KENDALLVILLE — Young children are always welcome at Kendallville Public Library, but they need to be supervised by an adult.
Starting Aug. 1, the library is enacting updates to its unaccompanied child policy, requiring adult supervision for any child less than 8 years old.
Director Katie Mullins said the adjustment to the policy was needed, as the library has been having issues with young children who are at the library by themselves.
Currently, the policy states any child under 6 years old has to be supervised, but that’s led to the library having several 6- and 7-year-olds who are there unattended, or having young children being watched by older siblings who are also children.
“We’ll have 4-year-olds here with their 10-year-old sibling,” Mullins said. “Sometimes they’re very well behaved and we know they’re here and they’re engaged in library activities and sometimes they’re not.”
The new policy states that children less than 8 years old must have a parent or adult caregiver in the immediate vicinity. Parents may not leave their children unattended in the children’s department while browsing other areas of the library.
Children 8 years old and older may use the library unattended as long as they are engaged in activities and not causing a disturbance, the policy states.
If young children are found unattended or are causing a disruption, library staff will attempt to locate a parent and inform them of the rules. If an adult can’t be located or contacted, the library will contact the Kendallville Police Department or Rome City Town Marshal’s office. The library will contact local police departments if any children remain at the library 10 minutes after closing.
Although the library has plenty of children’s programming and wants to serve youngsters, one sentiment was repeated several times by library board members at their meeting Tuesday — the library isn’t a babysitting service.
The policy applies at both the Kendallville and Rome City branch locations.
Board members were sympathetic that sometimes parents may drop their children off at the library for a short period if they don’t have someone else to watch their kids. While they’re glad people in the community view the library as a safe place for their children, staff can’t take on the liability and responsibility of watching an unaccompanied child.
“We understand that’s a need in the community,” Mullins said. “We’re typically very understanding.”
Board members agreed to not begin enforcing the new policy until Aug. 1, which will give patrons some time to learn about the new rules through the newspaper, library newsletters and/or social media posts. That will give anyone who is using the library as a drop-off for their kids to make different arrangements.
“Right now if they are in a situation where unfortunately they have to bring the kids to the library unsupervised, that gives them plenty of time to be aware they need to make other arrangements,” board member Jo Drudge said.
In other business Tuesday night, the library board:
• Learned the budget growth quotient for 2020 will be 3.5%. That limit is set by the state as a maximum allowable growth for government spending in the next year.
• Listened to a demonstration about how to make slime out of glue and corn starch. Making the Silly Putty-like concoction is a favorite project for youth at the library.
• Heard an update from librarian Beth Munk on her ongoing work as one of more than 100 councilors on the American Library Association board. The national library association advocates for public libraries, but also tackles other initiatives including information policy, professional development and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion among its member branches.