Library policy amendments address unaccompanied minors

During the July 12, 2021 Town Council meeting, the council voted to approve recommended amendments to Thomas Memorial Library policies including: General Use Policy, Food & Beverage Policy, Computer Use and Internet Policy, and Safe Child & Vulnerable Adults Policy.  The Thomas Memorial Library Committee first presented recommended policy amendments to the Town Council during a May 10 council meeting based on issues arising from the increased use of the new library and older, non-specific policies.

In a May 3 Memo to the Town Council, Library Director Rachel Davis provided examples of how current uses of the library (prior to closures relating to COVID-19) inadvertently created unsafe circumstances, inappropriate use of library resources and staff, and vague direction on how to address issues as they arose.  In one example Davis writes, “A second grade boy walks over to the library after school on a regular basis; he breaks down in tears frequently because he doesn’t know who is suppose to pick him up or when.  Library staff attempt to locate a parent.  The first time this happens staff need to do some detective work to figure out who to contact, since we do not have any way of keeping track of children’s contact information.”  In another example Davis writes, “An adult has an extended conversation with a therapist while using a computer, unaware or unconcerned that others are in the vicinity and trying to concentrate on their own tasks; children are also within earshot of the discussion of sensitive information.”

Since first considering the library policy amendments on May 10, the Town Council reviewed the recommendations over three different dates : a workshop on June 7; a monthly meeting on June 14 meeting; and a workshop on July 6.  Town Councilors struggled to determine the appropriate age in which minors may use the library unaccompanied by a caregiver; acknowledging that children in the “tween” years exhibit a wide range of maturity levels and different capacities for self-monitoring.  In addition, councilors stated that the issue is compounded by the absence of alternative programming for children in the tween years.  Chairman Jamie Garvin, upon approving the policy amendments, concluded that finding alternative programming for children in this higher age bracket must be pursued and is currently being researched by Community Services.

The primary library policy amendments adopted by the Town Council, stipulate that:

  • Children 10 and under must be accompanied in the library by a caregiver aged 16 or older at all times.
  • Children ages 11 - 12 can be in the library unattended for short periods of time (recommended benchmark of 60 minutes).

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