Written by Al Stover
There was a special meeting held at the Roosevelt County Library Dec. 3 to discuss a proposed children’s policy.
Under the proposed policy, children 12 years of age or younger must be accompanied and supervised by a parent, guardian or responsible adult. The responsibility for the child’s safety and behavior in the building rests with the adult and not with the library staff.
Adults with children that are disruptive or behaving inappropriately will be asked to remove the children from the premises. Repeat offenders may be denied access into the library for an extended amount of time as determined by the staff.
Children between the ages of 13 and 17 will be treated as young adults; however, they are still legally the responsibility of their parents or guardians. Similar to the case with younger children, young adults may also be asked to leave the premises if they are disruptive or behave inappropriately. Repeat offenders may be denied access into the library for an extended amount of time as determined by the staff.
Library director Andrea Hayes explained that there has been an issue with unsupervised children at the library for several years and that she and the other librarians have tried different approaches to manage children who come to the library and hang out for several hours; however the problem has gotten to the point to where the librarians are spending more time managing children who are misbehaving and less time on their duties.
Christine Eggar, superintendent of Frontier School, asked Hayes if she had researched what other libraries have done in similar situations. Hayes replied that other libraries have implemented a similar policy with some requiring children up to 15 years to be accompanied by an adult.
Hayes mentioned that not all the younger children are disruptive, but the policy has to apply to everyone who comes into the library and that there can be no exceptions. She added that some of the children have already developed plans to bring their parents or grandparents to the library.
Eggar asked why Hayes selected 13 years old as the age where children do not need an adult supervisor. Hayes explained that youth 13 years and older are self-reliant and can get home safely.
The proposed policy states librarians cannot discipline children, nor can they legally detain a child if they leave with a stranger, which can become an issue of liability and safety. The library also does not have a telephone for public use. If there’s a medical emergency, there is nothing the library can legally do.
The proposed policy will be on the agenda for approval at the next regular library board meeting.