From parents of the very young who misunderstand and think that our programming is a form of childcare, to people of tweens who feel their child is mature enough to be on their own, the question of who can be left alone at the library is asked quite a bit. As much as we hate to be “No-No” librarians, we have a policy about this which we do enforce with good reason: your child’s safety and best interest! For our formal policy statement, check out our website. For those of you just wanting the inside scoop put in laymen’s terms… read on.
Libraries are a wonderful family destination. That said, no one can keep your child as safe as you, their parent. With a staff of only 5 in our children’s department, we can’t be everywhere and see everything that goes on though we do walk through the department regularly to check for safety and patrons who need assistance on a regular basis.
Any child under the age of 8 must be constantly supervised by a grown-up in our department. We still encourage you to use the computers in our department, but you must keep an eye on your child while doing so. We also hope you will go to our second floor to find some great books just for you, but your child will need to accompany you. If you need to go upstairs and are worried your child will act out without the toys and activities we have on our floor, feel free to ask the librarian about grabbing a puzzle or crayons and coloring sheets to go upstairs with you! We are happy to accommodate your needs so you can be your child’s best advocate for safety!
Did you know this age limit also is true for our programs? If your child is 8 or under, you cannot leave them unsupervised in a program. You need to stay with them. This may sound like an odd policy, but it is geared towards your child’s success and comfort. If they need to go to the restroom, asking a stranger can be intimidating. Asking their grownup? Well, not so much. We also have some kiddos who are shy and may not understand something in a program. Though we encourage them to ask any and all questions, some children feel much safer asking a trusted adult for explanations. Your presence helps them get the most out of it! These are just a few reasons for this rule, but your child’s best interest is what is always at heart.
The ages of 9 to 12 get trickier. Yes, they are at an age where they are maturing and doing more and more independently. You see them becoming their own person. Though these things are all true and wonderful, unexpected things still come up that they are not sure of how to deal with and need their grown-up for. For this reason, if your child is ages 9 to 12, they can be alone in the department or a program but MUST have an adult in the building.
Here is just one example of why. A child who regularly visited the library with her grandparents was in our department studying. Usually her grandparents stayed upstairs while she stayed in our department. One day while visiting, she approached the desk saying she didn’t feel well. As I began to page her grandparents to come down to the department, she informed me they had dropped her off that day and were not there. I then had to get phone numbers and call them, then wait for them to get to the library to pick up their granddaughter who was drooping by the minute. Had they been present, she could have been getting help much sooner.
This age group is also not allowed to supervise younger siblings while at the library. If you have children who are age 8 or under as well as older children, you must stay in the department with any children younger than 9.
In our library, 13 is the magical age. At age 13 you can be in the library without a grown-up. This is a great privilege! We love when kids meet this magic age requirement and come visit us on their own. As long as all library policies are followed, we will invite them back again and again. One keynote regarding this age group? They are also not currently allowed to supervise younger children in the library without a parent present.
Rules like these are never meant as an inconvenience. They were created with the best interest of your child in mind. Help us give them the best library experience possible by following these and asking us if you have any questions about them. We are here to help!