Librarians walk a fine line, especially children’s and teen librarians, between being a professional, and being a babysitter.
Deirdre Lemon is the Assistant Director at the Great Bend Public Library. Prior to coming to Great Bend, she worked for three-and-a-half year’s at the Junction City Public Library. One of the project she is taking on is reviewing and updating library policies. At the January meeting of the Library’s Board of Directors, two policies were presented and approved. One was the Patron Behavior Policy, which remained essentially the same, with some updates to wording to make it easier to understand. The second was the new Child Safe Policy, something which the library did not have.
The policy was created as a proactive way to ensure staff know what to do to protect kids under various circumstances.
“This wasn’t prompted by anything bad happening,” Lemon said. “It’s really to help everyone understand what is expected of both library staff in order to keep our youngest patrons safe while visiting the Great Bend Public Library.”
To create the policy, she pulled from several libraries with similar policies, including the Denver Public Library and the Junction City Public Library, as well as her own experiences and those shared with her by staff members.
Be aware of closing time
With several new staff members, Lemon wanted to provide guidance for what to do when certain circumstances come up. Like when it’s closing time, and young patrons are left waiting for a ride. This is something Lemon said has not been a problem here, but that she experienced three or four times a year at the library where she worked previously.
“They didn’t know their parent’s phone numbers, and mom didn’t realize the library closed at 5 p.m., so in that case, at that library, our policy was to call the police because staff members could not take them home,” she said. “It wasn’t safe for us to do that.”
The new policy addressing that possibility for the Great Bend Public Library was approved at the GBPL Board meeting on Monday, Jan. 30.
The library staff will ask young people if they have a ride or need a ride 15 minutes before the library closes. Under no circumstances will staff take young people home. Instead, two staff members will stay with the child(ren) when the library closes until a ride picks them up for up to 15 minutes. At that time, the library staff is authorized to call the police, and the child will be taken to Juvenile Intake per police protocol.
Having these steps handy is the best way to make sure no one gets in trouble and they get home to where they need to be by the right people, Lemon said.
Other procedures address who is responsible for the care and safety of children, behavioral expectations and consequences, keeping sick children home, and the age children can be at the library unattended. Children age 6 and under, for instance, must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or a caregiver of at least 13 years old.
Rarely is there a problem, though in the summer, when the library has a higher volume of patrons, both adults and children, the situations where problems can arise are more prevalent.
“We love having kids in here, but we can’t have them running around because it is still a public place, and we can’t always keep our eyes on them, but we want them to be safe.”
Librarians are busy most of the time, either helping patrons and presenting programs. Still, they do their best to be aware of their surroundings. Because of this, one Child Safe Policy procedure addresses adults specifically.
The Children’s and Young Adult areas of the library are specifically designed to serve the needs of our younger patrons. Adults in these areas not supervising children or searching for youth materials will be asked to use other areas of the library at the staff’s discretion. Staff members will place the safety of children and young adults first. Adults with children in their charge are the only adults allowed to use the restrooms located in the children’s area.
Lemon summed up. “We want parents to be aware that we can’t always be there, and we don’t want something to happen to their child.”
The new Child Safe Policy and other library policies will be posted soon on the Great Bend Public Library website.