It’s hard to read, due to the glare, but this sign in a Corpus Christi, TX, library states:
“Police may be called if a child under 15 is not accompanied by an adult or older sibling.”
This may have been in response to some kind of problem at the library — maybe kids hanging out and misbehaving, with parents using the library as babysitter.
But in a sense, the library SHOULD be a babysitter. Like Mary Poppins herself, it provides kids with information, education, new interests. It expects good behavior and a lively curiosity. And it does this without constant hand-holding.
The alternative is almost always a screen. Yes — we realize kids go on screens at libraries, too. But how nice that it’s a communal setting, instead of the loneliness of the couch.
So here’s a comment a friend of Let Grow, Chris Byrne, sent about the sign. Feel free to add your own comments in our Facebook group Raising Independent Kids, or on our Facebook page, Let Grow.
Chris remembers a very different library vibe:
I realize that I was a child shortly after the introduction of moveable type, but our public library (Wilmington, DE) had a kids’ room in the basement, which was cool in the summers and many of us didn’t have AC in our homes. So, on really hot days, we would ride our bikes there and spend an hour or two.
Other times we’d go there to find the five books we could check out at a time. That was about a week’s worth of reading in the summer. This was when we were 7, 8 or 9. When we could be trusted to walk downtown by ourselves, or pay attention to traffic rules when riding the bikes.
Wilmington was a real city, but it was a small community, and the librarians knew us, at least by sight and our library cards.
By 15, we were using the adult library upstairs for reading and research.
This speaks to the larger issue of the loss of community. We’d see the librarians at the supermarket (Acme, anyone?) or other places.
Finally, the idea of barring access to one of the most magical places of our childhood because you don’t have an adult completely undermines the library experience, which is all about exploration and discovery. Best of all, for those of us who didn’t have wealthy families or an extensive allowance (beyond the occasional Slurpee on those hot days), it was completely FREE.
Guess I better go harumph in the corner, but this makes me sad. — C.B.
The Living Room or the Library?
We try not to over-harumph at Let Grow, but it’s true that the library provides for free and in public the exploration that the smartphone affords for a fee and in isolation.
If communities want their kids to be turned on by anything other than a search engine, the library better be warm and welcoming. (Or, in the summer, cool.)