Is a Child “Unaccompanied” if the Parent Is Close By?

Hi Readers! Here’s a recent letter that makes me hot under the collar (but not hot enough to turn on the A.C.). — L. (who can’t figure out how to get rid of this LINE!!)

Dear Free-Range Kids: Well, I did it again: I sent my 4.5-year-old inside the library to walk the 20 feet to the elevator and make it to the children’s floor without me… and, like the last few times, I was twenty seconds behind him.  But this time I was accosted by the librarian at the check out desk: “Was that YOUR little boy?! He MUST be ACCOMPANIED!”
I replied as calmly as I could, “Thank you for your concern, but it builds his confidence to navigate a bit by himself.” She looked angry and then pounded the desk with both hands (I’m not kidding!) while announcing, “Under 13 must be ACCOMPANIED. It is POLICY.”
Now, I didn’t drop him off and go to the grocery store, I simply let him out, parked the car in a very close parking spot, and walked directly inside. It’s also not like she’s never seen us before, we’ve been at that library several times a month since my son could look at the books without chewing them.
Then, I got upstairs and found my son had been detained by a police officer and told to sit and wait for me! Again, not kidding.
Now, these are my questions for you and for the readers: First, while I understand that it is policy that under 13 be accompanied, was my son really unaccompanied? Does being twenty to thirty seconds behind him count?! Second, what do I do with that pit-of-the-stomach feeling that I had been caught doing something naughty and was going to the principal’s office? I know intellectually that teaching my son to navigate in simple situations (like a familiar library) is a good thing, but it took me several hours to get over that feeling. Also, my son was clearly confused by the situation and thought I had instructed him to do something wrong. How do I handle THAT?
I need some clarity as this is the first time I’ve had my Free-Range Parenting challenged. — L.A.
Dear Rattled Mom: My sympathies and suggestions. As for the policy at the library, see if you can talk to the head librarian. Tell him or her that you find this rule a little anti-literacy (at least I do), in that it discourages all children under 13 from coming to the library on their own. Ask: Were there problems with some disruptive kids? If so, suggest the library’s rules be changed to address that — “Anyone disruptive will be asked to leave” — rather than forbidding anyone under puberty from using the library solo.
Also ask to talk about the idea of accompaniment: Does the adult have to be physically attached to the child for it to count as “accompanying”? If not, then how about some sensible leeway?
As for the pit-of the-stomach feelings, all I can say is: I get those, too. I’m not sure they’re avoidable, but if you CAN possibly engage the police officer in a chat about his own youth, you MAY be able to get him to remember that no one’s mom was expected to be as hovering as today. And once he’s all jolly about his reminiscences, tell him that’s just the kind of childhood you want to give your kid, too. The kind his mom gave HIM. Leave him to chew on that (not a book).
And remember: You ARE a good girl and did nothing wrong. It’s just our crazy, terrified, anti-community, eager-to-blame culture you’re up against. That’s all. — L

Past puberty? Then YOU can enjoy the library without your mom. 

201 Responses

  1. Reading stuff like this makes me so angry! It also makes me thankful for where I live. So many times I read things on this blog and am truly shocked because it is so different where I live. I live in the suburbs in the mid-west. A few weeks ago my 7 year old son wanted to check something out at the library. He knew exactly what he wanted so I dropped him off at the door and he went in with his own library card. A couple of minutes later he was back out with his materials. No one questioned him, no one detained him, no one even wondered as he left the library alone. I fear that this craziness will creep across the country and will eventually take over everywhere. I am thankful that my kids are able to grow up without all the craziness but I worry what kind world my grandkids will someday live in 😦

  2. I wish you all could come and visit Israel sometime, to remember what childhood is supposed to be all about. In my neighborhood library it’s more common to see kids without parents than with, and they’re encouraged to sit and read/do homework/whatever for as long as they like, as long as they’re quiet and respectful while doing so. Just as it should be.

    And when they’re done? Most of them walk themselves right on home again.

    My photography is available for purchase – visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!

  3. (By to remember I obviously mean to be encouraged by seeing this example of free-range parenting in action on a neighborhood scale, because of course Free-Range Parenting readers would already see this as the positive and empowering experience that it is for these kids.)

  4. Fabulous suggestions as always L… Good for you L.A. and I am sure your son will be far better equipped to cope in the world than the silly cow librarian! Surely their policy is because of a few noisy kids making a nuisance of themselves… though from MY childhood memory I think 13 was the age we STARTED getting kicked out of the library for making too much noise so that sort of doesn’t quite add up! LOL 😉 May I just ask though what sort of a library has a police officer in attendance? That is the REAL worry in your story I think. Seriously, I find myself unable to put the words together sometimes… when I start talking about Free-Range parenting I often come across sceptics… and the common response “oh but you just can’t do THAT (as in let your child walk to school, go the shops, have FUN of any description) these days”. I am getting to the point now that if I see that response coming I just have to shut my trap, walk away and accept that I simply cannot be friends with a person who just doesn’t “get it”. Far too frustrating.

  5. Remember to be cautious when talking to the police. In a case like this, they are not your “friend”, they are an agent of the State investigating whether or not a crime as been committed (in their view anyway).

  6. Under 13?!! Yeah, that’s going to encourage kids to read if the library is somewhere you have to go to with your parents.

    I think Lenore’s point about talking with the police in such situations is a good one. And also, not just talking to them about their childhood, but I reckon encounters with the police should be seen as an opportunity to open up a dialogue with them. I’ve certainly decided that if it ever happens to me, I want to use it as time to maybe ask if parents and police can communicate better about things like whether the police should be intervening in certain situations; about being clear on the difference between ‘neglect’ and valid parental decisions; about the police being aware that it’s not ‘illegal’ to let kids go to the park and play together and that if people ‘report’ that kind of thing, their response should be to say that it isn’t illegal, not to turn up and, most likely, cause distress to child and family, and so on.

  7. I agree that the whole thing was out of line–from the librarian slamming her hand on the desk to involving the police. My husband and I both work/worked in public libraries. In some libraries, it’s a huge problem that children get dropped off after school (while their parents are still working) and the library gets used as a type of free babysitting. So the librarian is forced into assuming the role of crowd controller rather than doing what she’s supposed to which is helping kids find books or research for homework. I am all for free ranged kids–don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think this particular policy is necessarily born out of fear as much as it might be a way to limit people abusing the library and it’s staff. I don’t know anything about this particular library, but I figured I’d offer an alternative explanation.

  8. That’s ridiculous! I don’t know if it’s litigiousness run amuck, or fear that an unaccompanied minor will run wild and destroy the library. Unreal. If you showed up an hour later (knowing their policy) they might have a beef. But 30 seconds?

  9. Personally, I think that being accompanied means in the same place. So while you were right behine him, you weren’t inside (only by a few seconds, but still). Unfortunately, the librarian and police took it to the next step which did not need to be taken. Maybe a simple “Hey, you need to be in the same builing, please.”

    I don’t think you need to stalk your childe in the library (or anywhere). But if the policy states that they must be accompanied, I would just make sure I am in the building.

    Also, 13 is waaaaaaay to old to be acoompanied in the library. Really…13? That’s almost a high school freshman. Can you imagine. Next thing you know there will be more parents at the prom than students! Speaking of, I chaperoned the prom at the high school I work at and I could not believe how many parents asked to come into the prom to take pictures and see the kids! Are you kidding. i would have killed my parents!

  10. Sorry for all of the typing errors.

  11. I really think the librarians are in a tough position on this. Of course I think it’s silly to regard a child whose mom is within sight a few yards away as “unaccompanied,” andn I’m thankful my library system engages in no such nonsense, but I can pretty much guess at what’s motivating them here: people who let their kids act disruptively, people who treat the librarians like babysitters and worse, the library itself like a free drop-in center for kids who are there well beyond a reasonable opportunity to actually use the library’s services, and don’t always behave appropriately while doing so. And in their position, it’s just far simpler to make a blanket rule of “no unaccompanied kids” and enforce it to the hilt even where it’s ridiculous, than to constantly have to cope both with people who are actually abusing the situation, and the constant judgment calls of who might be “okay.”

    I’m not saying this zero-tolerance approach is at all the answer, I’m just saying that when criticizing the policy and suggesting what they should do instead, it’s good to keep in mind the genuine issues that provoke such overreactions. I honestly *don’t* know what the answer is in a community where people do the “free drop-in center” thing. Obviously banning unaccompanied kids (even reasonably defined) over a reasonable age of 5 or 6 is not it, but what is?

  12. My advice to you L.A.? Be proud of yourself. You stood up for yourself without getting angry yet without apologising for not living up to the impossible standards imposed on parents today, which I’m sure is what a lot of people do in that situation.
    And Robin from Israel, I wish I could come and visit Israel too. Is that an invitation? : )

  13. (Ahem.) Don’t forget, the library may not be able to set its own policies–often library policies are set by the city or county government. There’s often a one-sized-fits-all approach that’s applied to all municipal buildings.

    That being said, 13 seems a little (okay, a lot) extreme. Most libraries I’ve seen have a policy that’s something like this one:

    “Children eight (8) years old or less who are left on Library property without an accompanying adult, parent or guardian in the building often require individual attention by staff to the point that regular library services are disrupted. When a child in this age group is found unattended, Library staff will contact the parent(s) to immediately attend to the child at the Library. Police may be called to provide assistance. More than one such occurrence will result in suspension of Library privileges.”

    A lot of libraries have had problems with parents treating the children’s area as free babysitting. So don’t forget, the library policy may not be so much about the safety of children as making sure that the library staff are able to do the jobs that they’re paid to do.

    I would do a search for library policies on unattended children, gather up some more reasonable (or nuanced) policies, and then ask for a meeting with either the library director or the board. Honestly, I don’t think you’re going to get permission for your child to get on the elevator by himself at the age of 4.5, but maybe you’ll be able to talk them into making a less-restrictive policy.

  14. Pentamom, you posted while I was writing my answer! What she said. Also, I think comments like “silly cow librarian” are kind of out of line.

  15. 1. I don’t think your son was unaccompanied; you can always politely argue that point. You may even suggest (if the librarian has a sense of humour) that a new set of rules be made; like
    “Children 1-3 must be holding hands with an accompanying adult, whereas children 4-7 must always remain at no less than 6 feet from said adult. Over that age, it would suffice to remain within eyesight from their accompanying adult”.
    2. Violent situations tend to make my stomach churn, too. It helps that you keep in mind that it was the librarian who caused all the fuss, not you. BTW, congratulations for your well-behaved boy. Mine’s almost 5 and he doesn’t seem to be able to keep his voice down in the library yet!
    3. My kids are all amazing chatterboxes. This comes in very handy when something like this happens, as they voice their confusion and claim answers. It’s funny how they sometimes manage to disarm nosy adults with “innocent” remarks. Perhaps if you told your boy to go to the librarian first, and tell her that “Mummy’s parking her car and will be right here; I promise I’ll behave”…

  16. You must go to the same public library that we do. I think they found the meanest librarians in the country, made them work in the children’s section, then put toys all over the children’s section so they librarians could scold the kids if they actually play collaboratively with the toys. (meaning use language to interact with other kids.) Books are far less exciting to young kids with accompanied with scowls!

    I love the suggestion of talking to the police officer about his experiences. Personally, I remember the summer of second grade when my mom would drop me at the library (and drive away) for a few hours every morning. I’d read some books from the summer reading list, help the librarians put books away, and listen to record albums with the kids of other like minded parents.

    Now my daughter feels uncomfortable going to the other side of the children’s floor without me. (I’m uncomfortable too, because I don’t want to face those scowls either when I get scolded for leaving my child unaccompanied.)

  17. I was curious about our library’s policies, so I looked them up and for once, was pleasantly surprised:

    1. The responsibility for the safety and well-being of every child using the library rests with the child’s parent, guardian or assigned chaperone, not with library personnel.
    2. Children under the age of six must be attended by a responsible adult or teen at all times.
    3. Children age six and seven should be under the general supervision of an adult, but may be left unattended for a brief period of time.
    4. Children age eight and over, who can understand and follow the Customer Code of Conduct, are welcome to be in the library unattended.

  18. Wow, I feel fortunate to live where we do. Come 3:15, our library is full of kids who stop over on the way home from school. I honestly don’t see many parents, so they must be walking or taking the bus by themselves. And there’s a security guard who does crowd control, so the librarians can do librarian stuff.

  19. I recall hearing that there was an issue at our library for a while with parents dropping off their kids at the library and leaving them there for hours. And I am not talking teenagers, I am talking little kids. I suspect their rule might be a response to librarians being treated like babysitters.

    While I understand that it is inappropriate to have several small children alone in the library, I don’t agree with their rule. It’s simple enough to state that children are not to be left alone at the library under the age of ***. And they need to remember that adolecent kids are capable of walking to the library, checking out some books, and leaving on their own. This seems to be a blanket rule that is quite overkill.

  20. […] and single parents. They also encourage parents to submit the child support payments. When a parent is given custody of a child, it does not stop the other parent from having […]

  21. On the one hand, as described, it seems pretty clear that the librarian (at a minimum) overreacted.

    On the other hand, I can see where a librarian who saw a 4.5 year old walking into a library while mom “drove away” (albeit just to the parking lot — but would that be obvious from inside the building?) would get irritated and perceive the child as unaccompanied (different from, say, a situation where the accompanying adult had come into the library with the kid and then gone back out to the car to grab a bag, or whatever).

    Working within the existing ideology (i.e. fear) I suppose the mom could say that she prefers to minimize her DC’s exposure to parking lots where, after all, there are often nooks and crannies and in which drivers often behave unpredictably and dangerously, and therefore prefers to drop DC off before parking the car …

  22. Policy? Tell the librarian that YOUR policy says your child can run ahead, and that trumps the library’s policy.

  23. “2. Children under the age of six must be attended by a responsible adult or teen at all times.”

    I LOVE IT that it specifies that teens are permitted!

    It reminds me of a story I heard of a social service aide of some sort (not a CPS person but a guy who worked with kids in an outreach program or something like that) who took a kid to the library and tried to get him a library card. The library would not issue a card because the guy was not his parent, that was the law, and the librarian’s hands were tied. This kid was in a position where an actual parent would never have taken him to get a card, so he was just plain out of luck.

    I understand there are all kinds of legalities and complexities that cause regulations like this, but I’m always cheered when there’s enough flexibility to recognize that “legal parent” isn’t always the one who’s going to be with the kid at any given time, for a whole host of either good or bad reasons.

  24. My library requires that kid’s under 10 be accompanied by an adult. My definition of “accompanied” is that I bring her to the building and remain on the premise while she’s there. I don’t define it as being in the children’s section with her at all times. I also would never ask the librarian to keep and eye on her. When I thought that she was too young to stay in the children’s section by herself, I stayed with her. Now I think it’s okay to go off and look at adult books while she’s in the children’s section.

    I would question a 4.5 year old walking into the library by himself, however, once you appeared shortly thereafter, the librarian blew it way out of proportion. A simple “we’d prefer you walk in with him so we know he hasn’t just been left here” would have been the better approach if that was the concern.

  25. Ok, I am SO glad the library where I work doesn’t have this policy. In fact, I don’t think any of our policies actually outline specific ages at which kids are or aren’t allowed to do things, it’s more or less left up to the librarians’ discretion (what a concept!).

    On one hand, I can understand where libraries want to prevent parents from treating the library like a babysitting service, as others have mentioned. But yes, 13 is WAY too old. We probably have kids as young as 8 or 9 who get dropped off at the library for a couple of hours by their parents. As long as the kids aren’t disruptive and the parents pick the kids up before we close (so far only one incident that I remember when a girl’s dad forgot to pick her up and we waited with her outside til he got there), it’s no problem.

    And kids plenty younger than that hang out in the children’s room reading or playing with puzzles or on the computers while their parents do their thing in the reference section. Again, as long as they aren’t disruptive (or a parent comes over to handle the situation as soon as a child starts being disruptive), no problem.

    And yes, Binxcat1 is totally correct – it’s definitely unaccompanied teenagers that are more often than not the source of the problem. Adults, too. In fact, in my experience it’s the young kids cause the least trouble at my library! 😉

  26. I can’t find a policy on that topic on our library’s website — I suspect it’s because they either don’t feel the need to have one, or don’t feel the need to publicize it because it’s not that big a deal anyway.

    I’ll say it again — for Free-Ranging, short of a really rural area, nothing beats living in a small city with a high rate of poverty and social problems where the authorities don’t have the luxury of worrying about things like how far five year olds are from their parents. Of course I kid, though it’s really not funny — but it really is true that the worst regulations come in two situations: where things are so out of control that only a police state mentality is perceived to be the solution, and where there aren’t enough real problems to worry about so public officials can spend their time being busybody control freaks.

  27. Here is the policy at my library (Sonoma County, Calif):
    “Parents, not Library staff, are responsible for the behavior and safety of their children using the Library. Children under the age of eight must be closely supervised at all times by a parent or caregiver age 14 or older. If parents or caregivers cannot be located, Library staff will notify the local law enforcement agency.

    “Parents or caregivers of boisterous, loud, or disruptive children will be requested to control their children or take them to the lobby, foyer, or outside until the behavior is remedied.”

    My local library is all one floor with an open floor plan, but you can’t see too far due to stacks and support beams. The children’s area is off to one side (you have to walk by the front desk or the info desk to get in and out) with its own bathrooms. The sole exit (that’s not a fire door) is well monitored and past the check out.

    They have never cared about children running ahead of adults. I have been “spoken to” when I’ve left my daughter in the children’s section so I could go to another section to get books. That was when she was 4 or so. She’s 6 now and they don’t seem to care. I take her with me if I go to the far end of the library but not if I am near by. This is mostly because she prefers to have me close. If she wanted me to go without her, I would.

    I think Rattled Mom’s actions were reasonable, if they were right for her child (which it sounds like they were). I think it is also reasonable for the library to ask you nicely not to send a 4 year old into the building and up the elevator by himself. The way they acted was extreme and their age 13 policy is bizarre.

  28. @Cyndi, I think it’s funny that your library considers a 14 year old mature enough to accompany small children, but the library in the post deems a 12 year old far too young to be left alone. Funny how perceptions of maturity and capability can vary so widely from one place to the next.

  29. There is so much I want to say, but I’m going to have to calm myself first to not sound like as much of a lunatic as that librarian was.

    My “proper” reply will be coming later.


  30. 13 seems nuts. Out of curiosity I looked up the policy for my hometown library and found this:

    A child under the age of eight must be supervised while in the library. Library staff members are not responsible for this supervision.

    I then looked up the policy for the library in the city I currently live in and found this:

    Children age 8 and under may not be left unattended in the library. They must be accompanied by a parent or other responsible person (age 15 or older) at all times. Parents and/or responsible persons are accountable for their children’s behavior and safety while in the library.

    Children shall be considered “attended” as long as they are within sight of the parent or other responsible person. An exception would be children attending a story time or other library program without a parent/responsible person in the room. However, the parent/responsible person must remain in the library building and immediately join the child at the end of the program.

    Both of those policies seem reasonable to me. 13 is just plain silly.

  31. Not really advice, but just a list of what I would have (politely and respectfully, but firmly) done in that situation.

    1) I’d have asked the librarian if she was threatening me with her violent hand-slamming. Signs of physical aggression like that on behalf of library staff towards library patrons are surely out of line. I’d ask to see the policy on THAT, and I’d ask that someone other than that person show the policy to me, because she had made me uncomfortable. Preferably her supervisor.

    2) Ask to see the policy in question, see if it contained details about what it means to be unaccompanied, details about what the punishment is for violating the policy x times, etc.

    3) Police officers are tasked with Law Enforcement, not Policy Enforcement. I’d ask the officer what LAWS (if any) were potentially being broken. (If I spoke to him at all, that is. It’s not usually a good idea to talk to the Police, no matter who you are — except to ask “Am I being detained?” and “Thank you. Good day.” when they say ‘No.’)

    4) I might have asked the librarian and the officer just what exactly they thought might have happened to my child if he were out of my sight for 20 seconds. If they come up with wild scenarios, ask how truly likely those are. Has it happened at that library before? Ever? Would it be likely to happen with an actual police officer in the building?

    5) I’d consider raising a bit of a public debate in the local paper on this issue. Get together with some teachers or homeschooling parents who feel that the library has become far too uninviting of a place, and form a group that demands policy review and sensible changes. Your taxes pay for the library building, the books in it, the wild lady’s salary, and the salary of the police officer. You have a huge say in how those are allowed to operate.

  32. Hey Lenore,

    Regarding the line, there’s a horizontal rule () tag in the post that’s causing it.

  33. Strewth. What have we done with the notion that most parents are capable of looking after their children and making their own judgement calls on what’s safe and what isn’t?

    I’d just like to echo all those posters who have said that 13 is far too old to be the starting point for solo visits to the library (and those who have said that 13 is old enough to supervise younger kids in such a safe space). Our local library stipulates 8 – and since that age all my kids have trotted round the corner on their own to return and borrow books (they all know how to order them, too – even the 9-yr-old). When they were smaller, I used to leave them in the children’s section while I sorted out my own books – I could hear if they were being disruptive. My kids all have a great relationship with the library staff – and a good relationship with the whole concept of libraries.

    Letting your child run ahead of you is not – or should not be – a crime. So the mother in question should not feel bad, should not feel guilty, should not feel she has been foolish. She was letting her kid be a kid – in other words, she was starting to prepare him for being an adult.

  34. I get that large institutions feel the need to make blanket policies, but tying this stuff to age instead of maturity level is insane. I know some 13 year olds who I would not trust on their own (partly because of infantilizing helicopter parents who have never given them any responsibility), and I know some 6 year olds who can handle going to the library by themselves. The rule should be about disruptive behavior, not age.

  35. Three years ago, when my son was seventeen-and-a-half I made advance arrangements for him to travel to Kauai’i for three months. He was to be living with his tutor of five years. I went ahead of him to check out the situation in person.

    I tried to get him a library card but they insisted that we had to both appear together. I left the island before he arrived. He never was able to get the card. Sometimes bureaucracy is just plain inflexible.

  36. The calendar on this site is broken.

  37. Those “pit-of-your-stomach” feelings might be telling you that you are doing something wrong….

  38. Hi,

    As a librarian, I have to say that we rarely get to set our policies. They are generally dictated to us, and if we try and fudge the rules, we can get in serious trouble. (The whole culture of fear is pervasive amongst government lawyers. We have a whole department that is just supposed to manage risk. (i.e. magician’s using fire or live animals such as doves, people bringing food to storytime that might cause an issue with allergies, unaccompanied minors who could trip and fall or have a bathroom accident in the middle of the library causing a biohazard, etc. ) Also, some cities do have a policy about unaccompanied children. I don’t know that I’ve heard of the age being as high as 13, but I have been in places where it was 11. If the city or county has a law, we have to follow it.

    While I wouldn’t bat an eye over a child of 7 or so coming into the library, a child under 5 entering the building and then getting onto the elevator without an adult in sight would make me worry about a problem in the children’s area. I wouldn’t worry that the child would be in danger, but because a large number of kids at that age haven’t learned how to behave in a library yet. I constantly have to remind kids to use their inside voices, because if I don’t, I’m over run with complaints about the noise level and I end up babysitting. I’m then frequently yelled at by the parent for “correcting” their child. I’m sure that the police officer wasn’t called in specifically because of the child, but was either stationed at the library or there on other business. He probably sat the boy down because he came off the elevator alone and there wasn’t a parent with him. The officer couldn’t have known that the adult was only one elevator ride behind.

    Finally, it’s very, very likely that the “librarian” wasn’t actually a librarian, but a clerk. It doesn’t excuse her behavior, which was deplorable, but you need a Masters in Library Science to be a librarian. Normally only the top two or three people at a library branch are actual librarians. We’re trained in conflict management and customer service. Clerks (the people who check out the books) tend to have even less leeway about bending rules than librarians do, and thus tend to react more strongly to perceived infractions. Once again, it doesn’t excuse horrific customer service.

    If someone wants to encourage their child to be more free range at a younger age, it would be kindest to everyone to let the library know ahead of time. If I had a parent call up and tell me that they were going to be sending in their four year old alone so they could learn to be more independent and they’d be following in a few minutes, I wouldn’t worry when I saw the child. I’d probably even go out of my way to make sure that he or she felt comfortable and welcome. Once again, if it’s an older child, there wouldn’t be an issue at all, but seeing a child under 5 without a parent is such an anomaly in our society that a head’s up would be the best way to prevent misunderstandings.

  39. Very well put Jenn.

  40. When I was 8 years old (25 years ago), I got shooed out of the house almost daily with my 4 year old brother to go to the library, about a 5-6 block walk that involved crossing one semi-major street. We’d stay for hours.

    Now, when I take my kids (7 yo twin boys) to the library, we tend to each look in our own sections, and I “supervise” only when the “hey Mommy, can you…” gets really loud or it’s time to go home. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have enough time in the library.

  41. @mombo5

    Why are you even on this site?

  42. That’s ridiculous, 13? Does anyone remember the movie Matilda, how she started going to the library when she was what…3 or 4? She walked there by herself every single day and read every book in the children section by the time she was 7 so she moved on to the adult section. Her parents were neglectful bums so she just did everything by herself. I’m not advocating that parents should be neglectful, obviously, but I do believe that a little moderate neglect is helpful in developing a sense of independence and confidence. OP, I just hope your son is not too shaken up by the incident and thinks that he needs to stay right next to you at all times or he will get in trouble.

  43. Ok, so I lied about my library’s policy – I just double-checked our website, and it says children under the age of 7 should be accompanied by an adult. Much more reasonable than 13. Also, I’m glad I haven’t been inadvertantly violating library policy when I don’t bat an eye at well-behaved unaccompanied 8-year-olds. 😉

    And granted, our library is all one floor with no elevators, but excited children often run ahead of their parents into the children’s room. While I make it a point to remind the kids that they shouldn’t run, I could never bring myself to berate a parent for letting their children wander more than 3 feet away from them.

    And Jenn does bring up a good point about the person at the front desk likely being a clerk., that’s how it is in my library. Though once in awhile I do cover the circulation desk if no one else is available, probably 95% of the time it’s paraprofessionals who do circulation. The librarians do tend to be able to exercise a bit more discretion in the application of policies, and the person at the front desk may have been worried about getting in trouble for not following the policy.

  44. Umm I am going to say that if they have a rule of under 13 must be accompanied than I think you should stay very close to him. Another floor not being close enough. Even if you think he would be fine, it is their building and it is their decision. They are the ones who have to deal with teh consequences if he rips up a bunch of books or makes a huge mess etc. That I can guarantee you is part of the reason the policy was put in place. Some kids are butts and their parents expect workers to babysit their kids and that is not their job and then things get messed up.

    I would not let my kids do that at that age. Now I would be way more on your side if you kids were older but not yet 13 like 8+ because most kids at that age know not to rip up books or make messes, but they are going to be way more wary of a 4 year old than a 10 year old.

    I worked in a toy store in the mall and it was the same thing. Parents would send their kids in and expect us to babysit them while the parents shopped. That is not our job. I had to clean up their messes and keep them out of trouble. I had kids climbing shelves and trying to ride cars out of the store and all kinds of shenanigans. Sometimes even with the parents being in the store I still had to do this because some parents act so oblivious to what their kids are doing.

    Businesses and a library is a business have a right to not want kids running around without their parents monitering them.

  45. In defense of the librarians…..(full disclosure, I am one, though not at a public library):

    You have NO IDEA how many parents drop their kids off at the library and expect us to watch over them, take care of them, and otherwise babysit them. Then get angry at US if little junior checks out a book they don’t like, gets an eyeful of porn at the unfiltered computers, etc. The library is not daycare. That’s why those policies are in place.

    That being said, I was a kid who was dropped off at the library and knew how to act. The policies that have been put into place are NOT because of the library (or librarians) wanting to stifle reading, but rather because some PARENTS are either irresponsible, neglectful, or litigious.

    So cut the librarian a break (though if she did pound on the desk with both hands, I can definitely understand where you’re coming from!). If you need to blame someone, blame the other parents that aren’t as conscientious as you are about building independence and decent behavior in their children.

  46. Tell the head librarian that you’ll boycott the library, and encourage other mothers you know to do so as well, until they change the rule.

  47. A 4.5 year old who doesn’t know not to tear up books and throw things around the library should definitely not be left in the children’s section of the library alone. However, a 4.5 year old who doesn’t know not to tear up books is probably not going to be in the library because it doesn’t appear that he’s ever been exposed to people with an interest in books. In other words, 4.5 is waaaaay too old to be intentionally tearing up books (and an accident is not going to be prevented by the parents sitting right next to the child unless the parents don’t let the child handle the book).

    “Businesses and a library is a business have a right to not want kids running around without their parents monitering them.”

    Actually, a library is uually a branch of the government and not a business, but they do have a right to not want kids running around. However, the proper rule would be “no running in the library” and kids who violate that policy should be removed. Same with talking loudly, tearing up books (which parents need to then pay for) or making messes. How about if we actually make rules targeted at stopping the unwanted behavior rather than making the place less friendly for kids?

  48. Crap. I hope that’s not policy here. My daughter will be 11 in a few weeks and I was planning to let her spend a few days at the library across from my office (walking distance, albeit across a 5-lane highway with no crosswalks, so she won’t be traversing by herself). There are several days when she didn’t have other activities planned this summer and I was thinking this would be a good solution as sitting in my office is quite boring. She loves to read and she’s well-behaved and quiet, so I figured it would be a good place for her to hang out for a few hours each day. They would never know she was there unless she went to the desk and begged them to let her work (which she probably will do). I wouldn’t be upset if they let her shelve books. If she volunteers 15 hours, she gets a free library card for the year, which saves me $50.

  49. The mention of an elevator in this thread brought to mind my children’s preschool, located on the second floor of a lovely restored brick warehouse. At drop-off and pick-up, I prefer to use the stairs, at they are generally quicker (now that my kids no longer have little toddler legs working the steps). However, if both my kids, for whatever reason, decide they want to ride the elevator, I don’t make a fuss.

    The dilemma comes when my son wants to go one way and my daughter chooses the opposite. Taking turns occasionally works, but my trying to force a decision one way or the other only tacks on precious minutes to an already stressful time of day.

    So, as my son is now 6, I’ve decided that he is old enough to move from one floor to the other unaccompanied. More often than not this means he is riding the elevator by himself.

    I am somewhat ambivalent about this decision. We’ve never had an issue, but I wonder what other parents think when they ride with him. I also wonder if I am violating the center’s policy of not leaving your children unaccompanied. I also wonder what my wife thinks!

  50. When I was a child, my (working) parents left myself and my sisters off with my grandparents for the entire summer. My grandparents were already fairly elderly and no match for three energetic kids. We were allowed to ramble around the neighborhood more or less on our own as long as we were home for meals and bedtime, and this included being able to bike down to the library in their little New England town.

    At this library, I read hundreds of books over the years. I was “unaccompanied” probably half the time, and almost never “accompanied” by an adult. It was implicit that if I violated the rules of the library I’d simply be turned outside (as happened once to my sister, when she got an uncontrollable case of the giggles over some passage she was reading). And that was sufficient.

    God help all of us if children can’t be allowed to use the public library without mediation, but letting them hole up in their rooms playing video games is considered “safe”.

  51. What Whitney said. Sometimes crappy parents ruin things for the rest of us.

  52. “The policies that have been put into place are NOT because of the library (or librarians) wanting to stifle reading, but rather because some PARENTS are either irresponsible, neglectful, or litigious.”

    This is a familiar argument and it is always an extremely illogical and dumb argument. How about if we extend that thought process to other areas, for example some people speed so all driving is prohibited. But of course we don’t do that, we make laws against speeding, harass speeders and then leave those who want to follow the rules alone.

    It is no different to say some 7 year olds don’t know how to act in the library alone so all 7 year olds should be accompanied by parents. A better idea would be to post rules of the library and indicate that people who violate them, regardless of age, will be made to leave.

    And, if the theory is that irresponsible parents are not teaching their kids to behave in the library, what help exactly is having those same irresponsible parents present with their children? Clearly THEY don’t know the rules of the library or care to teach them to their children so you haven’t solved a problem at all. You’ve now just made it so the same children break the rules while their parents sit by and watch.

  53. Parenthetically, and I don’t mean to suggest another layer of regulation, the primary problem with “unaccompanied” kids at the library we frequent now is the teenaged kids who are consigned to the library as a sort of aftercare program (presumably since they can’t be trusted to get themselves home safely) who use it as a lounge between school closing and when their parents come pick them up, who have little interest in the library itself, sprawling all over the children’s area where younger kids are intimidated by their noise and physical occupation of the space. Age limits are no guarantee of an appropriate mastery of library etiquette.

  54. Donna: Except I can think of many parents who would refuse to pay for what books their kid damaged. Either because they don’t have the money or don’t care to pay it. As I said working in a toy store I had kids vandalize toys whether they be display models or models to sell. The parents would not pay for it either. They have to make rules to protect their own asses and property and sometimes the bad apples ruin it for everyone, but that is just the way it is.

  55. Age four strikes me as maybe too young to not be basically right next to a child– but then my oldest child has always been a little “young” for his age and his sister follows suit.

    I imagine several things play into that policy. Probably there HAVE been past instances of poorly-behaving children in the library, and with no parents in sight, the librarians can’t just eject the naughty lil patrons. So i can understand the sense of resentment about “babysitting” that would cause.

    Another is that some places have got so few actual kids now that they have all but forgotten what kids are like. It’s weird, but it’s out there. You know how notoriously overprotective first-time moms can be? Well, multiply that by a whole BUNCH of only children and you wind up with a community parenting standard that’s practically a cartoon of itself.

    A rough-and-tumble kind of place where most people have closer to three kids than one seems to lend itself a lot more to free-range parenting, just because it’s not weird to start pushing your oldest into independence for the sake of your own sanity.

  56. Well one reason for blanket policies or zero tolerance policies is fear of someone calling discrimination. Unfortunately since people do that they had to institute these blanket policies. For example, say they were just going to do a case by case basis and only kick out the ill behaved kids. Here come an ill behaved kid thats Hispanic. They remove him from the library, next thing you know you got them claiming you are racist against Hispanics and the ACLU is getting involved and lawsuits are getting made. I hate that its our current reality in this country but I see it a lot. So they institute these blanket zero tolerance policies so that no one can claim to be getting special treatment or discriminated against and they just make everyone pay for it and follow it. Its not right, but that is why a lot of rules are like that now.

  57. I’m sorry, I just don’t see the problem with kids hanging out at the library, so long as they are reading, or doing school work. Even if part of the time they are goofing off, at least they will be exposed to books most of the time. What else should they be doing? Sitting at home, watching the TV?

    Everyone complains that there are no safe places for kids to hang out, and then complain kids shouldn’t be at the library? Really? I’m not trying to say that kids should be hanging out, being disruptive, just talking and goofing the whole time, but if they have fun and read some, so what?

    The biggest objection on here is the library as a free baby sitter. This is really saying a city employee might have to do things that they don’t like, outside of their job description? What job doesn’t require this? If you don’t like kids, don’t work in the kids section of a library! If there are so many kids hanging about that librarians/clerks can’t do their normal work (helping kids!), how about some better, creative, solutions?

    MAYBE they could bring in some older teens to supervise, and show kids how to use the library, instead of kicking the kids out? They could come from the child development classes, social studies, or OWE. Class credit for work, no cost!

    AND, they could require a class on library etiquette and rules before the kid can be left alone. They could charge a small fee, to cover the cost of offering the class. It would be easy to track via library card! It could be taken online, or once a month on a weekend. If you don’t take the class, you can’t hang out, period. The parents should have to take a class on the rules too. anyone not compliant loses privileges. Easy. You wouldn’t have to take it if you supervise your kid, only if they are there alone.

    It would be free, at the most cheap, and a community builder. After all, it’s a LIBRARY! it’s part of the community, a public building, and it’s a perfect place to foster the community values we all seem to want! What better way to promote unity, and responsibility, than to have older kids help younger ones, instead of pushing them out?

    SOLUTIONS are so much better than bureaucracy and complaints. especially when the problem is no problem at all- kids at the library!

  58. I just checked our library. They don’t have a specific policy listed ANYWHERE that I can find! In the library children’s area it just says children need to be accompanied but nothing indicating exactly what that means. I’ve left my almost 8 year old daughter in the children’s area by herself to browse while I go to the adult area on the next floor up, but I would NEVER leave my almsot 5 son there without me nearby. Not because he’d damage the books but because he is so dang LOUD and probably would want to play hide and seek in the stacks!

  59. This just rubs me in all the wrong ways. Sheesh. I take my girl to the library weekly. While my girl is still a toddler and too young to run free w/o pulling out every last thing on the shevles I love our trips to the library because it’s a fun, safe, educational place for her to run around and explore. Once we’re inside the doors she knows she doesn’t have to hold my hand anymore and she takes off for the children’s section. We attend a class there where the kids sing, read, jump and run free w/o much parent interference. It’s a wonderful place for her but also for me. As a kid I spent many days biking and walking to and from my elementary school (almost a mile one way), and entire summers on my bike riding up and down the hills of north Seattle visiting the 3 different libraries near by (.2mi, 1.7mi, and 5miles- the later of which required an additional- gasp!- bus ride.) I hate to think there may be a day where my girl might not be able to laze away a day in the library or ride her bike to heck and gone just for the love of being out and about… As for the uptight librarian- maybe she had some unaccompanied kids who ruined her day once upon a time- but there’s no reason for fist pounding in this scenario. The cop knows Mom did nothing wrong. I hope the writer can get over that “sent-to-the-principals-office” feeling quickly!

  60. The post by Donna and especially Lafe make SO much sense. The post by Mombo5? Not so much, that’s just pure rubbish on display.

    What Dolly was talking about somewhat makes sense as well, in terms of the businesses & libraries etc not wanting unruly children trashing the place. That’s an absolutely understandable concern, and it’s totally understandable to make policies towards that end. The key aspect for me is this–is the rule in place to prevent children from trashing the place, or is it out of a misguided sense of “you can never leave a child alone for 5 nanoseconds else they’ll be another Jaycee Dugard.”

    That’s why I have often-times said, to me, it’s not enough to know what the rules are, but WHY they are what they are. It got me in trouble as a child–when I’d ask my mother “why” about a rule and she replied “because I said so,” I would actually say “that’s not good enough–you have to explain WHY or else I’m not going to obey it.” Needless to say, that earned me a number of slaps on the jaw, ha ha.

    As a child, curiousity aside, the adults know the deal–relatively speaking, you know nothing whatsoever–so you should just do as you’re told. As a an adult, though, that’s an insult to my intelligence. I’m not going to robotically just do whatever people tell me “because it’s the rule,” I want to know the spirit & attitude behind the rule, and if I don’t agree with it, then as Lenore mentioned (I believed)–suggest a change in the rule that’s more suitable towards meeting that need without being so overbearing towards those who aren’t really in violation of it.

    Even if the rules are about control of children to prevent vandalism, noise etc, it sounds as if the poster’s situation wasn’t about that at all, and rules should be flexible towards accommodating such context, rather than being so rigid. It reminds me of when I was in college & stayed on campus. I loved to enjoy loud music but the resident advisor (RA) was rather strict about it, so much so even a clock radio seemed to be too loud. However, during fall break, almost all of the students were gone, he & I remained but we were just about it. He made it clear to me: as long as I wasn’t rocking at, say 11 pm, he would relax the standards greatly, because the rules about noise were for the respect of other persons’ quiet, but almost no other such persons were around to be affected, so what was the point?

    That’s the sort of rule interpretation we need, not a draconian “rules are rules” black & white type of deal. And if the rules are about fear of kidnappers etc vs preventing children vandalizing the place, the rule needs to be thrown out altogether to start with.

    That is where I disagree with Dolly–a rotten apple does NOT spoil the whole barrel, unless you LET it. People who use that saying in making the rules & enforcing the rules that way are justifying lazy interpretation, sort of like what Donna was saying–some drivers are reckless, so let’s just ban all driving. That’s not “the way it is,” that’s just lazy enforcement & a retarded way of thinking.


  61. @Staceyjw – The way I see it, the complaint about “we are not babysitters” isn’t so much about not wanting to go above and beyond job duties. As I mentioned before, once I waited outside the library with a child whose father forgot to pick her up for about a half hour after we closed. I would have been perfectly within my rights to bring her across the parking lot to the police station, but figured that hanging out with one of the clerks and me would be less intimidating.

    Personally, I’d be most concerned about parents expecting us to be responsible for their children remaining at the library after they drop them off, as opposed to, say, sneaking off somewhere to smoke or drink or otherwise get into mischief. If I’m constantly concerned about making sure that all the kids that were dropped off are still at the library and accounted for at any given time, that prevents me from focusing on the kid who has to put together a presentation for history class and needs help finding books or websites or is having trouble figuring out how to use a program on the computer.

    I don’t mind disciplining kids who become disruptive as long as I only have to tell them once or twice, and I LOVE helping kids find books about subjects that interest them. But I don’t want to get yelled at by a parent because their kid left the library when they weren’t supposed to because I was too busy shelving books or helping a child do research (or other actual library-related tasks that I’d get in trouble for NOT doing) to keep an eye on every unattended child every single second for 4 straight hours.

  62. @stephanie: I agree librarians should NOT have to supervise the kids.

    If a parent drops off Suzy at the library and Suzy decides to instead slink back out the front door and smoke pot with her boyfriend instead, then that is not, and should not be, the librarian’s problem.

  63. I work in a public library and parents consistently overestimate their child’s ability to behave if the parent is not in sight.

    We are happy to keep the kids who want to be here and kick out the kids who misbehave. That said, we could empty the building every single day by the half hour after school gets out. When we do that, we call the parents to come pick up their child because we are liable if something happens to your little Suzy walking home from the library. Parents often react with outrage that we can’t take a few hijinks (lLOUD talking, hitting each other, throwing things) and refuse to pick their child up. It just goes downhill from there.

    I would like to remind the commentators that you may be great parents, parents who have taught their kids to behave appropriately, parents who expect their kids to behave appropriately, parents who will guide their children to behave appropriately. We know who you are. Most of the parents that drop their kids off are not those parents.

  64. Hehe.. I love my area when it comes to this stuff. They haven’t quite been hit with the full-hysteria that seems to have infiltrated other municipalities:

    Rules of Conduct
    #9. Parents are responsible for the behavior of their children while they are on Library property. Children under the age of eight must be attended by a parent or other responsible caregiver age 14 or older at all times while on Library property.

    *Thumbs Up!*

  65. This is hard. My kids are also 4 and quite ready for a little free movement. Luckily I live in an area where people are not completely weird about this. But I do get a lot of looks and notice folks looking around with concern when they see my little girls going competently about their business.

    The other day we were at a street festival that had a bouncy house and inflated slide close together. The crowd was small enough that the girls were able to get on both of these many times in the course of a couple of hours. So after giving them some guidance on (a) not losing their place in line and (b) not cutting in line, I went and sat on a rock to rest my feet. I could see them from there but I was not “hovering.” They did great, made some “friends,” and had a lot of fun. As for the surrounding adults, I think they assumed my kids were with some of the other folks who were standing around.

    Then yesterday we were out shopping, and my kids wanted to go into a toy store next to our grocery store. One of them had a glass of water. I had her finish the glass and then go into the store while I walked maybe 50 feet away to drop it in the garbage. Before I reached the garbage can, a woman RAN out of the door to look for the adult responsible for the kids. (Note that we’ve been there many times and my kids don’t cause any trouble.) Not sure what that lady thought was such an emergency – did she think I was abandoning my kids right there at her store? (Not that the idea never crosses my mind . . . .)

    I must say that now that the girls are 4, the majority of folks take their “alone” presence in stride. I can send them to a restroom or toy department in another area of the store, send them to choose a table on the patio outside the restaurant, etc. As long as they look like they know what they’re doing, people are pretty cool in these parts. Generally.

    As for the library rule – I think that lady was off her meds, and as for the cop, someone ought to get reprimanded for scaring a child like that when he wasn’t doing anything wrong. I can understand a rule that kids be “accompanied” (though I hate that it’s come to that – the library was one of my summer hangouts as a kid) – but I would have thought that meant the parent is “around,” not up the kid’s butt. Ugh.

  66. The thing is, this is not about disruptive kids, or kids dropped off at the library.

    This is about someone overreacting, badly, to someone who was not rightnexttotheirkid.

    How about, I dunno, waiting about 3 minutes and observing the child before freaking out and calling the cops? How about using some common sense? I’ve saved myself an awful lot of embarrassment and grief over the years by just keeping my mouth shut for a few minutes and observing. If a little kid is about to walk into a busy street, that’s different. Buf if a little kid is just standing on the sidewalk, I’ll wait to see if mom is maybe making her way down the block to meet him before I freak out and call CPS to report an unattended child. But that’s just me.

  67. I just say next time you go to the library walk in with the kid strapped to your chest with various belts, preferably with skin to skin contact.

  68. “Except I can think of many parents who would refuse to pay for what books their kid damaged. ”

    Fine. This is a library, not a store. It gets put on their account and they cannot check out another item until it’s paid. My guess is that as a government entity, there are also other ways to collect the money.

    “They have to make rules to protect their own asses and property and sometimes the bad apples ruin it for everyone, but that is just the way it is.”

    But, that’s the problem, an age rules DOESN”T protect their property. It assumes that the problem is age and not tearing up books. My child hasn’t intentionally torn a book since she was 1.5 (and age where NO child should be left in a library unattended). My brother got bored and drew in some books at 12 to be obnoxious. Age does not determine propensity to ruin books. If the 12 year old damages a book and the parents refuse to pay, the library is stuck in the exact same position.

    “Well one reason for blanket policies or zero tolerance policies is fear of someone calling discrimination.”

    And yet we manage, in every other aspect of life, to have rules addressing specific behavior and punish the people who break those rules without resorting to zero tolerance policies. Try going into court and fighting a speeding ticket on the basis of discrimination. While I think you are more likely to be pulled over if you are a person of some color, ultimately, the I-was-speeding-but-they-only-pulled me-over-because-I-am-hispanic defense is not going to get you far.

    As long as the library is legitimately only penalizing rule-breakers regardless of race, color, religion and sexual orientation, it’s fine (and if they are not, they deserve to be sued). Zero tolerance rules are just lazy.

    “I’d be most concerned about parents expecting us to be responsible for their children remaining at the library after they drop them off, as opposed to, say, sneaking off somewhere to smoke or drink or otherwise get into mischief. ”

    That’s not the libraries problem, nor is it cured by any of these rules. I’m guessing that the 13+, the age that is allowed to be unattended at the library, set is much more likely to be sneaking out the back door of the library to smoke, drink and meet up with boyfriends than the 10 and under set.

    “That said, we could empty the building every single day by the half hour after school gets out.”

    Which does nothing but reinforce the point that age limits are unhelpful. “After school” indicates that the children at issue actually attend school. Unless all the trouble makers are in early elementary school, they are ABOVE the age where they are allowed to be unaccompanied in the library … unless you are proposing that nobody under 18 ever be allowed in the library unattended.

  69. perhaps only those between the ages of 18 and 40 should be in the library (over 60’s may of course have dementia and tear the books apart with their teeth and women of around 50, may forget why they are there and have hot flashes over the books, while pre-menstrual girls may cry all over them).
    Ok, perhaps only men between 18 and 40, but of course that sounds wrong too, so maybe we should just all stay at home and watch tv instead of read!

  70. I hear what you are saying about blanket policies being bad. Here’s a slightly different perspective. Misbehaving kids are a time suck away from people who want to legitimately use the library.

    Think about your job, every hour, you have to spend 10 minutes dealing with a co-worker who should know how to do their job but does not. At the end of the day you’ve lost 80 minutes. At the end of the week, you’ve lost well over 6 hours. And that’s on a good day. On a bad day, we spend a minimum of 3 hours dealing with misbehaving kids.

    That’s 6 to 15 hours that I am not helping you find the book you want, planning a program for you to attend, thoughtfully ordering books for you to read, running a program where you can both have fun and learn something, building a bulletin board that highlights our resources, labeling books so that you can tell at a glance whether they are a genre you are interested in, visiting your schools to talk about books and show your kids how great the library is, teaching you how to use our databases as a more reliable source of information than the internet, shelving the books that got taken out and weren’t needed, checking the shelves to fix the mistakes patrons make when they try to help us, creating booklists to help you find books like that last great one you read, and on and on and on.

    Your kids are welcome in our library. Just please understand that we have jobs to do too and it’s better for us to nip a problem in it’s bud than wait for it to bloom.

  71. Linda,
    my naughty response was just fun, BUT I think your comments are very valid and they’re not just age related. i remember the days when libraries were silent and anyone disrupting that was asked to leave. I have seen adults on their cell phone talking by “no cell phone” signs. Seems we are in a different age altogether with rudeness at an all time high. Shame, libraries should be peaceful and trouble-free…

  72. “Under 13 must be accompanied by parent”?!

    Holy craziness out the wazoo! Why even have libraries?!

  73. Our local library has a policy like this. Kids under 13 must remain in visual contact with an adult over 18.
    I have five children ages 9 and down. Am I supposed to take the whole troop into the bathroom to change the 19-month-old’s diaper? Should I form a human chain while helping the 8-year-old find books on bugs?
    I ignore it. If one of the librarians harasses me about it sometime, I’ll ask her those questions. If she persists, I’ll refer her to my lawyer/husband.

  74. Heather — you’ll refer her to your lawyer husband? Isn’t that part of the attitude that has created this whole mess in the first place? how about — you’ll take the issue to the library board to see if you can get the policy made more sensible?

    I think the library has policies and either you work to get them changed or you follow them, though in this case I agree the librarian or clerk wasn’t exactly diplomatic in her approach.

    But as someone else said, what on earth is a police officer doing working the library????

    but as

  75. @Traci: You probably were not allowed to get a library card for your son because libraries generally require that the person needs to be present to get a library card.

    As for the 13 and up, ridiculous!

  76. The police are often in libraries to deal with gang problems, vandalism, irate, screaming patrons, crazy patrons who will hit or harass staff members and the public, be present for knife and fist fights, and be a general deterrent to bad behavior with a daily walk through. That’s not fearmongering, that’s what life in the library is like, and not in an inner city either.

  77. My grandson (7) and I ride or bikes all around brooklyn. I ride in the street and he rides on the sidewalk. He always races to the corner and skids to a stop and then waits for me before crossing the street. I always see people with panic on their face wondering why he is alone on his bike. I smile assure them he is with me and avoid further conversation. Too often in the past I would have to here about the danger. I have learned to let it pass. I am doing nothing wrong and I refuse to let other dictate how I should feel and what I should do.

  78. Where the HELL is this place? That very important information is lacking from this post.

  79. Jenn Johnson No disrespect meant, seriously, but I do not for a minute believe the general libraries are like that. I am sure there are SOME, but then there are undesirable elements to be found almost anywhere. I don’t doubt certain places are “hotbeds” for this, but I seriously doubt most libraries are that.


  80. Wow. I have have just been waiting for this exact same senario to happen to me. Our local library is built so you must enter a foyer and then take an elevator or the stairs to the second floor where the books are. Our 5 year old’s biggest thrill is going up the elevator by herself while I walk up the stairs and meet her at the top. Most of the time I beat her there. I figure its only a matter of time before a “concerned parent” turns me in. By the way, the elevator only goes to the two floors, so it’s not as if she’s going to get lost anywhere.

  81. LHR – most libraries don’t have all of the issues I mentioned, but someone earlier wanted to know what the police were doing in the library. Those are some of the reasons they may be there. I’m at a library in an affluent area and while we don’t have gangs, we do have at least a few people each month come in either drunk or stoned, a number of homeless, mentally ill regulars, have had a staff member punched in the last year, and have had people get into fist fights over electrical outlets and parking spaces. We’re not a hot bed of problems and most days and even weeks are peaceful but we do have a security guard for a reason. So, there was probably a reason for the police officer to be in the library other than harassing free range parents.

  82. I decided to check the rules at my own library and was expecting it to be far more restrictive. I don’t think it can more free-range than this!

    Young children may not be left unattended anywhere in the library, including areas designated for children. A parent, guardian, or other responsible adult must accompany any children who cannot communicate their first and last names, their phone number, and the first and last name of the person who brought them to the library.

    While staff is concerned about the safety and well-being of children and young adults, they cannot assume responsibility for them in the absence of the parent or guardian.

  83. I have to agree with LRH. The library I go to is in a poorer part of Staten Island. It’s a big branch.

    I go there every single week for storytime, and have for the past five years or so. I used to go there after school when I was in high school, every day.

    I have ONCE seen a guy taken out by the cops in handcuffs, for what reason I don’t know.

    I have never seen anybody disreputable in the children’s section (which is on a floor by itself) other than some of the older children (although that’s eased up as they older kids are now overwhelmingly going to the new teen section two floors away). The librarians are willing to let you leave your kid in the kid section for at least a short period (I do it every week during storytime so I can return our old books and check out new ones – for some reason the girls’ library manners disappear at the end of the day, and I don’t think it’s worth interfering with everybody else’s right to use the library just so I can make them stand on line with me) so long as your kid behaves themselves appropriately. They’ve never once suggested to me that it’s dangerous to do so, and I asked outright if it was okay the first few times I did that.

    We’re actually close to the projects, to a homeless shelter, to lots of sketchy places. There’s a sex shop ten minutes away, and a Taco Bell that’s so run down and beaten up that I refuse to go in there.

    But I’ve only once seen any form of problem at the library. Even the louder teens never do more than talking loudly, glaring at each other, and (hilariously) trying to give me childcare advice.

    We know no place is totally safe all the time. And we know that libraries aren’t havens from real life. But I don’t think every library is crime-ridden and dangerous.

  84. Incidentally, like everybody else, I decided to check the rules for unattended children at our library.

    This rule gives a lot of leeway instead of set ages, but it seems to be saying “If your child is not at risk or breaking the rules, it’s okay for them to be there.” Certainly I see a lot of kids there accompanied only by a big sibling.

    (Just yesterday I saw a very intelligent four year old girl trying hard to learn to read so she’d be ready for kindergarten. I found some easy books, set her up with my kindergartener niece to read to her, and then set her up with the older niece to read to them both once homework was done. She told me plainly she was there “with her brother”, though when I saw her mother later it seems like her brother had basically just ditched her in the kid’s section for the one and a half hours she was there. Given that the kid is four, maybe five, I agreed with her mom’s assessment that no matter HOW smart and well-behaved she is, somebody should’ve been closer than two floors away for at least SOME of that time. But she enjoyed herself and really was an absolute doll, and I told her mother so on my way out.)

    It’s important to note that NYC has three library systems – the NYPL, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Public Library. Your card can take out books from all three systems, but you have to return books to the correct system (but not necessarily the exact branch). The different systems may also have different rules regarding children.

  85. LHR- If you don’t believe Jenn, try asking someone the next time you’re in your own local library about what security problems they’ve had recently. The answers might surprise you.

    The reason our library has sheriff’s deputies is so that someone in the building has arrest powers. Our own security staff can’t legally hold anybody. Without the deputies we oftentimes had criminals just walk away while we were waiting for the police to arrive.

    I worked in a big downtown urban library. We had everything from petty vandalism to theft to drugs to public defecation to sexual assault. If I had seen a four-year-old walk in our door and get on the elevator alone I would have had a freaking heart attack.

  86. Regarding the comment that misbehaving kids distract from librarians’ time – that is all the more true for misbehaving kids whose parents are right there (since little brats are rottener for their parents), and also more true for misbehaving kids over 13 vs. under 13.

    Why do we assume that all kids under 13 will misbehave in the library? Why do we assume that parents of young kids are too stupid or irresponsible to decide whether or not their kid is ready for a little freedom in the library?

  87. Based on the comments, it sounds like many libraries have had to impose an unaccompanied child policy perhaps due to people abusing the library as a drop off center. Regardless, the librarian did not need to overreact to this situation. I could understand her concern (child alone=drop off? or child alone=lost?) but the librarian should have handled the situation differently.

    I started going to the library on my own when I was 7. Because it was on the way to my school and I had rode my bike to school many times that year, I was allowed to bike ride the 5km to the library the summer after first grade. Sometimes I went with friends and sometimes I went on my own. I also used to ride my bike to swimming lessons every day and sometimes stopped off at the library on my way home. Maybe this freedom created the bookworm that I am now!

  88. Does anyone know where I can find state laws about leaving kids unsupervised in various situations, or the legal age that kids can be “unaccompanied”? I can’t seem to find anything definitive. Also, is there an email address where I can get in touch with Lenore?

  89. I also thought I’d mention what my 4yos were doing on Saturday evening. Playing (occasionally supervised) at a construction site. That brought back memories of growing up in the city and creating play scenarios out of everything we could find. I was expecting to have to deal with at least a splinter before the night was out – but no. My kids had an absolute blast, and I’m sure they learned a few things in the process.

  90. Jane–I have asked around, and done plenty of reading on the subject etc, I’ve been IN the libraries myself, and still–no, I just don’t believe libraries are THAT bad. If we are to believe they are that bad, then we are to believe that parks should be kids-only because all males there are perverts, and yes–for you to have a heart attack just because a 4 year-old boards an elevator alone, that just confirms that it’s all paranoia-based schizophrenia and not at all a realistic assessment of how things really are.


  91. “This is really saying a city employee might have to do things that they don’t like, outside of their job description? What job doesn’t require this? If you don’t like kids, don’t work in the kids section of a library! ”

    Well, that’s well and good if you are willing to pay more taxes to increase the staff at the library, so you can have enough people to divide their time between babysitting and actual library services.

    And not wanting to be a babysitter when you have other assigned work to does not mean you “don’t like kids.” It means you have other work to do.

  92. LRH, respectfully, unless you’ve spent 40 hours a week in a library at a variety of days and times, you don’t know the situation as well as someone who works at one.

  93. “I would like to remind the commentators that you may be great parents, parents who have taught their kids to behave appropriately, parents who expect their kids to behave appropriately, parents who will guide their children to behave appropriately. We know who you are. Most of the parents that drop their kids off are not those parents.”

    I think this is key – the woman in the letter says that the librarians know her, and yet they still enforce the policy in an extreme manner. I’m wondering if she is one of those parents who overestimates her child’s ability to behave properly, and the librarians are just sick of him running rampant through the library without any checks and bounds. Read the tone of the letter – I’m not sure the librarian is the villian.

  94. Anyway, most of this conversation is irrelevant. The rules are what they are. I suggest that Mom goes to library management- NOT someone at the checkout desk, but somebody in the administration who actually can make policy- and ask why. It could be for any number of reasons: hell-raising kids, unsavory grownups hanging around the children’s room, insurance liability, what have you. If the reason for the rule doesn’t seem clear enough to you, maybe you can ask if it can be changed.

    But remember, what the library staff saw was you dropping your small child off in front of the building and driving away. They didn’t know you were coming right in. You probably scared the life out of them. Not saying that the desk staff should ever have been so rude, but what you did was not ideal.

  95. Jane That is true somewhat, but that doesn’t mean that ones who work at libraries know the deal 100% and that the rest of us are just supposed to accept of all this spoon-fed without questioning and doubting some of the hysteria being thrown like so much nonsense.


  96. Your post reminded me of my own free-range childhood. My mother taught music lessons in a downtown studio several times a week, and I would go with her to babysit my baby sister (I was 7, baby sister was 2). Once the baby fell asleep, I was free to go one of several places while she napped. One was across the usually-empty street to the library, where I’d happily wander not only the children’s section, but occasionally delve into the non-fiction “grown-up” books. No one ever questioned my right to be there; in fact, the only comment I ever got was “are you sure you can carry ALL those books by yourself?” at the check-out. I often carried back 2 stacks of books that were higher than my chin from each visit.

    The other place I’d go, when I had plenty of reading material, was across a very busy (3 lanes in each direction) street to the Fantastic Sam’s hair “salon”. I went there about once a month for a trim, and then the sweet ladies who worked there would “style” my hair – usually in some bizarre version of a French Braid because I’d ask for “something new and different.” Then back across 6 lanes of traffic (jay-walking! *gasp*) and stop off at the Wendy’s for a small Frosty to share with my little sister when she woke up from her nap.

    Now, out of my own 4 children, only my oldest, at 14, would be allowed “unattended” in that library? How ludicrious!!! How in the world are they going to learn to explore all there is to find in a library, and love everything about libraries with mom breathing down their necks? I’m not even saying they have to go in alone, or be left completely by themselves, but give them some space!

    Your writer was doing exactly the right thing. Kudos to her!!!

  97. When I was a kid, libraries were designed with the EXPECTATION that unsupervised kids would go there on a regular basis. At least where I lived (in a big US city), this was not apparently a problem. In fact, we were very much encouraged to go there during our unsupervised meanderings. The librarians would come to the school and sign us up for library cards and tell us how wonderful the place was. There was no mention of parents being present.

    What has changed that makes it so impossible now to allow this?

  98. Jane’s right–despite all the discussion, there are really 2 main issues here. One is the library’s policy. The other is the behavior of the staff member. I would see if you can meet with the director, and a) describe the hostile behavior you encountered, then b) ask if 13 and under is *really* the policy. Bring a couple of more reasonable policies from peer libraries, and find out if there’s any particular reason that your library’s policy can’t be changed.

    Too many people are all too willing to jump to outrage before seeing if there’s any possibility of a reasonable solution.

    And LRH, if you don’t like your own library’s policy, meet with the director or branch manager and find out *why* the policy exists.

  99. SKL I say this as a general member of society, including for the fact that I have spent time in libraries recently, but I don’t nor ever have worked at a library.

    However, I think it’s a weird combination of (1) the hysteria people are taking as fact, and (2) that parents often-times don’t discipline their children as much anymore, and don’t like other adults doing it.

    Regarding (1) I think that’s obvious how many are now that way. Thus you have people advocating for parks that don’t allow any adults there who aren’t with their own kids, that you should be legally or morally forbidden from taking photos in public if someone else’s kids are in the line of fire or otherwise. You have people who really believe that a child being alone for 2-10ths of a second even at a library is in imminent danger of being whisked off to Mars, never to return.

    You do, however, have some aspect of #2. I have had others in positions such as teaching etc tell me that in the past 30-odd years or so, parents don’t discipline their children as much and often-times don’t back the teachers when teachers discipline the kids for misbehaving.

    As others have said, there is a difference between free-range and lack of control. It’s fine & dandy to, say, let children roam in a grocery store a bit vs having them on a 2-inch leash because you’re convinced the bogeyman is after them, but you have to also prevent them from knocking soup cans onto the floor.

    The main thing, though, is that, though we are the parents & shouldn’t be undermined in terms of free-ranging, we also are goofing up in terms of telling kids that they don’t have to mind other adults. I wasn’t done that way. If someone was watching me for my parents, and I got in trouble with the babysitters, then I got it again at home. I never figured on my parents overriding the sitters. When the sitters were watching me, I always looked at them as being totally 100% able to discipline me THE SAME as my parents did.

    By contrast, just a few days ago, I was at a hardware store getting parts to fix the shower, my 2 & 4 year old were being a bit too curious with the items on the shelf–the 4 year old especially. I was doing some correcting, and when the store clerk also did some, I BACKED him, I didn’t go “hey, don’t talk to my kids, that’s my job.”

    But a LOT of parents nowadays do just that, and that’s just nonsense.

    I think, SKL, that may be part of “what has changed.” We understand that crime etc is not it.


  100. I am not going to say that the actions were justifiable but let me throw some facts into the fire. Many people are talking about children’s general misbehavior when speaking of these sweeping rules but I don’t really think that is 100% of the reason why a library would have these rule. As a librarian I have experience first hand the following:

    1) Children left at the library for 8 hours. No food, drink or money. Some of the kids are under the age of 3!

    2) Children taking care of children. Specifically 5 year olds taking care of 2 to 3 year olds. For hours not minutes.

  101. LRH, you are right about parents not liking other adults to discipline their kids. Personally I would be mortified if it happened, but it would be because I hadn’t done a good enough job myself – and I’d let my kids know (in NO uncertain terms) that had BETTER not happen again.

    On “mom sites,” they occasionally have a discussion about this, and it’s strange to me how adamant moms are that they are the only people allowed to correct their kid. Many say that they’d do physical harm to anyone who even thought about it. Why? Is there an epidemic of public beatings by strangers that I haven’t heard about?

  102. SKL The “only I can correct my child” thing? I think it’s a thing of arrogance on the parents’ part. It’s one thing to defend your boundaries in terms of “they’re my child, I decide how they’re disciplined and what they’re allowed to do or not allowed” etc, anyone who’s read my posts about others meddling in a parent free-ranging know I strongly stand for parents being the parents and not being undermined.

    However, in doing so, you have to be responsible, just as people who think about calling social services have to be responsible and only use that as a last resort for SERIOUS cases vs for meddling. It’s 100% right for a parent to not have someone else over-rule them and have the kids confused as to who’s in charge, especially if the parent is still around and is not turning their children over to someone else for a period of time.

    However, when you ARE specifically turning your kids over to someone else and expect them to be held responsible and do the grunt work you’d be having to do, or have a family member watch them for you while you’re not there for a bit (going to the car etc), it is absolutely WRONG to have a person take over your responsibilities as the parent so you can get a break but then insist they can’t discipline. That is nuts.

    So, if there are situations where a parent is dropping their child off at the library & assuming the librarian/other staff members etc are in-charge of your child in lieu of you (if that’s indeed happening), then you have NO RIGHT to tell the staff members they can’t discipline. That is totally lacking in common sense.

    The thing is, it doesn’t sound like the subject of this post was doing this, and that the staffer was meddling in their business, and if that’s the case, I don’t approve of that.


  103. Our library treated our kids like criminals trying to get away with something when they tried to get library cards. They were reduced to tears and didn’t want to go back to the library. The next nearest library is 45 miles away in another county. So we go to the other one.

    The library loves to get the tax money to put in the children’s book room. But the librarians don’t like it when kids show up and try to check out books, or look in the Juvenile fiction section rather than the tiny children picture book section.

  104. The police at the library are pretty common where I live but because some of the branches have an office attached to the library.

    Our local library invites the children from the time school is out till 5pm to come hang out. They encourage homework time, and quiet play. They don’t stop a child from leaving and if they are to loud will send them across the way to the community center to play.

    I also live in a neighborhood where most are on public help of some kind or just barely off it. I’m sure if I looked at the scores at the local schools I’d cry. Homeschooling is necessary if at all possible in some areas.

  105. Check out this policy from carnegie library system in Pittsburgh:

    Unattended Children

    An unattended child is a child of any age who is apparently unaccompanied by an adult. Parents, guardians, teachers and caregivers may not leave children alone or in the care of other children who are unable or unwilling to provide adequate care. Supervising adults must be close at hand.

    As in all public places, “stranger danger” is a real concern. Library staff cannot prevent children from interacting with or leaving with persons who are not the appropriate chaperone.

    Staff may refer to Allegheny County Children and Family Services for those children who are left unattended in the Library and whose basic needs for food, rest, parental supervision or attention are not being fulfilled.

    If the Library is closing, at regular time or in an emergency situation, and a parent or guardian of a child cannot be located in the building, the City of Pittsburgh Police Department will be called.

    The Library is not responsible for any consequences of parents forfeiting their responsibilities.


    I have a six year old and we never encountered a problem, even when I let him go to the other side of the building to go to the bathroom by himself or when I went out to pay the parking meter. So the policy may be in place partly to have something to refer to for problem patrons.

    We just moved to a small town in New Mexico and their policy says children under six may not be unattended. 🙂

  106. I’m just wondering how the police got there so quickly. It seems odd that if she dropped her kid off and found the closest parking spot that she didn’t make it to her child before a police officer could arrive and detain him. Or is there an officer on staff?

  107. This discussion reminded me of a favorite book from when my children were small. “Mike’s House” by Julia Sauer, (copyright 1954), gives a perspective on the different attitudes of that time. In the story, a 4yo boy adores the book “Mike Mulligan” and calls the library “Mike’s house” because it’s where the book lives. On a blustery day, he is dropped off at the door to go in for story time. His hat is blown away, and when he chases it he gets lost. He does as he’s been taught and looks for, and finds, a policeman. The cop takes him to the nearest diner, buys him a cup of cocoa, and proceeds to question him about where he’s supposed to be. With the help of the waitress they finally figure out that Mike’s house is actually the library. They arrive just as story time is letting out, and mom is walking up the sidewalk to get him. The book ends there, so we don’t know what the cop said to mom, but it sure doesn’t give the impression that it was a big deal.

    What a contrast to the fuss a similar situation would cause today!

  108. Liability for the librarians plus they are NOT babysitters. Are they supposed to telepathicly know when you are coming back?

    This is my least favorite peeve. Reeks of entitled parents, not of free range with your child. It isn’t that hard to be in the children’s section for awhile with your child. Duh. Read to them.

  109. If this library is anything like the one at our AF base, the policy is probably more about unruly, disruptive kids and less about danger. Every time I go to the library, there is a large group of kids both inside and out, not reading or using computers, and totally disregarding the rules. If you had spent the morning trying to discipline obnoxious pre-teens running and yelling through the library with no parents present, you’d be frustrated and pounding your hands, too.
    Just because you don’t like the policy doesn’t mean you are free to disregard it. Let him do his “navigating” on the sidewalk while you go to the park, or into the grocery. I imagine you wouldn’t like it if parents brought their children to your house and allowed them to break your rules. Have the same respect for the library.

  110. As a kid, my favorite place to be was the library. Which I walked to and hung out in….alone. (GASP!!!)

    My proudest moment was when at 11, I was allowed into the “grownup” reading room, which was in the cupola/attic of our old library (itself a converted older home). The librarians knew me, knew that I was a serious reader, and did everything they could to encourage me in my pursuit.

    Fast forward to when I tried to take my daughter to a read aloud at our public library, and was told that no children under 3 were welcome. Well, gee….thanks for helping me teach my child that libraries are happy wonderful places.

  111. I’ve posted this here before but thought it could help the OP and others dealing with draconian policies that keep kids out of libraries. Perhaps you can encourage your libraries to adopt this more child friendly policy that respects civil rights. I love the first sentence in point 1.

    From Harris County Library Web Site
    E. Unattended Children

    1. Children have the same rights as adults to be in the library. They must follow library rules of behavior. If appropriate the parent or guardian may be called. If a child’s behavior necessitates them leaving the library, and this leaving could pose a risk to the child, the local law enforcement agency may be called as well as the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (TDPRS), 599-5555.
    2. Suspected child abuse or neglect must be reported to the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (TDPRS), 599-5555.
    3. In order to alleviate the problem of unattended children at closing time the following procedures may be used.
    1. Before closing inform children of the time of closing and ask them if they need to make arrangements for transportation.
    2. If necessary repeat this procedure.
    3. Bookmarks and flyers may be requested to inform parents of this problem. See examples.
    4. Write a press release. See example.
    4. If a child is left unattended after hours the following procedures must be used if the child is at risk of being left unattended.
    1. Verify if someone is coming to pick up the child.
    2. Staff members must remain with a child until someone arrives to pick up the child.
    1. Staff schedules may be need to be adjusted for this situation.
    2. If possible two staff members should stay with the child.
    3. If no one comes to pick up the child call the local law enforcement agency. Notify the Assistant County Librarian. Complete an Incident Report Form and forward to the Assistant County Librarian.
    4. Parents arriving late should be given a letter explaining library policies and hours. See example.

  112. Honestly I am just very irritated by people expecting librarians to watch their kids. They probably have a ton of duties and dealing with your kids is not one of them!

    My mom would drop me off at the library when I was about 8 and up to run in and check out a new book. She sat outside in the car. She didn’t just drop me off and leave to come back hours later. To me that is free range. Letting me go in and get a book myself and trusting me to handle it and I feel all grown up because I picked out a book alone. She didn’t use the library as a babysitter.

    As long as the kids are being perfectly well behaved then I don’t mind them being there alone but when you get groups of kids together, the chances of everyone being perfectly well behaved at all times is going to decline. Same with the younger the kid gets. Libraries are about quiet and order. So you know, not a super awesome place for kids to hang out since kids are naturally loud and energetic. I was a huge reader as a kid reading a chapter book a day at about 8 in the Summer. But I never just hung out at the library. I went and got my book and left.

    My mom would bring her daycare kids to the library for storytime and to check out books but she stayed with them and they were the age of the kid in the OP. 5 and younger. I would go and help her with the kids in the Summer.

    I don’t see it as being non supportive of kids reading to want parents to accompany their kids or at the very least not drop kids off there for hours. My parents would drop me off if I had research for school to do and come back and get me an hour later or so but it was for work, not hanging out. I just don’t get the idea that the library is the local hang out for kids. That probably makes a lot of extra work for librarians if they have to clean up after them and make sure they get picked up before they can leave and make sure they are quiet, etc.

    Free range or not I don’t inflict my kids on other people. I go out of my way to make sure they don’t bother anyone and if the library has a policy saying they want the parents there with the kids, then I am with my kid. It is not like I have to be hovering over them. I can be sitting in the same section reading my own book while they browse and find a book and check one out. That way I am there, but letting them handle it. Or be out in the car like my mom would but not just drop them off for hours.

  113. Again, it seems like there are two different problems here: children’s behavior in libraries, and the definition of ‘unaccompanied’.

    Clearly, children need to be taught, from the age of zero, to behave in libraries. They need to respect the books, the librarians, and the quiet rules. Sometimes, though, I think the libraries set themselves up for problems. For example, the children’s section of our library has a bunch of toys, and this wavy looking long seat under the window. Very cool to sit on, stand on, and look out the windows at passing commuter trains. But the librarians spend all their time telling kids to get off of it. Why put such an attractive nusance in a children’s room if you don’t want children on it? Any parent could have told you that this is just begging to be climbed on. And why put a ton of wooden blocks and a puppet theater if you don’t want kids to make noise? Of course the kids don’t know what to do! You want them to be silent, but play with puppets? How does that work? The children’s section in the library I grew up near had books. That’s all. So you sat and read quietly. But if we give them toys, and computers with games, and puppets, and things to climb on, then we really shouldn’t be surprised when they make noise. I had to spend a lot of time teaching my kids that the rules change once you step into the grownup section.

    And as I said before, people have developed this really narrow view of what constitutes ‘accompanied child’. Everyone needs to train themselves to stop jumping to instant conclusions and just learn to observe for a minute or two before freaking out.

  114. Bless your sweet hearts! Librarians (at least suburban public librarians) don’t remember you just because you come to the library often. Your little blond beauty looks just like that little blonde beauty over there. A brown haired little kid without a parent is not Johnny, that’s a kid who’s parent thinks that the rules don’t apply to them.

    I think parent’s perception of time is seriously skewed. Every single one of them says that they will only be gone for 2 minutes, 15 minutes later, you find at least half of them in the computer lab completely engrossed in killing those stupid pigs with the angry birds.

    It sounds like you all have have a romantic and nostalgic view of the library. It isn’t the quiet, serene place of yesteryear, and it shouldn’t necessarily be. However, it is also not the mall or a restaurant or a YMCA. There are books and people who want to accomplish things and they aren’t happy to have your little one running circles around them. (The library is a walking place, dammit!) Nor do they want to hear your kid squalling because you disappeared and they expected you to be there.

  115. Frances, I meant my husband would explain in lawyerese how silly their policy was, not bring a suit. He’s not even that kind of lawyer. I believe those people who would support such a nanny-state and would bully a mother into a guilt complex about letting her 5-year-old walk into a public library a minute before her would probably back down or at least think twice when confronted with the child’s father.
    That may be sexist, but I’ll bet Lenore has more facts on how many times mothers have been given flak over free-range kids versus dads.

  116. My Mum got me a library card when I was seven in a time when computers were science fiction and the moon was still free of human contamination.

    I was captivated. This was a place of magic.

    It was not long before I was sprung, accompanied by four freshly stamped books, in a place other than a direct route from school to home. I had, and not for the first time, snuck into town(opposite direction to home) after school to my magic place. I wasn’t caught again. NOTHING came between me and books. I learned to disobey if it otherwise meant robbing myself of new knowledge, a habit that hasn’t always been my friend.

    Possibly one of the happiest days of my life came when, nearly nine, the Childrens Librarian told me I could use my card in the upstairs, gigantic adult library. Skid marks on the Childrens’ Library carpet.

    To this day I believe that it I were to find true heaven on earth a library is one of those places it could happen. They are peaceful places where knowledge is freely shared. What more could one ask.

    Get thee out schoolmarm librarian. Your tyrannical tantrums and noisome hands will not stay me.

    It is to my good fortune that not all librarians are like that. I love my library.

    Librarians rule. Oook!

  117. Susan,

    Your anger is disturbing. When I read stuff like that it really makes me wonder if our society just doesn’t hate children.

    Children can’t be in the library minding their own business because someone takes offense, you can’t take a child on a plane because s/he might disturb other passengers, the sounds of children playing in the park will not be tolerated by adults trying to enjoy the outdoors, etc…see my point?

    All these you-can’ts seem to make children like a contageous disease which must be contained inside quaranteen :(.

    BTW – exactly what is the children’s section of the library for? Adults?

  118. I checked my library too. Under 7, the child has to be accompanied, but that word is not defined. I think it means “also in the library” as they say if a child is disruptive they will locate the parent in the library. After that, kids can be in the library completely alone. I can’t imagine expecting kids to have a parent with them in the library at 12. That seems to discourage reading.

    I think kids at 4.5 should be accompanied, but I think the librarian or clerk should have waited to see if a parent followed rather than contacting police.

  119. Oh also, when I was in kindergarten even I would walk to the library, which was very close, alone or with a slightly older sister to get books. This was the norm. We’d go in and find books and check them out and come home. They didn’t have toys in libraries back then. I don’t know when that started but I think the toys might be part of the problem. Kids are going to want to go there to play if there are toys there, which isn’t a problem if it’s set up as a play destination, but you can’t put toys in a room and expect kids not to want to sit there and play. With each other, which involves talking and noise.

  120. I went to our library yesterday and there was a sign at the checkout that said children 12 and under left at the library at closing would necessitate the police being called. Also, there was a little sign (at the bottom of the front door window) that said by using the library, you were agreeing to have your and your children’s pictures taken and used at the library’s discretion. I thought you might like that, Larry.

  121. “What has changed that makes it so impossible now to allow this?”

    Honestly, I think that the major thing that has changed is helicopter parenting – the belief that children need minding 24/7 and should never be without an adult.

    I’ve read a lot of comments about people complaining that the librarian isn’t a babysitter. However, that requires the belief that children of all ages NEED a babysitter and that the parents clearly must be asking you to watch their children (without asking) because nobody would leave a child unattended in the library. As a matter of fact, mamy commenters say “the 8 year old was left in the library alone” as if it’s been abandoned rather than simply saying “the 8 was in the library alone.”

    “As a librarian I have experience first hand the following:

    1) Children left at the library for 8 hours. No food, drink or money. Some of the kids are under the age of 3!

    2) Children taking care of children. Specifically 5 year olds taking care of 2 to 3 year olds. For hours not minutes.”

    And this is major problem number 2 – the completely inability or unwillingness of at least American society to determine the difference between neglect and routine child care. With exception to older children being at the library for hours (with or without food – most libraries have water fountains which should be sufficient for drink), both scenarios above indicate neglect that I would think nothing of calling CPS about. A 3 year old should not be left anywhere except a paid babysitter for 8 hours a day (with or without food). My 5 year old could corral a 2 or 3 year old for a couple minutes but a 5 year old shouldn’t be left alone for hours. let alone with other children to mind. None of that means that a self-sufficient 8 year old can’t be alone at the library for a couple hours.

    Major problem number 3 – The negative thinking the leads to the knee-jerk reaction that, if all can’t do it, this child can’t do it and parents are idiots. There are many 4.5 year olds who can go into the library by themselves for 20 seconds and not raise havoc and many who cannot. We used to accept that parents actually know the difference until proven otherwise. We didn’t address the situation unless it proved to be a problem – the kid came in and immediately started screaming. Now we assume that all parents are being negligent if they allow their children to do something that 100% of children at that age cannot accomplish and attack before seeing if the particular situation poses a problem.

  122. I love libraries, especially the small rural ones, where you can still curl up in a chair by the real wood-burning fireplace with a good book and the friendly library cat.

    As a child, I went to the library at home, in a big city, alone or with a friend since I was seven or so. The walk there was tricky, through many winding streets with near-identical houses, so unless you really knew where you were going, it was easy to get lost. It is probably 15-20 minute walk at an adult pace. In my Grandma’s town, when I was little, library used to be on the same street she lived, less than half a mile away. I must have been as young as five when I started going there all by myself. When it moved to a bigger building further out, I was already 10 or 11 and it was no problem.

    I can’t imagine asking children to be as old as 13 before being able to go the library all by themselves. Is that why reading skills are so abysmally low among kids today? Because adults have no time to take them to the library, and they are not allowed to go in by themselves? It was half the fun walking (or, rather, hopping and skipping and running) to the library with my friends, talking about books we read and imagining ourselves as characters from those books.

  123. “When I read stuff like that it really makes me wonder if our society just doesn’t hate children.”

    I do get an overwhelming feeling of people disliking children in many parts of the US. Society seems to just not want to be bothered by them any more. I remember going many places with my parents as a child, even adult-oriented ones. Now we seem to want “children places” and “adult places.” CPS should be called if children are in “adult places.” Children must be supervised in “children places” by parents lest the adults who work in “children places” actually have to interact with the children, but those are the only adults allowed in “children places.” It’s truly sad.

    It’s one of the major reasons that I don’t want to move away from where I live. It is so kid-welcoming. I spent yesterday evening at a bar with my 5 year old and nobody called DFACS to report negligent parenting. There were actually several kids in the bar ranging in age from infant to preteen … and a puppy. Not all the local bars are welcoming to children (a good thing since adults are entitled to their places too) but there is a definite feeling that kids and adults can share some of the same spaces.

  124. Well, Dolly, I guess your library didn’t run game night twice a month.

    Our library does, and it runs a teen book club, and it runs special performances for kids twice a month and offers craft programs and free tutoring for homework help. And that’s just our branch of the library.

    Our library WANTS children to come in and stay.

    (Of course, in contrast to everybody else’s libraries, our library also doesn’t care too much if kids make a moderate amount of noise in the children’s room. If they’re roughhousing they’ll kick them out, and if they’re old enough to know better and just talking loudly they’ll warn them and THEN kick them out, but they’ve told me explicitly that the children’s room isn’t about being quiet, it’s about enjoying the library. It helps that it’s on its own floor. I don’t know what the noise policy is in the teen section.)

  125. Some of these comments are disturbing. If I take my kids to the library (there isn’t one close enough to walk), we’re there to use library resources. Not to “hang out” or get free child care! (Same was true when I went as a kid – all they had were books, and I went there to look at / borrow books! Huge crime!)

    My taxes pay for the library and since it has a children’s section, it needs to accommodate my children. That means my kids are allowed to go into the children’s section with or without me and do the things that are appropriately done there. If there are toys, play appropriately with the toys and then put them back before leaving. Look at the books. That includes taking them off the shelves and possibly putting them back in the wrong place (which, hello, older people do too!). They are allowed to speak (not scream) to each other and to other kids/adults who may be there. They are allowed to use the bathroom. If you have a problem with any of this, don’t apply for the job of children’s librarian!

    Judging from some above comments, my kids must be amazing, because they have NEVER yelled, run, mishandled a book, climbed, or otherwise created a disturbance or “mess” at a library. They can tell the atmosphere doesn’t allow rambunctious behavior – just as I could tell when I was a kid, without EVER being accompanied by my parents.

  126. There is an excellent book out, a memoir of an urban library worker, that would shed a lot of light on this issue from the library’s side. Wish I could remember the name of it, but it would make good reading to help understand some of these policies. In some ways, it’s not as much of a free-range issue as it is an attempt to prevent truly negligent parents from taking advantage.

    That said, this lady in the original post was nuts with the way she enforced it. I think the OP should complain to the library about the way she was treated. I see it as more a case of someone who has let a tiny bit of power go to her head than anything else.

    She probably does this all the time and is the type who adores giving everyone a hard time over everything: kicks people off computers precisely at 60 minutes, even if they’re the only one in the library; won’t unblock accounts so someone who racked up fines one penny over the amount due to having a terrible case of flu can’t renew their books to avoid paying more until they can return them, etc.

    But that’s not how libraries want to be seen anymore, as evidenced by their teen game nights, their willingness to stock graphic novels and popular DVDs, etc. Can’t speak for your area, most of the library boards around here would want to know about such a person.

  127. SKL: You are missing the point that yes, I bet your kids are well behaved because you are a good parent. But that is not every family! I see some kids who run through everywhere they go like a tornado destroying everything and their parents smile and think its cute. It if because of people like this, that rules get made unfortunately. I am not a fan of zero tolerance type policies. I am not defending them. I am just letting you know that just because your kids are good, that is not all kids. I worked in a lot of customer service jobs in different stores including a toy store, grocery store, movie theater, and I can assure you that I dealt with my share of ill behaved and messy and unattended kids and stupid, lazy, missing parents. I also had great kids and great parents. I could usually tell within a few minutes or even seconds which was which by their behavior and attitudes.

    I guess our library is different and might change my overall opinion. We go to a small suburban library that is all one giant room with high ceilings and different sections. So if a kid is being loud at all it is going to bother everyone in the entire library. Maybe a bad design but nevertheless people deserve quiet when they are trying to read or study or research. So no, kids should not be being rambunctious at all at this particular library. That library does not have toys. It does have some computers, lots of books obviously, small tables for the kids to sit at and a cozy corner to sit at and read. So pretty much if your child cannot handle being very quiet and sitting reading quietly, they have no business being in this library.

    Our downtown library has a just kids floor I think so that would be more lax I would guess.

  128. Our library has homeless people everywhere. On benches, sleeping in the corners, using the bathroom. Stinking up the whole place. It gross and they are very creepy. I wouldn’t send my child alone and frankly, anyone who would is a disgusting parent and should be ashamed to call themselves one.

  129. Mambo5 Not every library is like that–in fact, I think the one you mention is probably the exception to the rule as opposed to the norm. To suggest other parents are “disgusting” who do otherwise are ridiculous is, itself, ridiculous.


  130. I think misuse of the library is the issue in a lot of the above cases. People who are not there to properly use the books and other learning tools should not be there. I agree on that. It seems to me that those who design libraries could figure out a way to discourage those types from hanging around, so those who actually want and need to use the library don’t bear the brunt of the rules and inconveniences. If the public library is such a bum-magnet, maybe the city should build an actual bum-magnet nearby or something.

    But the way I read the original post, this mom wasn’t dumping her kid off or using the library as a hang-out. She was just letting him get to the kids’ area a little ahead of her. And as far as we know, the child did nothing wrong. So I don’t understand how this became about horrible parents whose horrible children tear up libraries all day long.

  131. If the original poster had run errands for a half hour and THEN moseyed in to collect her kid, I could understand a lot of the above posts.

  132. Mambo5 says: “Our library has homeless people everywhere. On benches, sleeping in the corners, using the bathroom. Stinking up the whole place. It gross and they are very creepy. I wouldn’t send my child alone and frankly, anyone who would is a disgusting parent and should be ashamed to call themselves one.”

    I agree with you about the disgusting parents. Anyone who would treat homeless people the way you do and insult them in front of your children, avoid them like they are less than human, is indeed disgusting.

    Our library system also has large numbers of people who are homeless using it. I live in an area with mild weather and seasonal work (tourism/agriculture).

    If you do not have a home to go to, you still have to sleep. Where do you expect people to do this? A lot of places do not have enough shelter beds, or they are not places you can get a good night’s sleep.

    Everyone needs to use the bathroom. Are you saying someone who is homeless has less of a right to use a library bathroom than you do?

    As for “stinking up the place” it is true that some people who are homeless have body odor or smelly clothes. The solution is shelters with showers and soap and towels, day shelters where people can do laundry, and storage at the day shelter so someone can have more than one set of clothes (you can’t change your clothes for washing if you don’t own more than what’s on your back).

    Some people use library bathrooms to wash in (it’s been an issue here). The solution is not to ban the practice then insult them for being dirty. The true solution is to work in your community for day shelters and other programs to provide services to people who do not have access to care for basic human needs.

    I’ve worked in a homeless shelter (I did case management) and never once felt scared (even though the homeless community has its share of drug addicts and people with mental health problems). Nor do I find any of the homeless people I meet in my town to be creepy or scary.

    I teach my daughter to be polite and respectful to everyone and that lesson doesn’t have exceptions for where they live.

  133. Each library makes its own policies, or rather their board/director/trustees do.

    Libraries that have a security officer on staff are going to be the ones that have security problems.

    It’s certainly possible that the clerk or librarian you dealt with was a nutjob. The prevalence of homeless people using the library, the increased number of low-income people without summer child care, and unfortunately library public internet access have turned up the paranoia level of some public library staff.

    Furthermore, the upsurge in child harm accusations has also turned up the paranoia level in some library staff. Everyone here has heard the stories about adults scared silly by the idea of being around a child without some sort of witness to protect the adult’s reputation.

    There is, however, another possibility and it’s one we have to think of. Libraries, like other public areas, have periodic problems with sexual harrassment and other inappropriate behavior– such as viewing porn on public computers. If the police officer was *not* assigned to work at the library, it’s entirely possible he was there to investigate and/or remove a patron. Under those circumstances– ‘ pervert present in the library! ‘– the librarian or clerk might be especially wound up about an apparently unaccompanied minor, no matter how safe the child actually might have been.

    As a general rule, though, the simplest way to respond to such paranoid outbursts is probably to say, “Oh! I’m sorry she scared you!” to the library staff. If you want to pursue it further, ask the director or the head of the children’s department at what age they would feel comfortable having a child in the children’s department while the adult was in another part of the building– specifying that you don’t want to scare them again.

    Don’t feel guilty, though, since it sounds like it was all a misunderstanding.

  134. The library is NOT a shelter for homeless people. They need to go some where else to do their buisness. Let the taxpayers enjoy the library instead of the flea ridden bums who are enjoying privlidges that they don’t deserve.

  135. Guess what Mambo5, homeless people pay taxes. When they buy things they pay sales tax, if they put gas in their cars (which some live in), they pay gasoline tax, and when they work (most homeless people work), they pay income/SS tax. Not to mention that when that homeless person had a home, they were paying even more taxes.

    All people living in a community deserve to use public services. You do not have more rights to the library than someone who lives out of their car or on a bench in the park. Your hatred and fear does not change someone’s basic rights.

    People go to the library to read (yep, homeless people too). If there is an issue in your community with people using the library for basic services it is because they can’t find them elsewhere (not because they are trying to gross you out). So either work to create those services or shut up. You are a fool if you think that banning homeless people from the places you want to spend time makes them go away.

    I feel especially sorry for your children because they are learning bigotry from you. Instead of hating, why don’t you go up and start a conversation with a homeless person? Find out more about them. Or volunteer in a shelter or food kitchen. Your children would benefit from learning compassion. How many of us are one layoff away from losing our homes too? Most of the homeless people I’ve met, and I’ve known quite a few, never thought they’d be homeless.

  136. “So I don’t understand how this became about horrible parents whose horrible children tear up libraries all day long.”

    Because the point was raised that these policies probably exist in many cases because of people like that. The situation described in the OP is clearly overkill (except to the extent that the librarian was concerned about a small child being dropped off and walking in alone — I would have been too, until the situation was clarified) but there are reasons why such policies exist, they’re not just made up to harass people. OTOH, it’s too easy to make a policy that’s one-sidedly convenient for the staff and actually *does* consist in harassing people.

    Anyway, that’s how we got there.

  137. To bring this conversation back to the point…those pre-school aged kids left in the library for hours at a time? Some of the parents might be neglectful but I bet you most of them do it out of desparation. They know it’s a bad idea but it’s better than losing their job (and their home, if they’re not homeless already).

    I agree that librarians should not be day care providers and libraries shouldn’t allow tiny children to be alone all day. But the solution isn’t just banning the behavior, it’s working to find alternatives. Along with a healthy dose of compassion.

  138. I’m not wasting my time with the dregs of society. I’ll take my kids to a nice libabry without bums, good policies about unattended children and actually read to them in the children’s section.

  139. Mambo, repeat after me:

    “There but for the grace of the angels, go I”

  140. pentamom nailed it, in my opinion. Regarding the original topic, a mother being scolded in a rather unnecessary manner for unnecessary reasons, was wrong because the mother apparently was NOT one of those types using others for free babysitters while simultaneously telling them “don’t touch my child,” a ludicrous demand if there ever was one. Instead, she was doing something very normal & very appropriate, and was wrongly scolded for it.

    As pentamom says, it’s too easy to make a policy that’s one-sided for convenience of the staff and harasses people, and (my words) doesn’t take context into account. Those that say “one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel” as a justification for this are, in reality, advocating sloppy supervision that’s just lazy to the core, and punishes good people like the original poster over nothing legitimate whatsoever.

    The world needs more of that and less of the “I’m not wasting my time with the dregs of society” type of points of view. Then Lenore won’t have as much nonsense to have to report on.


  141. Mambo, the right to public services is not a privilege.

    People use the public library, among other things, to find work. They use the library to get help writing resumes (and to print and copy them out), to search online for jobs, to find out about jobs fairs.

    And they also go to learn to read (if they cannot), to study for their GEDs (if they haven’t graduated high school), to improve their English (if they’re non-native speakers, or, like you, simply never learned to spell), and to generally make themselves more employable.

    And they ALSO go there to read books and magazines – things they have little disposable income to *buy*, to spend time with their children at special children’s programs (if they have kids), to attend workshops, seminars, and performances.

    And yes, some of them go to libraries to stay warm/cool, use the bathroom, keep dry, and have some water from the fountain. It is unfortunate that they have so few options in that regard – but it’s not like they’re choosing to live a cushy life on the streets.

    They pay the same taxes you do except, presumably, for property tax. They’re just not as lucky as you have been, and hopefully will continue to be. However, they are still human beings and still worthy of the standard amount of respect.

  142. Pentamom, stop being reasonable. If everybody were reasonable, what would we have to talk about???

  143. Blah blah blah. It IS a privilege to use public services. It IS unfortunate that lazy people and “free range” people get the lines confused. It IS fortunate that I am “lucky,” but that fortune comes with working hard not by drinking my life away on a free bench.

  144. Or instead of being peeved that the librarians want you to look after your own child, perhaps you can thank them. In our small town of 25,000, we really encourage parents to stay with their children. We are not babysitters and have more than enough to do without having to keep an eye on your child and that creepy guy in the corner that you didn’t notice before. What you may not know, but your librarian does, is that he is a sex offender. He’s convicted of grabbing children and assaulting them outside of the library in the alley.

    Sad but true.

    And, your welcome.

  145. Sorry, it should be you’re welcome. Ugggh, hit enter before I could fix it.

  146. Well, Mambo5, considering that my library system actively does outreach to homeless patrons and in homeless shelters, and they’re the professionals who know what they’re talking about, I have to say that you’re wrong. And you’re rude. It’s utterly unfair that somebody so lacking in basic compassion for others should have access to a computer and a home, while people with more common decency go without, but I suppose nobody ever said life was fair. (Other than my young nieces, but they’re young. They’ll learn.)

  147. Wait, Sky, is that *actually* true for your library, or is that “true” in the way that “it’s more dangerous than when we were growing up” is true?

    Because if it’s ACTUALLY true for your specific library, there may be other ways to handle the situation, although they’re likely to come with their own sets of problems. At any rate, it’s not necessarily true that every library has that same exact problem.

  148. Good for your library system. I’m happy that you and the stick you have up your butt help the homeless and contribute to the enabling that goes on in this country. Maybe your government assistance check can go right to them as well. Very selfless of you.

  149. Except Sky, I didn’t ask you to “keep an eye on my child” nor do I expect, want or desire you to babysit nor is any eye keeping needed. My child is perfectly capable of sitting alone in a library and reading books, doing puzzles or playing games without your eyes on her. Thanks anyway.

    If you CHOOSE to keep an eye on my child for your own reasons, that’s on you. I can’t be blamed for you not getting your work done because you are spending your time keeping an eye on children who don’t need eyes kept on them.

    I’m sorry but this idea that any child alone in a library requires librarian babysitting is ridiculous. Most of us went to the library alone at young ages. Have today’s children gotten so exceedingly stupid that sitting in a room reading a book now requires some kind of adult supervision? I’m not talking about kids who are misbehaving. Those kids were always a problem for librarians. I remember being shhh’d in the library occasionally as a child and I remember the occasional kid causing a problem. I’m talking about the average kid sitting in a library doing what one is meant to do in a library, which are the predominant group of kids that I see in my local library.

  150. @Donna you hit the nail on the head.

    Besides, how many juvenile delinquents do any of YOU see hanging at the library?

  151. Well_ I could argue the point of children becoming dumber…but that’s a whole different discussion. Hahaha

  152. I work in a library. These policies are in place for the safety of your kids. Like it or not, EVERYONE can use the library. So, yes, your well-behaved kid could be sitting next to the pedophile down the street — and I can’t tell you that. Sometimes we know who they are, sometimes we don’t. I, for one, do not want to be the one on watch when someone’s kid gets grabbed because I didn’t make sure their parent was there with them. That being said, I think the reaction was a bit over the top. Where I work, if the parent and the kid are not together, but it’s obvious that the parent is watching from across the room and the child is behaving, nothing is said. Would we say something if the child walked in by himself. Maybe. Being in the same room and being in the parking lot are not the same thing.

  153. Lisa, how many kids have gotten grabbed at your library in, say, the last 5 years?

  154. Mambo5 I don’t know what crawled “up your butt” this morning, but frankly, your tone is now bordering on schizophrenic–and yes, I realize that’s a term referring to actual schizophrenics and I have no disrespect for anyone with mental health issues. But your tone, quite frankly, qualifies as being borderline just that.

    What I’m reading here from the others has NOTHING to do with “enabling” a person’s condition. I for one would be more inclined to give a homeless person, say, a Burger King gift card or something like that, something which I can BE SURE will go towards food & not beer and liquor. I am fully aware that many in their condition are sort of “accepting” that condition and not really bucking against odds to do better.

    But you know what? Some of them, I can’t help but figure, are in that condition through not fault of their own, caught in a vicious cycle that’s hard to escape. Regardless, I don’t think anyone here is encouraging behavior to ENABLE this. They’re merely encouraging compassion.

    The thing is, at various times, I’ve been down & out, not to that level, but down & out–and I fought valiantly to “boot-strap” my way up. I lived in a very “ghetto-ish” apartment complex at one point that, later on, was absolutely plastered with grafitti. The first night there, police helicopters lit up the “living room” (I say that in quotes because that living room was as small as many people’s closets, a TV wouldn’t even fit in there once the loveseat & computer made their place) as they were chasing someone having possession of a stolen car. Barely a week later, I walked a block to a local convenience store to get a midnight snack, and returned to found a murdered body laying in the wooded area near the sidewalk.

    More to the point, other times, I was carless, typically when the car I had would reach the end of its life, and waited for eons at a bus stop to make my way home. It would take me 45-60 minutes to get home when driving would’ve taken 10 minutes. Going for groceries was a pain. Stopping to get a bite at a fast-food place became a rush of an acitivy that caused stomachaches because you couldn’t really take the time to enjoy your meal, you had to rush off when the bus stopped by, or else it was a 20 minute wait AFTER you ate. The heat was just crazy, and at times so was the cold. Missing the bus by barely a few seconds because you got there just that wee bit too late was a common and very frustrating experience. I once had to use the bus to go to a job interview, and I boarded the wrong one (the names were nearly identical–15G vs 15A, something like that) and it made me nearly 90 minutes late for the interview.

    But I would continue to work, save my money, get a car, and thank the heavenlies for that provision.

    But–and this is my main point–during that time when I was carless, there were occasions people driving by would see me in that condition, and offer me (or my wife also if she were there) a ride home. Not believing the fear statistics, we took them up on their offer, and by the way–and this is my main point–we sure were glad that THEY didn’t believe the fearmongering statistics, assume we were lazy or harmful people, and treat us like second-class citizens left to marinate in the heat (or freeze in the cold) at the bus-stop.

    After such periods of immobility, often-times during my wife’s annivesary (nothing said “pathetic” like not even being able to drive your wife to a nice restaurant to go out & eat, much less to an out-of-town getaway–but instead walking–although we made it romantic), we would then save up & get a car and get back on the road, very thankful for it. It was not uncommon for us, carefully and in a discerning manner, to see people at the bus-stop and offer them rides to their destinations. One person I did this for was VERY thankful, I got him to his destination in about 20 minutes, and he told me it would’ve taken nearly 2 hours by bus. He was VERY thankful.

    No, I didn’t offer everyone I saw a ride, else we never would’ve lived our own lives, but we did offer a few people here & there the help as the spirit lead us. It had NOTHING to do with “enabling,” but rather us remembering–hey, barely a month ago, that was US out-there in the heat waiting for the bus and enduring a 50-minute commute that a car could do in 20, we appreciated the help we got–and now we’re going to return the favor as best we can within the context of still being safe & living our own lives.

    THAT is the sort of thing I think the other posters are advocating, NOT enabling.


  155. Lisa, like it or not EVERYONE can use a public park. You don’t know if the man sitting on the bench next to your child is a pedophile. Like it or not EVERYONE can walk down a street. You don’t know if the person walking past your child is a pedophile. Like it or not EVERYONE can use a grocery store. You don’t know if the person ob aisle 4 is a pedophile. Under your theory, helicopter parenting is required because you just never know. There is nothing about the public library that makes it more likely to house pedophiles than the park, street or grocery store.

  156. I don’t know that any kids have actually been snatched. But, kids have been assaulted in the bathroom (not at mine, but I’ve heard of it) The point is, the rules are there for a reason. I didn’t make them. Most of the time, I don’t like them either. But, the library has a responsibility to do their best to protect as many as possible (including ourselves). The librarian in question had no idea that the mom was coming back in – all they saw was a 4 year old run in by himself. Yes, that would scare me, too. If mom was at the door and said – go to the kids area and was standing there watching him run ahead, I doubt anything would have been said.

    FWIW, here is our definition of Unattended child: Any child, age 11 or younger, who is left without a parent or responsible caregiver in the building, and, any child, age 7 or younger, not accompanied (within close proximity) by a parent or responsible caregiver.

  157. Ok, obviously you are all reading what I’m saying wrong. Yes, the guy in the park could be a pedophile, but I would NEVER leave my 4 year old in a park by himself. Would I sit on a bench nearby and let him play? Absolutely. The same is true in a store, or a library – the parent needs to be near and aware.

  158. Lisa, but would you leave your 7 or 8 or 10 year old child at the park alone? That age is FAR more likely to be molested than 4. How about a teenager? That is the age MOST likely to be molested by a substantial amount. The fact is that a preschooler is the least likely age group to be molested. So the idea that a 4 year old can’t be left alone in the library because of child molesters but a 12 year old can doesn’t hold water at all.

    “I don’t know that any kids have actually been snatched. But, kids have been assaulted in the bathroom (not at mine, but I’ve heard of it) ”

    Let’s see. We have no children being snatched to your knowledge and a hearing of kids being assaulted in the bathroom. So this does seem to be along the lines of “it’s more dangerous than when we were growing up.” I don’t deny that it has occurred in a rare circumstances. I’m sure it has, as I’m sure that kids have been assaulted in parks in rare situations. The fact still remains that a pedophile in the library is a stranger and stranger molestations are exceedingly rare.

  159. During the summer I use the library as my “office”. I go every day they are open and work on lesson plans, and research for a couple of hours. I like having access to all those books for ideas.

    The place is jammed full of people 2/3 of them kids, most unaccompanied elementary – HS aged kids. They must really be irritating the librarians with all the shelving they are doing, cutting out of letters, decorating, and the preparing of materials for the little kids’ story time. They are just a pain in the behind to the librarians.

    Oh and when they take their brown bags out to the lawn and eat – you wouldn’t believe it they leave the lawn cleaner than they found it – picking up the trash adults have left/dropped.

    Last Saturday, I was taking in two bags of books I used for a project with my students. Some skateboard kids in ratty clothing stopped and insisted on carrying the bags in for me. Can you believe the nerve of them not living down to a stereotype.

    If libraries want to be funded by the next generation – they better open their doors to them as kids. My library is fostering a generation of community volunteers with a fierce loyalty to the library. Oh and the librarians know most of the kids by name – and greet them with things like “Hi Angel, we just got in a book you will love ……”

    Is there a buzz in my library – yes. It is a neighborhood library (not an academic library) with people from the neighborhood using the computers, reading books, and getting to know each other. It is a quiet buzz no yelling, if a small child has a tantrum or is crying the adult takes them out.

    The neighbors look out for each other. The other day I heard “Thomas, I heard your Mamma tell you not to play that game. You get off that computer right now and apologize to the librarians – then we are going to call your Mamma and let her know what you are up to. I looked over and saw a very guilty looking kid 9 – 11 yo sheepishly getting off the computer. I have a feeling he is at least grounded for a while.”

  160. A couple of you have mentioned that “your child could be sitting right next to the pedopile” at the library, and that the librarian knows this, but can’t tell the you.

    I’m not totally up on legalities (maybe Donna can chime in?), but wouldn’t convicted pedophiles have parole or probation conditions barring them from being within x feet or yards (or whatever measure) from children, or areas where children gather? And they’d have to be convicted pedophiles, because otherwise how would a librarian *know* about his prediliction?

    If that’s the case the librarian should not be constrained from telling anyone. The librarian should be calling the police to report someone possibly in violation of his parole/probation conditions.

  161. I actually think kids are generally really safe at the library. Most of the creepy guys looking at porn are more interested in adult women and “shocking” the librarians. The only people I’ve ever seen harrassed and/or assaulted were staff members and the very rare adult patron. Most of the mentally ill/gang members/drunks/ and other malcontents could care less about children.

  162. My 8 yr. old often walks to the library, returns and checks out books, and walks home. No one has ever said anything to either of us about it.

  163. “The librarian in question had no idea that the mom was coming back in – all they saw was a 4 year old run in by himself. Yes, that would scare me, too.”

    Lisa, you admit that you are not aware of one single grabbing or snatching in your library. So, what exactly are you scared of? Scared that a mother has decided for herself what her child is capable of and has given him twenty whole seconds of independence? Scared that a child is so excited to get to the library that he wants to go in and get started while Mom parks the car?

    I’m really not taking you on. I’m encouraging you to think in a more free-range way and start trusting the world around you, and the parents within it, instead of being fearful of it.

  164. I would like to hear a librarian weigh in on if watching out for unattended children is part of their job description. Donna says that she doesn’t expect librarians to watch out for her kid and I guess then would not be mad at the library should her kid damage something and she be made to pay for it or should get kidnapped or molested or bullied by older kids or whatever. Basically meaning no matter what happened you would in no way, shape or form hold the library responsible, right? Is that what you are saying?

    Because unfortunately most people I know would hold the library responsible at least somewhat if something (no matter what it was) happened to a young child.

    So I have to ask the librarians- are you choosing of your own accord to watch out for unattended children to keep them safe and out of trouble or is it part of your job? Would your boss take you to task if you chose not to pay attention to an unattended child and said child tore up books or was molested or got beat up. Would your boss question you as to why this happened and how come you didn’t stop it?

    If the answer is “yes”, then unfortunately the parents that leave their kids unattended at the library ARE making extra work for the librarians whether or not you think you are.

    Much like when I worked at a toy store. Sure it was not in my job description to watch out for the kids the parents dumped off there while they went to shop. But I did. Because should a kid damage products and I did not stop them, I would be held responsible. Should a kid get kidnapped I would have been questioned and probably held responsible for not knowing what is going on in my store. Should a kid climb a shelf and it fall on top of them I would be held responsible for not stopping it. Even though I had other duties to be doing like answering the phone, assisting other customers, putting up stock, cleaning etc.

    I think these two analogies relate very much. So yes, even if the parents thought their kids did not need to be babysitted by me, I had to babysit them or get in trouble with my boss potentially. Same with librarians I bet.

  165. I wanted to add too that even if your kids would do nothing dangerous or damaging or whatever- that makes NO real difference when you get down to it. The librarians don’t KNOW that. Unless they are familiar with your kid, to them every kid is just as likely to cause a potential problem. They should be polite and respectful to all kids, but if they feel they would be held responsible if anything should happen to said kid, then they are going to have to watch them.

    I had to keep an eye on many kids that got dumped at the toy store while their parents shopped. Some were excellent kids that just looked around and were harmless. Others would knock stuff off shelves or damage products or run around or try to steal. I am not psychic and I had to watch all of them.

  166. “Donna says that she doesn’t expect librarians to watch out for her kid and I guess then would not be mad at the library should her kid damage something and she be made to pay for it”

    Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I would pay for it and every single penny would then come out of my child’s allowance until I was paid back.

    “or should get kidnapped or molested or bullied by older kids or whatever.”

    Of those, the only one that I am remotely concerned about is bullying. The other two are so rare that I’m not going to waste my time addressing them. It’s not the libraries fault if some other kid bullies my child. The only people responsible are the bully and possibly the parents of the bully. If YOU would blame the library, then YOU should not leave your children unattended in the library.

    “Basically meaning no matter what happened you would in no way, shape or form hold the library responsible, right? Is that what you are saying?”

    Not quite. I would hold the library responsible if the library harmed my child in some way. If the librarian molested my child. If the librarian physically harmed my child. If the librarian was bullying my child. If improperly installed shelves came down on my child. If my child was electrocuted from faulty wiring. I’m not going to hold the library responsible for what other patrons do in the library any more than I’d hold the grocery store responsible for the acts of other customers.

  167. Dolly, here’s what I think. I think a children’s room in a library should be designed for children. That means it should be reasonably safe in case a kid does something you should expect a kid to do – whether or not he is being watched closely by a careful, intelligent parent. So for example, if a kid stood on a low shelf to reach a high book, the whole bookcase would not come crashing down on his head. And there would not be open windows the kid could fall out of. Sound reasonable? But normal everyday risks are to be expected regardless of where kids are. It’s on me as a parent to decide whether it’s safe to send them to the park, library, or corner store alone. Most parents would scope out the place first and get a feel for the safety factors. Seeing a bunch of apparently shiftless adults in the children’s section might affect a parent’s decision. How about giving parents the benefit of the doubt that they can think that far past their nose?

    I also think that people who work in a children’s room – in the library or any other place – should be prepared to deal with kids doing the normal range of things that kids do – with or without their parents hovering over them. I really don’t want to hear a kids’ librarian whine about having to hear a kid make a noise or rearrange the books or toys that some kids mixed up. Makes me wonder if my kids’ daycare teachers whine about the fact that four-year-olds sometimes spill stuff or dawdle or have bathroom emergencies.

    In my experience, the kids who are problematic and have good parents aren’t left on their own; but, they still cause problems even with their parents right there – as do kids with sucky parents. In fact, kids are often more unruly with their parents around. So you can’t tell me that a librarian needn’t bother about what the kids are doing if their parents are nearby. Therefore yes, it’s part of the job description – to be aware of what’s happening and be prepared to step in IF the patrons cross a line.

    This also happens to be the case in most service jobs. If you are working in a retail store, restaurant, etc., that caters to kids, you simply have to watch out for them. If that slows you down a bit, oh well – it should be figured into the schedule.

    For that matter, I probably shouldn’t have to stop my car when the kids on the corner run after a ball that’s gone into the street. It’s not in my job description and I don’t have time for that. I think I’ll go tell their parents that they are no longer allowed to play in the front yard – just in case.

  168. I just have to say I am absolutely amazed after all these comments that only two people suspect it is a case of entitled parent syndrome and the librarian is not a nutcase – she is just at the end of her rope with this particular mother. I’m in my library at least three times a week with my three young kids. The librarians know us, and often comment on how they don’t mind my kids being left alone for a few minutes. Why? Because if the rule is “no snacks” my kids don’t eat. If the rule is “shoes required” they aren’t allowed to take them off (I have been reprimanded by the librarians for this – ONCE – and even today I told another mother the rule is no shoes). The rule is no cell phones – I don’t take one in. If my kids are disruptive, I take them out. If my kids run, I remind them it is a “walking feet” place. The librarians know I will back them up and follow the rules and make sure my kids are in line. They have seen me leave a load of books on the counter and carry a screaming child out while apologizing all the way because I feel bad that they have to re-shelve, but a misbehaving child needs to be dealt with immediately and if I say they either shape up or we leave, I mean business. Trust me, if I was in there enough that they knew me and my kids but still went ballistic when I sent my kid ahead (which I often do, although I park first), I would be searching for the real reason, because one isolated event isn’t going to do it for most librarians.

    I’m thinking this is a case of “my kid is going to do what I want him to do because he is special and the rules don’t apply” that has just annoyed the librarians a bit too much. Part of my job is to do library research all over the country. I’ve worked in libraries from NYC and Philadelphia to Oklahoma City to Anytown, USA. Librarians, as a rule, are very patient and if they know the lady like she says they do, there is a reason for the rant.

  169. Some of you act like misbehaved children are a 21st century invention. I don’t know what idealized memories you have of your childhood, but kids were not perfect angels when I was a child. Kids breaking things, stealing things, bullying each other, etc. have existed since kids and things have existed. Somehow every librarian and shop owner in every generation prior to this one somehow managed to handle this while welcoming child customers and still getting their jobs done.

    “to them every kid is just as likely to cause a potential problem.”

    And there we have the crux of the problem. People view kids as POTENTIAL PROBLEMS. Not as customers. Not as patrons. But as POTENTIAL PROBLEMS. Every last one of them. Do you view EVERY adult customer as a potential problem? Or do you let them do their shopping without saying that you are being forced to babysit your customers? Because I represent a whole helluva lot more adult shoplifters than I do child shoplifters. And if you view every child as a POTENTIAL PROBLEM then a toy store or library is probably not a good fit for you as a worker.

  170. “but wouldn’t convicted pedophiles have parole or probation conditions barring them from being within x feet or yards (or whatever measure) from children, or areas where children gather?”

    That is going to vary state by state, county by county and even case by case. There are going to be some (okay, many) limitations but they are not likely to prevent a sex offender from using a library at all. Unlike a school, adults are actually patrons of libraries to a larger extent even then children. It would kinda be like banning sex offenders from the mall because there happens to be a toy store there. And even if there was a general library ban for sex offenders, those things change on a case by case basis just depending on the facts of the situation so it would not keep all sex offenders out of the library.

    That said, I believe the pedophile at issue was convicted of assaulting a girl in that very library (or that was at least the implication from the comment). By all means, that person could be banned from that library. It isn’t uncommon to ban someone from the scene of their crime.

  171. “I just have to say I am absolutely amazed after all these comments that only two people suspect it is a case of entitled parent syndrome and the librarian is not a nutcase ”

    I disagree completely. For parent entitlement to kick in you would have to know that a child who is 20 seconds ahead of his parent is unattended; otherwise no rule is broken. The mother in this case didn’t purposely flaunt the rules. She interpreted “attended” as meaning that her coming in 20 seconds after him was sufficiently attended. Now, if we had facts to say that this particular mother had been told that allowing her 4 year old to enter the building without her is not okay and yet continued to do it, I would say parent entitlement and be on the side of the librarian (to a certain extent because I still think the rule would be absurd). Or if the mother didn’t immediately follow her child into the library. But, while either of those things could be true, we don’t know them to be true.

    In the case of no shoes or food, it’s easy to determine parent entitlement syndrome. Shoes and food are clearly understood terms. “Attended” means different things to different people and, apparently, different libraries. Some here think it means “be directly supervising your child at all times.” Others think it means “be in the children’s section doing your own thing.” For others it’s “be in the library with your child and check in on him regularly.” Still others think it means “be in the library with your child and available to be tracked down if your child causes a problem.” Many believe that coming in 20 seconds after your child is not “unattended.” The librarian at issue apparently disagreed. But you still can’t intentionally flaunt the rule under parental entitlement if you don’t know what the rule means exactly.

  172. Guess Matilda wouldn’t be welcome at this library

  173. As usual, I think Donna makes so much sense. I will admit, I have a tendency to think that bratty kids are a 21st century invention, and they’re not–although I do things parents by & large were much more prone to strong correction in prior generations than they are now.

    As she says, people often-times view kids as potential problems, even before any evidence regarding THAT PARTICULAR KID has been produced which suggests this. It’s sort of analogous to how solitary men in the parks are often viewed & treated as potential molesters right from the jump-street. This is no different if you think about it. And I agree with Donna–if that is your point of view (that a kid is presumed to be a brat until they prove otherwise), maybe librarian isn’t the proper line of work for such a person.

    The community Kimberly describes sounds great. I love the idea of another adult being able to create other’s children, especially if it’s done in a manner that serves to “backup” and reinforce the parent’s wishes, as opposed to compete with or undermine it. These people who scream “only I can discipline my kids” are really not doing their kids a favor. This much I can tell you: I have a rule that says anyone who brings their kids over to my house, I MUST have the ability to tell them to stay out of whatever and to be quiet etc, don’t tell me I can’t correct such behavior when it’s offending me in my own house. (On the other hand, how much or how little “free range” you give your child with outdoor play etc, that’s not my place–not even at my home, I’d say.)


  174. People, for heaven’s sake. We are talking about a LIBRARY. Not a war zone; not even Cabrini Green. A LIBRARY. To put it bluntly, we need to get a grip.

  175. I don’t think she purposely flaunted the rules, but I’m thinking that the librarian did know her and is sick of her son high-tailing it through the library at top speed with no mother in sight to correct him. The mother’s reply to the librarian wasn’t “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know the policy” or “I’m sorry, I misunderstood the policy” it was ““Thank you for your concern, but it builds his confidence to navigate a bit by himself.” In other words – I’m going to do whatever I want no matter the policy because I think Little Johhny’s confidence is more important than your policy. I still side with the librarian.

  176. My kids are 4 and we go to a museum about once a week. Yesterday we were there checking out a new exhibit that was hands-on for kids. One of my kids needed to use the restroom. So I let her go alone to the restroom while her sister remained at the exhibit. Every several minutes I’d walk back and forth to check on the kid in the restroom (because she can’t reach to turn on the water yet).

    Nobody raised an eyebrow, though I left each of my 4-year-olds “unattended” for several minutes at a time. In fact, all the employees appeared thrilled that kids were enjoying the new exhibit – I’ve never seen so many smiles there. (This was also the most kid-friendly temporary exhibit I’ve seen there – maybe they should have more of them).

    The museum has a kids’ “discovery room” in a relatively remote area, and there are interesting things to see on the way there. So I often have one kid well ahead of the other kid when she enters the Discovery Room. It does say on the wall that kids 12 and under need to be accompanied in there. But when one of my kids arrives ahead of me, all they do is look up and notice whether or not I eventually show up. I guess if the kid was alone for a minute or so, they’d ask her where her mom was, and she’d tell them mom was just behind her. No problem! If she were the type of kid to run around and terrorize the critters in the terrariums or something, I wouldn’t make the parenting decision to let her run ahead.

    I was just re-reading some of the comments and it floored me all over again to see someone say of children’s librarians, “they probably have a ton of duties and dealing with your kids is not one of them!” Um, yes it is. Librarian is a service job, and dealing with patrons is probably the MOST important part of the job description. And part of this is the marketing aspect – making young patrons feel comfortable in the library is the best way to keep them coming back as they get older. I “think” libraries want folks to keep coming – at least the ones in my area depend on tax levies, and who’s going to vote for a levy for a place where nobody wants to go / send their kids?

  177. What LHR said about I feel that bratty children are more common now than they used to be. Many parents were not afraid to discipline back in the day. Now, (I worked in a daycare and so I know firsthand how we were allowed to discipline and saw how their parents disciplined) we act like we can’t ever say one negative word to our kids. At the daycare I worked at we were never allowed to say “No”. Ever. We had to use only positive words. We were not allowed to time out. So basically the kids knew they could get away with everything. This was a fancy expensive state of the art daycare. The parents were the same way and the kids ran all over most of them.

    So I think that it might be more a current problem of kids being very ill behaved in public and everyone else having to deal with them.

  178. At age 9 I used to ride my bike to the library (across a highway!) about a mile from my house, read, buy books from the used bookstore there, go to the playground and then ride my bike home again! All done alone!

  179. Maybe it’s regional, but most of the kids around here behave reasonably. There are brats, but they are definitely in the minority. Or maybe I have a different idea of what is OK behavior for kids. I don’t expect them to sit silently with their hands crossed in their laps – especially when they are in a place supposedly designed to accommodate children.

  180. I was having a conversation on the train yesterday with a mom I knew. She was raised in another country, and is frustrated by the differences in what is acceptable here in terms of child discipline. We commiserated about the same thing Dolly mentioned above – it has become a horrible crime to even raise your voice to your child. She said something to the effect of, “If I was really naughty, my father would spank me and no one thought anything of it. Here if I tell my daughter ‘Stop That!’ in public, people stare at you. How can you teach your kids right from wrong if you can’t tell them what’s wrong?” I commiserated. I’m not saying that beatings are the way to go, but if we have gotten so sensitive that we can’t upset our children in any way or we are ‘bad parents’, then what can we possibly do to raise well behaved kids who can be allowed in the library alone?

  181. BMS, I’ve become an expert at correcting my kids in a low, “sane-sounding” voice, LOL, and occasionally I threaten them with a consequence later and follow through, or let them work it off if appropriate. My kids are not perfect, but it’s pretty easy to cut off bad behavior if it starts. I think each parent needs to put a little thought into how to accomplish this without making a scene.

    One idea I stole from a blog was to threaten an early bedtime. I was shocked at how well it worked. Other threats I like less but will use in a pinch: confiscating some of their candy stash or, rarely, an old-fashioned spanking.

    That said, when my tots were too little to understand delayed consequences, I was not afraid to take away what they were enjoying, or even (rarely) walk them to an unpopulated corner and give them a spank. Once they know you actually WILL do that, they rarely push that far.

  182. I completely agree, SKL. But I really felt for this poor mom who is trying her very best to fit in with American cultural norms, while still trying to hold true to the expected behavior in her home culture. I can’t figure out what some of the other moms expect, and I’m from the US. I can’t imagine being from somewhere else and trying to figure out the madness that is suburbia.

  183. My sister told me of a friend whose mom used this method: when the mom held up 1 finger, it meant the kid was going to get 1 swat once home. If things didn’t improve sufficiently, eventually there would be 2 fingers => 2 swats, etc. No raised voices, no voiced threats, highly effective discipline. The key is following through, and I believe even young kids can learn if the parents actually mean what they say.

  184. I think there is a definite difference in kids acting like brats when their parents are present and parents doing nothing about it. I see no difference whatsoever in kid behavior when parents are absent. Some kids were brats when I was a kid and some are brats now. Kids who were perfect angels then when mom was breathing down their neck were frequently brats when parents weren’t present.

    I live in an inner city, high poverty area and I still find most young kids are decently behaved. There starts to be issues as the kids move into middle and high school but the elementary kids are not out of control. But I also agree with SKL, places geared toward children, like the kid’s section of the library, need to be more tolerant of usual kid behavior.

  185. BMS – Why do you care what other moms expect? I discipline my child as I see fit. I’m not going to beat her in public (or private), but if a raised voice is necessary, it happens. We spend way too much time worrying about what other mothers think of out parenting.

  186. Oh I don’t personally give a fig. But then I am used to being a freak and standing out. I’m a female engineer for god’s sake – I’m always the odd one out wherever I go. I wear a black leather biker jacket to parent’s night and I will engage in conversations about carbon nanotubes with my kids in the checkout line at the grocery store.

    But even I get tired of the shocked looks when I *gasp* yell at my kid to stop something. And I really feel for my friend who is battling a culture shock. Her second grade daughter already doesn’t want to bring friends home because her mom and dad talk with accents and aren’t like the other kids’ parents. So this mom feels an overwhelming pressure to ‘fit in’, but is perplexed at how to do that without raising a brat.

  187. I wanted to share a more hopeful story that started the same way. I often let my 2 older kids (ages 7 and 5) run into the library while I get the baby and the books out of the car. When I walked in 2 min behind them one day, the librarian said “were those your kids that came in a minute ago” and I of course thought Uh-oh. But I put on a brave face and said they were. She started to laugh and told me they had come and and paused and then one of them said (with a dramatic eye roll) “come on lets start looking, i don’t want to wait for mama, she’s *soooooo* slow”.

    And that was it, the librarian thought it was hilarious.

    To the point of how close is accompanying, I think it’s totally context based. In a pool I can respect an “arms reach rule” otherwise I consider my self to be supervising if my kids are within my senses. If I can see or hear them. Or if I can see the exit in a relatively small place (like a neighborhood library, but not the main one).

    I do think about the grey area here sometimes thought when people say kids are outside “unsupervised” we have a lot across the street from our house that i can see out my kitchen window (as can my neighbor) where all the neighborhood kids play. I consider my kids basically supervised if they are in a group out there. But I actually only check on them every half hour or so. Does that qualify as unsupervised IDK?

    And libraries with a 13 and older rule? That’s insanity. My local library is filled with elementary age kids, unsupervised after school. I mean what could be safer then hanging out at the bloody library?

  188. I completely agree too SKL. I don’t spank. Never have but my kids behave so it is not just about spanking. I follow through for one thing and that makes all the difference. My kids knew from day one that if I say something I mean it, whether it be a positive or negative thing. If I say stop acting up or you won’t get to ride the bus ride after we get done shopping, I mean it. I only had to follow through once and from then on they knew I meant it. They screamed all the way out of the Walmart because I would not let them ride it and all the way home, but they have NEVER acted up since then in a store ever. I really think consistency is key.

    Again all parents and children are different. You do what works. You figure out what works. Then you stick by it. My kids behave very well in public. But I also don’t drag them around to boring places for them for hours like some parents do. I know that they could not be perfect for that long. So I do one or two errands and get them a little treat or whatever if they behave and then we go home to play or to the playground. I don’t expect kids to be perfectly quiet in public or whatever but it should not get to the point that they are seriously disturbing others around them. That is when it has gone too far. When you get looks from other people, its time to discipline. That policy has always worked just fine for me and my kids.

    I literally see parents begging their kids to behave and it just baffles me!!! If my kid does not do what I say, I scoop them up right then and there and drag them out of there. There is no begging. If you enforce rules at home, they will act just as good out in public. I never have had a problem with it but once or twice and I dealt with it. It should not be an ongoing problem with any parent with a typical child or else you are doing something wrong.

  189. It’s so true that we spend so much time worrying what others will think of our parenting, rather than considering what is best for our child and our family. Having a police officer come for something like this is just plain silly. SILLY! In our library, we have a related problem. THere is a sign in the children’s department that says “all adults must be accompanied by a child.” I saw it when I happened to be at the library alone and wanted to pick up a couple books for my daughter. But I felt like I needed to hustle out of there lest I be mistaken for a sex offender or something. Ick! Can’t we use common sense and still protect our kids?

  190. So are we going to get to a point where we can only go to the library in packs of ten? I mean, we need adults to watch the child (and they need to be of the same gender, so that we can follow them into the bathroom so they are never unaccompanied), and we probably need at least two adults so that they can verify that the other didn’t molest them, but they probably should be unrelated, and we have to make sure this whole group never gets separated, otherwise you might have unaccompanied adults or children in the wrong area!

    Makes me want to spike the local reservoir with a truckload of valium until everyone chills out.

  191. Wow, there are two people named Frances on here!

    Heather — fight your own battles. Not only does getting your husband to “explain in lawyerese” sound sexist, it makes you sound incompetent.

    Rhodycat — thank you! Rules are rules. If you don’t like them, work to change them. Otherwise it’s a bit like ignoring the speed limit because you think it’s too slow — maybe it is, but you still deserve the ticket.

    Mambo5 — the dregs of society? Really?

  192. Am I the only one wondering how the police got to the kid before mom? Unless the police were on-site it seems that you might of been away for a little longer than a couple of seconds. Just an observation.

  193. Police or security guards on site are not unusual in city libraries. That’s been well covered here.

  194. “Heather — fight your own battles. Not only does getting your husband to “explain in lawyerese” sound sexist, it makes you sound incompetent.”

    How is something relating to their child and the way they raise him Heather’s battle but not her husband’s? It’s called teamwork.

    And thinking that a lawyer is more informed about the law and better able to argue legal points is not calling yourself incompetent, it’s admitting you haven’t been to law school.

  195. Auty: the mom was 20 seconds (perhaps really a minute) behind the child until the front desk worker verbally assaulted the mom. Who knows how long that took. Then, she says, she went upstairs to find her son and the police officer must have already been there and was just having the boy sit and wait for her.

  196. @pentamom — of course childrearing “problems” belong to both parents. But in this case only the woman was actually present, so if there is a complaint to be lodged somewhere, she should be the one lodging it. And plain English usually works just fine.

    Saying “my husband is a lawyer” (or doctor, or police officer, or whatever position of perceived power he might hold) sounds to me both threatening and infantilizing. Neither is likely to help a woman’s argument.

    Besides, I’m not sure there actually are legal points to be argued here. Isn’t the whole discussion about common sense?

  197. All I know is if the librarian pulled the same thing on me and had the cops show up, not only would there be a complaint letter to the library, but to the local detachment as well. I use a cane and can not run after my kids. They are often in the library 30 seconds to three minutes before I get there. At least now I have a small, local library where the kids can be in the kids’ section without me right there so I can go after books I’m interested in. This library is so small that is has only 5 rooms – two bathrooms, a conference room, the “deal with the books room” and the main room which is all library.

    You, OP, did nothing wrong. The librarian pulling rank did. Complaint letter time.

  198. My local library (in La Mirada, CA) has a nice vague policy:
    Children Left Unattended Policy

    The County of Los Angeles Public Library encourages children of all ages to visit the Library with their parents to take advantage of the resources available for them to meet their informational, recreational and educational needs. It is the responsibility of the parents to ensure the appropriate behavior of their children in the Library.

    Library staff is not responsible for the supervision of children left unattended by their parents. Disruptive children may be required to leave after receiving one warning.

    Library staff may notify the appropriate authorities if they have reason to suspect that there is significant evidence of abuse or neglect. If unattended children are not picked up when the Library closes, law enforcement will be called to assume responsibility for the child.
    So a couple weeks ago when I took my daughters to their gymnastics classes, my 6yo asked to go to the library during her 3yo sister’s class (instead of sitting bored next to me). This is a class through the local rec department in a building that shares a central plaza w/the library building (and the town hall building, actually). Anyways, I decided to take a free-range leap and told her she could go play ONE game on the computers the library just got w/kid games on them (a topic for another post) and come right back. She happily trotted away and came back about 20 mins later having played her game and said hi to a friend (w/mom and siblings) she saw at the library. I trust that she would be quiet and well-behaved as usual in this situation – but also did not tell her to try to check out a book on her own, so don’t know if anyone was actually aware that she was there on her own. Maybe I’ll have her try checking out a book “by herself” with me watching next time ;).

  199. o lord love a duck.
    under 13?
    Is that why the national literacy and reading comprehension stats are in the crapper?
    Is this why kids view books as nasty wet slimy crawly things found under rocks?
    I was 5 years younger than this “curfew age” when I got my first unlimited checkout card…(sorta like winning the lottery, only much better) and all any librarian ever gave a damn about was that I did not stick used chewed gum under the tables, or make noisy disturbance with my equally young friends (though most visits were made solo.)

    This sorta calls the old farts out, does it not? They’re admitting – that they don’t think the average kid can respond favorably to books or their depositories….until they’re old enough for high school.
    For shame, librarians – for shame.
    I’d like to haul about 47 kids off the street right now and have them haunt your sorry souls…….let you and the cops chase them all down, for actually giving a damn about real engagement with their own literacy.
    (what a way to encourage reading, um?)

    that’s me – the shy librarian.

  200. Lol at 4-5 I was navigating a 3 story library never had a prob odd to see how things change

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