do not restrict access for any patron. All patrons have the right to be in all parts of the building. Yes, children in the adult section, OH MY! Adults in the children’s section, OH MY.

    It’s not a freaking big deal.

    We are not a school library (SO SO many reasons why I’m not a school librarian), so we do not act in loco parentis. We are not mandatory reporters. It is a public building. People who want to supervise their children can do so. People who do not want to, don’t need to. If there’s a problem, we lean on our policies, which treat everyone the same.

  102. @bmj2K: It is NOT a librarian’s job to supervise children. Parenting is done by parents.

    @whoever was talking about this:

    “Well, all the computers in the adult section are taken, so just have one of those kids get off the computer.” “I need to check my email and those kids are just playing games.” “It’ll only take a minute, and what he’s doing isn’t important, anyway.”

    This is so true. We have that issue at our library too, but we don’t stop adults from using resources in the children’s area. Instead, everyone gets the same amount of time no matter whether they are buying plane tickets or playing an online game. It’s not our job to decide what is an important task and which of our patrons are the most important, so we don’t do that. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a computer in the adult area, teen area, or kids area, or what age you are. You get a half hour. The end.

    Restricting access to a room (most time) restricts access to the collection, which is in violation of the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read/Freedom to View statements.

    Also, for those who wonder why children’s areas tend to be the more wonderful and inspirational places in a library, in many many libraries children and their caregivers bring in 60% or more of the business.

  103. @Kate — “We treat both our taxpayers AND future taxpayers the same. Same behavior guidelines, same policies.” Hooray for your library!

    I suspect most libraries are very reasonable about such things. As always, we only hear when there are problems.

  104. I doubt that she couldn’t browse for books, but as an adult she couldn’t hang out or work in the kids section without an attached child.

    I worked for the public library for 7 years in a major city. I have to say that although I support the free range philosophy, in this case I side with the library. The public has NO IDEA what goes on in the public library. The amount of people who come in with mental illness, on parole, wanted, perverts, etc. You name it. We had a online “excluded” page for patrons caught doing inappropriate things in the library and if the public was aware of the kinds of things people are caught doing, you would understand why policies like this exist. The library is safe for kids because of these policies, without them quite frankly they’re not. And I could tell you stories about the amount of people we caught looking at child pornography on the computer that would make your head spin, along with men caught masturbating while looking through the bookshelves at children. The library NEEDS this kind of policy because as a place open to ALL, that is free, and is also the main source of computer access for people who fall through the cracks, quite frankly they’re not always safe without the watchful eye of the staff and policies like this.

    I usually agree with your posts but in this case it’s not farfetched–the potential threat in the library is real. Small branches in peaceful suburbs might be one thing but even then, you’d be surprised at who comes in the library.

  105. I also wanted to add that while I don’t think it’s likely that pedophiles are snatching children from the library, the fact remains that we had, in the course of about a year, at least three cases where people were caught masturbating in the library while looking at children. This is in a large city with multiple locations. I would prefer to not have to be concerned with this kind of thing while my child was using the library. I prefer that the library have a children’s section that is for kids, for their parents with them and fun for all. If that excludes a few nice adults, well that’s too bad. I could tell you many horror stories and while staff is there to supervise, it’s not always possible to be everywhere at once, particularly if you’re doing reference work and helping people find books.

    I will also add that only one of our branches has this policy–the main one, which has a completely separate room for kids, which adults really don’t need access to. The smaller branches have kids sections but adults aren’t necessarily excluded because the space is fluid. If adults park themselves at the few small tables in the children’s section they’d be asked to move, but generally there is always access to the children’s section by adults and it is in these locations where the worst things have happened. In the main branch, where the kids have a section of their own that is not easily accessible, and where the no adult loitering policy exists, nothing has happened. Perhaps those of us who work at libraries are also jaded because we understand a lot more that the idea of the library being a blissful place is so inaccurate. It’s like a social service agency where you’re going to see a group from every population, including large amounts of mentally ill people, and sex offenders. About half the people excluded from our branches were sex offenders, no matter what the crime was (being drunk, theft, pornography, etc). Interesting fact and I’m not sure exactly why that is, other than there are obviously a large number of sex offenders who do in fact use the library.

  106. @Scott – The teen section/books are usually marked YA for Young Adult.

    I don’t know for sure if this was the case with your attempt to take out the copy of 1984, but it sounds like the particular copy of the book was on reserve for use in the library. I have never heard of a public library that does not allow adults to check out J or YA material. However, there are public libraries that work with teachers, especially in places where school libraries are inadequate. The librarians may choose to set certain books aside for use in the library when kids are working topic or project. This prevents the first student who gets to the library from cleaning out the supply of books that every other student in the class needs to complete their work.

  107. .: This is such a sad and pathetic development. We have now reached a point in society where every single adult is considered a threat to children.

    I am single and have no kids, and have been a librarian for 32 years, the last 27 of those in academia. One of my jobs before my degree was working as a library assistant in the Winnipeg Public Library system. Among my responsibilities was doing Story Time once a week with 4- and 5-year old kids. I loved it. I had a blast, and developed a love of children’s picture books, and the sheer joy of watching kids react to being told wonderful stories was beyond priceless. It was an incredibly rewarding experience.

    As a result, I eventually became a Big Brother, and to this day, still love working and visiting with children. Also, I developed an interest in children’s picture books, and built up a collection that I still have to this day, including many titles by Leo and Diane Dillon, who are also friends of mine.

    It is SO absolutely critical that children learn that not every adult is a threat to them, and that most of us will treat them with the respect and the dignity they deserve.

    So now, if any adult wants to peruse YA or children’s lit or picture books, they are no longer allowed to do so at Cambridge PL unless they bring a kid with them. What if I or someone else was doing research in this area, let alone just purely interested in the field itself, and wanted to see what was in the collection and actually borrow a book? What about the joy of discovering a new title serendipitously?

    I applaud @donna (12:20) for noting that “Some adults LIKE to be around children,” and for the reasons she gives. Those and other reasons apply to many of us who love to be around children because we enjoy their company and nothing more.

    But as other public librarians have noted here, apparently this is necessary now. This makes me incredibly sad to see how low we have fallen.

  108. “So now, if any adult wants to peruse YA or children’s lit or picture books, they are no longer allowed to do so at Cambridge PL unless they bring a kid with them.”

    No! This is not the case at all! Adults are welcome to use the library, with or without kids. Ann and her husband were asked to leave when they sat down with their laptops and were hanging out. Browsing the collection and borrowing books are totally okay.

    One appeal of Free Range Kids movement is that most Free Range Parents are thinkers. We actually think through information and make decisions based on facts rather than fears.

    But the reaction to this blog post suggests otherwise. People are making all sorts of assumptions about library rules and policies–and their origins–without even understanding what that rule is. Now people are dismayed that they can’t borrow certain books if a child is with them–when that is most assuredly not the case at all!

    I wish Lenore and Ann would take some responsibility for this monster of misinformation they’ve created. The *only thing* Ann was not allowed to do in the library was hang out in the children’s room. That’s it.

    We had a case of one library staffer explaining the rule to Ann in a way that may or may not have reflected the actual origins of the rule. And now this ridiculousness is being bought hook, line, and sinker on this blog.

    Ann, I really wish you had asked to speak to a library manager before you maligned Cambridge Public Library in public.

  109. daisy, you make a fair point. It seems like people were criticizing the CPL for a policy it does not have.

    HOWEVER, what I think was happening is that people were remembering back to a post from some time back that describe library policies that actually do ban unaccompanied adults from children’s areas, as such.

    It’s unfair and misleading to tar Cambridge with the same brush, but the idea of libraries banning unaccompanied adults entirely from children’s areas is not pure fiction.

    And while she probably doesn’t represent actual policy, the second librarian’s response to Ann Downer does imply a fear-based hostility to adults in children’s areas, in general.

    It’s absolutely true that people shouldn’t spread misinformation about specific cases, but it’s also important to remember that getting the details wrong about a specific case doesn’t always mean that what people are upset about, isn’t actually an issue.

  110. Pentamom, fair enough. But is someone here saying that there are libraries that ban adults without children from entering the children’s area of the library? If so, I’d be very interested to know what library that is.

    Libraries will, in general, let anyone in any part of the library–usually the biggest objection we hear is from parents upset that kids are allowed to check out adult books.

  111. Daisy, even if we ignore the librarian’s second comment about adults sitting around looking at children, Ann WAS told that the children’s area was reserved for people accompanying children.

    That does not sound like a place at which adults are welcome to browse the children’s collection alone.

  112. “He thankfully had no record. … pedophiles try to find reasons to be around children. It is not an innocent behavior. It is calculating, and predatory.”
    “Ok, so you judged some old guy wrongly, and rather than get over the fact…”

    Well, to be fair, most pedophiles DON’T have records. Pedophiles molest an average of 30 kids PRIOR to being caught the first time. If a guy truly gives you the pedophile vibe as a parent – and there is a vibe – don’t ignore it for fear someone will think you impolite or judgmental. This is one of those free range things I don’t agree with – anytime you fear someone is a pedophile you MUST be off base you intolerant person you. I let my kids range free, but if someone gives me that pedophile vibe – I don’t want him going near my kids. I’ve had that feeling twice. One of the two times was proved correct and he was jailed eventually; the other time – I don’t know. He moved away.

    As for this particular case – I don’t think this couple was giving off a pedophile vibe to anyone, and the librarian’s comment about not having people looking at the kids was thoughtless. If it was really just a resource issue – fine – but then they should have said that.

  113. This thread has, I think, turned borderline nasty. Not Lenore’s fault, to be sure. I sure hope I haven’t helped make it that way–if I have, my apologies.

    Even so, at the risk of upping the ante even higher, my latest 2c worth.

    To me, there can only be 2 possible truths in existence here.

    Either you have #1, Lenore is absolutely the flakiest two-bit hack (or phony) of a pundit or columnist ever, full of more hot air than a balloon, and has perpetrated the biggest fraud ever by standing up for the original poster, because libraries are indeed a cesspool of the 3 Ps (pedophiles, pornographers, and perverts) run amok.

    Or, you have #2–once again, fear has ruled the roost and people are absolutely convinced that the world has taken a downturn from 30-odd years ago and they’re making Mt Everest out of a pebble–and advocating (sometimes) outrageous and negatively-presumptive assumptions about people’s intentions over their desire to create a sterile environment for their children, the rest of society be damned.

    I’m sorry–I mean no offense, but I’m going with #2.

    Maybe just MAYBE there is a 3rd (that is, Lenore generally is right but is wrong for once), but I tend to think not.

    Again, I’ve visited libraries quite a bit myself in recent months. I haven’t seen what is being talked about. I don’t doubt that there are SOME weirdos, sure, but to read what some say you’d think I was walking in downtown Haight-Ashbury during the 60s counter-culture.

    Sorry–I haven’t seen it, and I’m not buying it.

    @daisy. Lenore and Ann have NOT created some “monster of misinformation.” If any misinformation has occurred from it, it’s from people reading the original post & taking the ball and running all the way to the end-zone without realizing they were running the wrong way the whole time. Ann made it clear–she wasn’t griping so much about “her rights” as much as the chilling nature of the reason why the rule was in place–because of the presumption that every adult in an child’s area can only possibly be there for dirty, perverted reasons. She is upset at the “chilling development,” most likely in the THINKING behind such policies.

    It is any surprise that Lenore supports her in this? And although Lenore isn’t a librarian, I don’t doubt her experiences as a writer and college graduate have educated her to how libraries are these days. I really doubt Lenore is writing her blog in Mister Rogers Neighborhood without ever venturing outside of the supposed walled garden of her existence. She lives in New York City & has taken the subway, for crying out loud. I really doubt Lenore is writing out of ignorance.

    And as for @JC, your cases notwithstanding, I still do not buy the argument that libraries are really that packed full of weirdos. I just don’t buy it–and I don’t think either Ann nor Lenore do, either (although I shouldn’t presume to know what they think, that’s just my hunch). I don’t doubt that you’ve seen what you’ve seen & that it happened, but still–this does not equate to “you wouldn’t believe how many weirdos are in the library.”

    Quite frankly, I think Lenore & Ann have exposed you and your ilk as part of the very fear-mongering that is wrong with this country, and you’re offended. Well you ought to be ashamed of yourselves, frankly, for spreading this sort of fear and rationalizing your outrageous overreactions to it.

    I know you have a tough job–so what, who doesn’t? It doesn’t make you special, and to toot your horn about this smacks of condescending arrogance. There are a lot of people with tough jobs, the trick is to not let it bias your thinking. As an example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met police officers who had a very pessimistic view of the world and how bad people are, because he or she deals with crime everyday. That doesn’t mean I disrespect their job, I genuinely respect how tough it must be, but it surely also means I don’t let myself be swayed by the bias of their thinking.

    As for the whole bit about “I want my kids to feel safe, and if that inconveniences a few adults, well that’s too bad”–that is exactly the sort of ideology that Lenore is speaking out against, and rightly so. The idea that I, as an adult, an adult with no history and/or inclination whatsoever towards molestation etc, should have my freedom restricted to make you feel better, that is highly offensive. Not for a single minute is your drivel about how “I work in a library so I know what the real deal is” or whatever (I’m paraphrasing, not quoting) is going to change that view of mine. It’s right, and that’s it.

    Part of being a parent, in my view, is–yes–wanting safety for your kids, and others to not endanger them. However–it is also about realizing that the rest of the world doesn’t owe you special favors because you managed to swim upstream and spawn with your significant other. Your interests in a sterile-zone for your child don’t trump their own differing interests–your interests are no more important than theirs merely because they’re based on your children.

    To wit: I don’t want my child’s life endangered when I’m driving, but I don’t expect everyone around me to all of a sudden drive 10 mph below the speed limit just because I have 2 children in my car. The roads are what they are, I have to deal with them as they are, not expect them to change solely for the benefit of my children at the expense of their own interests. To expect that they should is blatantly selfish.

    And I think anyone that advocated a “child only” zone for the safety of their children, to the detriment of persons like Ann–but doesn’t care and says “that’s too bad”–you are being blatantly selfish & ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

    Lenore & Ann have NOT spread misinformation–YOU have, in asserting that libraries are Haight-Ashbury circa the 60s and that all these rules really are as necessary as you think. Hogwash, bologna, and fiddlesticks. The world isn’t that crazy–perfect it’s not, and yes one should exercise due care, but to assert that libraries are the glory hole capital of the world is just schizophrenic thinking of the worst kind that we free-rangers–me anyway–seek to stay far away from.

    LRH

  114. Beth, the original author, Ann, said this in her follow up post: “To clarify, I think that I would have been free to come in and choose books, but I was not welcome to settle and stay in the room…”

  115. Larry, how about #3: the post author was angry and indignant and expressed the facts with a lack of clarify, and Lenore ran with it–and then let the incorrect information continue.

  116. Daisy, you remarked: “The *only thing* Ann was not allowed to do in the library was hang out in the children’s room. That’s it. ”

    That “only thing” is actually quite profound. A public space should be available to everyone. A public library should reflect the community it serves; it should be as open and accessible as the streets adults and kids walk on, the museums they visit, the markets they shop in, the buses and trains they ride.

    If the intent behind the policy is solely to make tables and chairs available to children, couldn’t a librarian simply ask an adult to relocate if the need arises, without needing such a drastic, exclusionary policy?

  117. I’ve been reading Free Range Kids for a while and have thought to myself many a time “at least I don’t see this type of thing happening around where I live.” Now at last it comes home and at a wonderful library I visited with my son just a week ago. In fact I’ve been there before to get books from the children’s room on my own. I guess I didn’t know I was breaking the rules and being viewed as a pervert for picking up children’s books.

  118. Liam – According to the policy as it was explained to me, you were completely okay to be in the children’s area since you were selecting books. Adults are permitted to access materials, however you are not permitted to spend time in the area just to enjoy being in there (reading the newspaper, using your laptop, drawing, knitting, etc.) unless you are accompanying a child. My opinion about this is just above yours.

  119. “Daisy, you remarked: “The *only thing* Ann was not allowed to do in the library was hang out in the children’s room. That’s it. ”
    That “only thing” is actually quite profound.”

    Agreed. I live in a college town, the same one that I went to college in. One of my roommates in college was an early childhood education major (now beloved 2nd grade teacher). Our college has about 5 libraries, and yet not a single children’s book, so she sometimes needed to go to the local library. If our library had this silly rule, she would have been required to travel back and forth between the “adult” tables upstairs and the children’s books downstairs. Inconvenient at best, and for absolutely no reason. She was not then, nor is she now, a pedophile or in any other way a threat to children. I’m all for kids but they are just citizens of society, not the supreme beings around which all things must revolve. Their interests simply do not usurp the adults in the community to the extent that a non-threatening adult needs to repeatedly traverse a flight of stairs in order to complete a college homework assignment while tables remain unoccupied a mere couple feet from the books that she is using because a few believe that all adults who are not actively parenting at that very second are potentially dangerous and, therefore, need to be excluded from the environment.

  120. If patrons are using children’s material – whether browsing the shelves, using material for research, or just reading the books, they are allowed in the children’s area.

    I don’t have an opinion on the policy of not allowing in adults who are not using the children’s department resources. However, I will take issue with Larry’s point that since he hasn’t seen anything like what the librarians are talking about in the libraries he visits, it must not happen much. Maybe it doesn’t happen all the time – although in the main library in my city social services or the police are often called in daily – but there are definitely more problems than in random other public or semi-public places, such as the mall or the city office building. Professional librarian literature is filled with articles on how to deal with it, and they have many of the same debates that we are having here on this blog.

    Some libraries have tried to get money or partner with social services to have a full-time social worker housed at the library so someone who is actually qualified to help can provide information or intervention with mentally ill, drug addicts, homeless, and so forth. See this interview for a brief picture of what it’s like to work at a library:http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6563612.html Urban libraries that can be reached by pedestrians have the biggest problems, but it’s not limited to them.

  121. “Maybe it doesn’t happen all the time – although in the main library in my city social services or the police are often called in daily – but there are definitely more problems than in random other public or semi-public places, such as the mall or the city office building.”

    Except that neither of your examples are of public or semi-public places. Both are private places, open to the public. There’s a huge difference. A private entity owns the building and each of the occupants pay rent to be there. They have more ability to control who enters the facility than a building funded by tax dollars (and donations) and completely open to the public. The library is pretty unique in being a public, enclosed space. I can’t, off the top of my head, think of another one.

    A true public place – say a park – has equal the problems as the library. If there are homeless in the area, they will congregate at the park more than the library.

  122. I totally agree, Donna. That was part of the the point I was trying to make – there are very few places in the US like the public library where everyone is welcome for extended periods of time.

    In Upstate NY, homeless people and others with nowhere to go during the day definitely congregate more in the library than public parks. Maybe where it’s warmer, the opposite is true. 🙂

  123. However, it doesn’t negate the fact that the homeless and people with nothing to do during the day are not per se dangerous and should not be treated as such. Most homeless people are harmless (except maybe to the nose). Many are mentally ill but most mentally ill people are harmless. Their presence in the library makes the library a different place but it doesn’t necessarily make it a more dangerous place.

  124. @Donna I just wanted to know that I really appreciated all your comments and you expressed my viewpoint quite well.

    @NYC Mom I found some of your comments to be borderline offensive to single lone adults like myself that don’t have children. I wish you could think about it from our perspective for a moment.

    @the librarians. If my local librarians expressed some of the views that I have read on this blog especially concerning the homeless, we would be having some serious discussions with you, your board and sponsors. My local libraries work with the homeless services community and develop polices together.

    As someone who actually works with the homeless, mentally ill, the so-called misfits, and the ex-offenders population (which can include sex offenders), I am aghast by the fearful and just plain wrong stereotypes of the homeless mentioned by several commenters. Homeless people are people too and they are very unlikely to cause any problems. Homeless people are not to be feared just because they are homeless. Shame on some of you! Your fear is way out of proportion to the acutal risk. Perhaps some of these so-called free-range parents should accompany their child to a place that services homeless and near homeless. Plus for my area, one third of the homeless population is children. My granparents and parents volunteered working with the homeless when I was growing up, and I often played games such as Candyland with homeless children. I am grateful for the experience and glad that I got to meet a wide range of adults and children growing up.

    Actual pedophiles are extremely rare, even among those on the sex offender list. Way too many people are placed on sex offender lists that don’t really belong there in my opinion, but that is an argument for another day.

    @sky your stats about pedophiles are already becoming extremely out of date, that was more likely to be true a couple of decades ago, but we are doing a much better job of catching pedophiles when they are younger or just beginning versus the old days, not to say that they don’t still exist with long histories, but policies at libraries that target lone adults won’t help prevent those stats.

    Now as a single female who just turned 40 without children, I have been feeling like I have missed my chance to have my own kids lately and feeling a little down about it, yet I love the energy and fun of kids, I could possibly see me enjoying an hour in the children’s section of a library.

    The idea of a policy that treats me as guilty before innocent hurts deeper than you can imagine, but for those that have children currently, I don’t know if you can fully understand what it is like to be a lone adult and how much this policy hurts to be singled out when already single.

  125. @Donna Sorry a typo in my earlier post. I just wanted you to know how well you expressed my viewpoint. Thank you.

  126. Just realized that it might seem strange for a single adult to comment on a forum about free range kids, this article was linked from another blog that I was reading. I was just following along with the links. I appreciated reading it. Thanks to Ann for sharing her experience too!

  127. Wow..I’ve missed a lot in a few days and I have to agree with Mim Librarian. I have a couple of points to make after reading some of the comments :
    1- the policy is not to assume that ALL adults in a children’s area are perverts and I doubt any librarian feels that way
    2-NO ONE IS SAYING THAT ADULTS CAN’T USE THE CHILDREN’S AREA OR MATERIALS. To the contrary, I have helped numerous adults on a daily basis (and seen ones I didn’t need to help) in the children’s and teen areas, finding resources, using the materials etc.
    3-The policy is just that if an adult just wants to use a computer or his/her laptop or just sit there, they are asked to do so not in the children’s area. This allows us, the librarians, to enforce the rules if there is a pervert, and yes, this does happen, without accusations of discrimination. Same as making the tired college student wake up alongside the sleeping homeless man.

    I think the main issue is that the original writer of the letter felt that the way that the librarian spoke to her indicated that she was, herself, a pervert. The way you say something makes a difference in a person’s reaction. I also don’t assume everyone is a pervert however, a library is a public space and some unsavory characters are often in it. It is our job to make sure it’s safe and welcoming for everyone and sometimes that means delineating spaces.

    I am a big supporter of free range and dispelling fears about child safety. I just dont’ feel like this is an issue that falls under this category, more an issue of someone not communicating effectively.

  128. I would also like to add that the homeless are treated with much respect and dignity in our library system. If there is an issue, they are spoken too with utmost respect and only asked to leave if they are disruptive….just like anyone else who walks through our doors.

  129. Does this library have extra copies of the Harry Potter books in the adult section? Or do you just have to ask the librarian to go in and get them for you?

  130. Thanks, Library Mama! I think a lot of the negative comments here are reactions based on misreadings and confusion. You’ve restated things nicely!

    Again – Anyone can use the materials in the children’s section of almost any library you’ll ever be in. It’s the taking up space WITHOUT using materials (i.e. taking space away from the patrons – children – that the space is intended to serve FIRST (not solely).)

    The stories of problem-patrons are clearly not stories about ALL patrons. Just as fancy business people can be problem patrons at times, and perfectly lovely people at others, so can homeless people. That’s why we enforce policies uniformly, on everyone.

  131. To all the people worried about homeless people in the library. Have any of you ever talked to a homeless person? I used to shy away from them too, but after talking to a couple I’ve found many of them are the nicest folks in the world. If you treat them like a regular person they truly appreciate it and give you the most genuine smile you’ll ever see. Most times I’d rather have a conversation with the homeless man at the park than the clean cut mom texting on her phone.

    They love to watch and interact with my kids and dog when we go to the park. Sure some of them are a little “odd”, but there are CEOs of companies that are “odd” as well. There are many reasons a person could be homeless, but being a criminal or pedophile are not high on the list.

  132. “I think the main issue is that the original writer of the letter felt that the way that the librarian spoke to her indicated that she was, herself, a pervert. The way you say something makes a difference in a person’s reaction.”

    No, I understood and I completely object 100% to this policy, not just in the way that things were phrased to Anne in particular. There is absolutely no valid reason whatsoever that has been expressed by a single librarian or individual posting on this thread as to why adults cannot sit in the children’s section and twindle their thumbs if they so choose.

    Unless you also believe that the library should have a rule prohibiting anyone under 18 from sitting in the “adult” section, your support of this policy is hypocritical. The exact same arguments that are made against adults taking up space in the kid’s room could also be made about kids hanging out in the “adult” areas. The adult sections are intended to serve adults FIRST. A child on the adult computers, tables, etc. is using resources meant for the adults, prohibiting an adult from using them. Some kids are noisy and can’t sit still, and since you never know if a particular kid will behave, we must prohibit them all rather than just waiting to see. Many adults don’t like children and won’t go to the library if kids are hanging out everywhere. The kids have their own area and don’t need to be in the adult area. Perverts (aka any adult not known to that particular child) abound in the adult section.

  133. Slightly off-topic, but I’m a fan of satire that ridicules policy, and this is the closest current post to the subject:

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-october-5-2010/back-in-black—education-crisis

    I love the bit about going into random elementary schools and offering to volunteer. o.o

  134. Everybody in America is a child molester until the opposite is proved. So, live with that. Every librarian in America is always a creep until the opposite is proved. So, live with that. Every patron is annoying and condescending. So, live with that. Every parent is over protective and intolerant. So, live with that. What a combo.Is a miracle that worse things don’t happen inside libraries. If you only what library schools are made of!
    And how much money librarians make. Serving customers in America is no joke, is mostly a nightmare.

  135. Why doesn’t Cambridge Public Library uses cameras in the kids room? Wait, sorry, that is perverted! Never mind. We need a way to tell patrons that no, they are perfectly decent people even if they decide not to obey the rules of the library, and a way to tell library directors that if they enforce rules that anger hyper-sensitive patrons ( 99% of them), they better raise the salary of the librarian, and offer them vouchers for free martinis after work (CPL has great bars around btw). I agree with Rocky Cobra, if you only knew what library schools are made of, then your would not spend time discussing this.

  136. I am very glad my country is poor and very ignorant, and that we don’t have libraries like in America, because we don’t have these problems. For a change I am glad of being under-developed. One day we will build libraries like you Americans, with glass and green architecture, wide collections, shiny elevators, and we will start fighting like you. Someday!

  137. My tax dollars pay to run the library and I think that gives me some right to determine what policies my library operates under. If I want to sit in the children’s room with my laptop and drink a coffee and leave my trash, that is my right. This is a free country, and public libraries are supposed to be public spaces. That is what I am paying for. Librarians are customer service librarians and they better start behaving that way if they want to keep their jobs. Barnes and Nobles won’t turn me away from the children’s section if I want to sit there with my latte.

  138. Ernest is right, I am a pervert and I prefer to go to Barnes and Noble, better service, better light, better latte.

  139. Sorry but I have to laugh in agreement with Ernest! About the B&N children’s section, that is. I could be wrong but they never gave me the evil eye or kicked me out for looking at children.

    I am struggling with where I come out on this as a taxpayer. The reality is, I have little say about pretty much any public service that my tax money is paying for. I don’t qualify to enjoy most of the benefits, and the rest are not really guaranteed. I mean, they tried to kick my nephew out of public school for half a year over basically nothing. They can do that. But they can’t ban a guy who masturbates in the children’s section of the library? I don’t deny that the librarians are stuck with these limitations, but I don’t agree with the logic at all. Libraries must be the only places in the USA (public or otherwise) where “everyone is welcome.”

    I still say that having various adults (accompanied or not) freely moving in & out of the kids’ section, and sometimes sitting down, is good for the kids. If it’s hard for the librarians to due to the “policies,” they ought to change those policies. I totally support “kids first” and certainly don’t want the place to be crowded or stuffy – but let’s get real – there aren’t that many adults clamoring for a seat in the kids’ section. If there are, then the adult section’s resources need to be beefed up.

  140. The more I think about it – I look at children every chance I get. Good thing this forum is anonymous!

  141. We discover something new about ourselves every day, don’t we SKL?

  142. I think it is time to call the guy from ” To Catch a Predator” and bring him to CPL. OMG, that would soooo awesome! And then we can have a reality too. Like ” Pervert at the library”. And a contest. And some storytelling time with a book that tells kids how to identify predators. And the librarian would read it allow and kids would play pointing at people.

  143. “But they can’t ban a guy who masturbates in the children’s section of the library?”

    Sure they can. They absolutely can ban a person who masturbates in the child’s section of the library and have him arrested and put in prison for child molestation (if a child saw him) or indecent exposure (if just the adults saw). If your library or government is telling you that they can’t ban someone who was caught committing an actual criminal act while inside that very same library, take them to court. What they shouldn’t do is ban ALL men from the children’s section on the possibility that they will masturbate while there.

  144. Donna, were you ever assaulted? You sound like. Are you afraid of being bitten by a horse? Come to my office. Vienna, 2045 Obentrstrasse. Second Floor. If you bring your ALA membership card you get a 50% discount.

  145. Donna, this brings up another question I have. In all seriousness – is it illegal for someone to masturbate, with clothes on, in a place where he doesn’t think anyone is seeing him? I was wondering if that was the hang-up – that maybe the behavior wasn’t illegal? I really don’t know.

  146. For the record there are public librarians on this thread that are advocating for access for everyone here. Not sure you need to be so hostile and threatening – most of us do the very best we can to serve you, and spend a long time dealing with these issues they are faced with on a DAILY basis. And, really, though you think you’re entitled to leave your trash b/c you pay for the privilege, public librarians pay taxes to, a lucky few in the very towns they work in. So it would be respectful of you to treat librarians as peers, not servants.

    Ernest said: My tax dollars pay to run the library and I think that gives me some right to determine what policies my library operates under. If I want to sit in the children’s room with my laptop and drink a coffee and leave my trash, that is my right. This is a free country, and public libraries are supposed to be public spaces. That is what I am paying for. Librarians are customer service librarians and they better start behaving that way if they want to keep their jobs. Barnes and Nobles won’t turn me away from the children’s section if I want to sit there with my latte.

  147. Paula – if the rule is brought in because it is believed any unaccompanied adult could be a pedophile (as the Miami one seems to be) then I’m dead against. But if adult presence at a playground has meant that children were, or felt, pushed out of the facility then I could see it being a reasonable way to help ensure access for those for whom it was intended. I’d prefer to see other alternatives attempted first, but I could see such a rule being a practical approach.

    I read some of the comments and someone mentioned that to get to the public toilets in that park you need to go through the childs playground, by banning child free adults they have made these toilets unavailable to adults

  148. When I was a toddler, I spent a lot of time in the library because my mum was a librarian who couldn’t find work in our small town, so she volunteered there instead. One special friend of mine was The Lady who Called Me ‘Fred’, though I don’t remember her name. Like me, she was there fairly often, so we would read and chat together. I don’t think she had children; I don’t even think the library was big enough to separate the children’s section very well.

    If the librarians at that library had had a strict policy about keeping adults out, I wouldn’t have had those good experiences. Of course, that was a while ago, and my mum was never too far.

  149. Wow. Stumbled on this while avoiding working on my own writing.

    And I thought MY library could get annoying; now it seems like paradise–anyone is allowed anywhere, the one exception being the so-called teen area, which is for teens only and therefore usually empty. It’s also very tolerant of the homeless; after all, why shouldn’t a homeless person be allowed to hang out in the library as much as anyone else?

    Can’t help being struck by the humor (and weirdness) of the phrase ‘unaccompanied adult’.

    I’ve never even heard it (my kids are in their early 20’s). Seems like just yesterday that my two children couldn’t do this and that because they were ‘accompanied minors’, and I too have not so fond memories of not being allowed to do certain things because I was an ‘unaccompanied minor’!

    I’ve read or skimmed most of the comments above, and on a more serious note, there is, I believe, no reference to these policies being in place at least in part because of fears of litigation. As someone who has worked in the law (and law enforcement), I don’t think we can overemphasize to what degree the explosion in tort ( or negligence) litigation in the later half of the last century changed public policy, particularly with regard to children’s safety.

    What’s so odd about all of this–as Lenore points out repeatedly–is that there has never been a safer time to be a child in America–unless, of course, one is living in an extremely poor, crime-ridden area. (And what conditions are the libraries there in??)

    The middle and upper middle class obsession with safety is bizarre, sad, misguided, and, in my mind, largely a response to fears created by marketing and litigation.

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