Via the blog Free Range Kids comes a story about the Boulder, Colorado Library deciding that Kids Under 12 Can’t be Alone in Library Due to “Dangers” of Stairs, People & Furniture.
Their reasons will sound rather familiar to barefooters.
The Boulder Library recently changed its “Rules of Conduct” to include the following:
No person may leave children, ages 11 and under, or dependent persons unattended.
When parents complained, the Library’s reply was the usual administrative double-speak. It was to protect the children, after all.
And then they listed all the horrible hazards that these kids might encounter.
The libraries are public buildings, and, open to everyone. Because the library is a public place, a child’s safety cannot be guaranteed. Children may encounter hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture, electrical equipment, or, other library patrons. At the Main Boulder Public Library alone, almost one million patrons walk through the doors each year. The safety of our patrons, especially children and dependent adults, is our highest priority.
My goodness that sounds like a dangerous place. Who can even document the different ways that furniture might attack a kid? And doors! Just think of all the times your kids have been trapped trying to go through one. Reminds me about how dangerous the Columbus Metropolitan Library is. When justifying CML’s rule requiring shoes, here’s how the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals described the dangers:
Here, the Board has provided incident reports documenting various hazards to barefoot patrons, including the presence of feces on the floor of the restroom and in the reading area, vomit on the floor of the restroom and in the children’s area, broken ceiling tiles on the floor of the restroom, splintered chair pieces in the children’s area, drops of blood on the floor of the restroom, urine in the elevator, on the floor of the bathroom, on a chair in the reading area, and on the floor of the reading area, and broken glass in the lobby. The Board also has submitted reports describing incidents where a patron scraped his arm on a staple in the carpet in the meeting room, causing bleeding, where a patron’s foot went into a gap between the bottom of a door and the ground, causing a cut, and where a barefoot patron’s toe was caught in a door, causing bleeding and requiring the assistance of paramedics. The Board thus has demonstrated the existence of a significant health and safety risk to individual barefoot patrons.
I think you can see the technique: find an extremely low-probability event and use it justify broad restrictions. Or just make up crap.
The same technique was used in the Fairfield County Library, where the barefoot rule was justified by hazards on the carpets—carpets that were nonetheless deemed sufficiently safe for children to sit on.
For the Boulder Library, I can understand if they were having trouble with some kids misbehaving. But their new rule punishes the guiltless along with the guilty.
It appears that this was recognized, since the Boulder Library will be taking a second look at their rule, as per the update at the end of the blog entry:
Bray said the library is a welcoming place for children and families, and no one will be asking the ages of older children who are behaving appropriately.
That’s an odd way to put it. And what happened to all the hazards? Kind of puts the lie to their original excuses, doesn’t it?
Turns out that’s just an interim solution until the Board takes another look at the rule. There is a new blog entry at Free Range Kids, Victory! Boulder Library to ALLOW Kids Under 12 Without their Parents, noting that.
Commission member Anne Sawyer suggested using Poudre River’s language, at least as an interim policy while library officials look at the issue in more depth, because it lets parents determine whether their child is mature enough to be alone in the library. However, it also makes it clear that library employees aren’t responsible for children left unattended.
So, with appropriate pressure, sometimes these administrators can see the light.
Unless, I suppose, it has something to do with bare feet.
Remember how I said they redid their Library “Rules of Conduct”? Well, at the same time they added another one, and yes, you guessed it:
No person may go barefoot or shirtless.
[The full list of changes is here.]
Somehow this library managed to be perfectly safe without a barefoot rule for its entire existence so far. But now was the time they decided they needed to add one.
I bet they never even had a barefoot incident. They’re just joining the crowd of administrators who think that that is just what libraries have to do.
I wonder if they’ll let kids under 12 sit on their floors that are too unsafe to walk barefoot on?