Saturday, February 2, 2008

those pesky kids and our miniscule chairs

when we opened today at 10 am, a mother came in with four kids. she said she wanted her son to read down his fines. turns out he owes about $70. so i got them all set up and she said to the oldest kid who is probably in 5th or 6th grade that he needed to watch them and make sure they behave. now, i often see mothers leaving their kids here. and usually they are even younger than these kids. sometimes they are as young as 6 or 7. so i am not too bothered by these kids being left here, as this situation is better than most drop off situations i encounter.
so one kid asks me for books on martin luther king, another asks for easy books (he is in second grade but not really reading up to his level) and the youngest kid asks for books on motorcycles. they are very well-mannered children, saying their pleases and thankyous. the youngest kid said that these were the best books on motorcycles ever.
so they take their books and they sit at one of the adult tables. please note that there are no adults in the adult area at this time.
within a few minutes the head clerk has sent over my nice friend to kick the children out of the adult area. now, these kids were not being loud or disruptive or anything. they weren't even talking to each other. they were all reading. but according to the head clerk they are not allowed to be in the adult area. they can only be in the children's room. i am pretty sure this is not a real rule. maybe they didn't want to sit on our miniscule chairs (shown above. please note that the chairs can actually fit under the table)
so the children are then banished to the children's room and our miniscule chairs for no reason. they continue to read quietly, then a few of them ask me for crayons. this is all typical stuff. not a problem.
so the head clerk comes up to me and asks me where their mother is. i say she left. then she starts saying how we are not a babysitting service and that kids can't be left here. so i say, "but kids are left here all the time." then she explains that it is somehow ok to abandon your child here on weekdays, but leaving your child here on a saturday is a no-no. "but they are sitting quietly reading," i tell her, "and they're older." (i had an instance recently with a kindergartener being left here and being very disruptive and i had to tell the mom she couldn't be left here alone. so i'm not a pushover or anything) anyway. i continue, "they're not doing anything wrong." she grumbles about how they can't be left here and blah blah blah mothers can't use us as a babysitting service. i tell her i just don't see what the problem is. this is totally status quo for this library. if anything i am happy that they are under the care of an older sibling. and they are being quiet angelic children! seeing that she is making no headway with me and that i will not be outraged by the presence of children in the children's room, she just walks away.
on a side note, i would just like to add that if i had to hazard a guess i would say that at any given time 95%-100% of the kids under the age of 16 who hang out in this library are here without any adult supervision.


*Bitch Cakes* said...

Finally! The tiny chairs! Awesome.

WTF is this woman's problem? Can I come down there and beat her?

By the way- how is telling YOU that it's not a baby sitting service going to change the situation? Are you supposed to throw the children on the street? If this is a real policy, there should be a SIGN POSTED. And if she wants to bitch about it, she should bitch to the children's MOTHER, not you...

Miss Dewey Decimal said...

don't you love the miniscule chairs? my mom saw the pic and said "whenever i am feeling sad i am going to look at that picture of those ridiculous chairs."

there IS a sign posted, it says (i am paraphrasing slightly)
"school aged children are welcome in the library after school and on weekends and holidays. children must be accompanied by a teacher or guardian at all other times"

this means that after school and on weekends "school aged children" can be in the library. school-aged means kids in Kindegarten and up. they DO need parental supervision if they are here at say 11 am on a tuesday, since legally they are supposed to be in school. So if they do not have a parent with them we are legally obligated to kick them out.

BookishType202 said...

Your coworker handled it badly, but there's a grain of truth behind what she's saying. The truth is we can't watch those kids every second, and it only takes a second that you're looking away for a small child to get into trouble (or even danger). The policies are really in place for the kids' safety, more than anything. There have been cases where an unattended child has wandered out of the library even. At our library, our policy is that kids under 9 must be accompanied by someone 14 or older. The nine years old thing coincides with a standard child development milestone--something to the effect of that's when a child is deemed to be able to make reasonable decisions, knows right from wrong, etc. If parents are dropping off
their small children all the time (against policy)I can totally believe it, because I've been hearing about similar scenarios everywhere these days. I think people just don't fully understand our role sometimes, added to the fact that there's so many working parents now and it's hard for them. You can't very well put out a small child on the street so it's a tough situation. For us we've had to call the parents (and in worst case scenarios the police in the past), but since our policy change (to the 9 yrs. old rule) and our consistent enforcement, it's really really really rare that we have a case come up. To get it to that though you have to be really willing to take a stiff stance, though and make the calls---and like I said, it's tough. You feel bad for the kids most of all.

Miss Dewey Decimal said...

here's the thing ... in other libraries there is typically a policy regarding unattended children (as there is in your library). in my humble opinion i think a child should be 9 years old in order to hang out in the library unattended. but the written policy here is that "school age" children can be left unattended. so that means ANY child old enough to be in school, starting at kindergarten, can be unattended in this library. that is our policy. and it is the status quo here that every day school age children are here from the moment they leave school to the moment we close. is this the best place for them to be unattended, considering that i am not their babysitter and will not be watching them at all times? no. it is not. but that is the way it is. and these kids are often locked out of their homes until 6 pm, so if they are not here they will literally be hanging out on the street with drug dealers. literally. i have seen it. but the point is: if we allow unattended children on weekdays we should by default allow unattended children on weekends. or else change the policy.