Leaving kids at the library

Kate Shatzkin: Last week while vacationing in my hometown of Florence, S.C., I stopped by the library for a few days and noticed that on each day there were a number of unsupervised kids present -- both inside the building and outside. ... I was later told that the facility had become a place where parents who can’t afford summer camp drop off their kids for the entire day, and then, to the chagrin of the library officials, are often tardy when coming to retrieve them.


I spent ten years in public libraries and this issue comes up again and again. One branch I worked at sat in front of an elementary school and we ended up serving as the after school daycare.

Remember that post around July 9th about some parent talking about "why I don't enroll my children in summer reading programs?" Nice for her, but at least the programs can give a strapped YA librarian something for the kids dropped off at the library to do.

Back when I was working in the public library, I was in the children's department and a parent asked (at least she did that) if she could leave her young child down there while she was up in the adult section using the computers. I told her that "no, she needs to be supervised by either you or someone at least 12 years or older if you are staying in the building." She was surprised and wanted to know why. I told her I'm not a paid to provide day care for her child and if I get called away from the desk I can't be held responsible for her child.

When I worked in a public library system, I was in charge of filing the comment cards for the director. I'll never forget the one that asked if the "library could PLEASE be open on holidays" (Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, Easter) so that she could leave her kids there and they had something to do on the holidays.

Another one was "Would it be possible for the library to provide a daycare?" Naturally, some folks didn't ask, they just assume the library is a daycare.

The really sad cases I think are the teens who are actually really nice, polite, and keep themselves occupied with legitimate activities. But their parents can't be bothered to come to the library at closing time to pick them up. So the police are called, who take care of getting the parents, and of course, the parents are then furious at the library for calling the cops on them.

That same library system used to have a minimum age requirement to be alone in the library--5 yrs. Yes, people, 5 years only because one branch manager threw a hissy fit when it was suggested the minimum age be raised. Recently they changed that policy (the hissy fitter has been gone for about a year)--I'm not sure to what, but I think it's 8 or 10 years. Still too young for a few of the system's branches in my opinion.

If you leave your children unattended in this Library we will call Social Services to come and collect them.
This library is NOT a day-care centre. (then put the line from the Library regulations etc).

IIRC, the Lubbock libraries do say that unattended young kids would likely provoke a call to the authorities.

my favourite record store has a sign that says, "Unsupervised children will be sold as sandwiches."

Unsupervised children will be sold to the highest bidder

"Unsupervised children will be sent home with a free puppy".

Unattended children will be given a kitten.


I worked in the children's room at our public library where a child about 7 years old was left with an older sister. Older sister went outside to stand around with a group of boys and talk. I watched this happening. I also saw a young man walk up to the little girl and tell her to follow him. I stopped them (not my job technically but hey) and our security officer got involved. Turns out the little girl did not know this 19 year old and sister got upset when she was rounded up from outside to come take charge of the little sister. Security took the guy off for a talk (don't know what happened there) and mom was rightly upset with the big sister because she walked in at the tail end of the story and saw him being led away. At least the mom thought she had left little sister with someone responsible. Unfortunately this was not the case.
I did not have to get involved although I think any normal adult would have whether working at the time or not. But what if I hadn't happened to "be keeping an eye out" -- it is not the librarians' job. Parents need to accept responsibility for their children as well as for their reading choices. I refuse to deny checkout of a book to a child because of their age. Not my job to censor what they read. Just as it is not my job to babysit.

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