Have you ever read a rant on the Internet where you both completely disagree with the writer and at the same time see where they are coming from and would like to completely agree? I had one of those today, when I first read this post on librarianchat.com and then went on to read the original post. Houstenlibrarian was angry over this post by Free-Range Lenore.
Free-Range Lenore was having a bit of a rant about how a mother couldn’t leave her pre-school child alone in the children’s section of a library.
‘”So I asked my daughter, ‘Do you want to come with me or wait here for a few minutes?’ ‘Wait.’ So I told the librarian, ‘I’ll be right back.’ And the librarian said, ‘Well … okay. But I must warn you: the same dangers that are out on the street are here in the library.'”
Which, in a nutshell, explains why it is so hard for parents to trust their instincts these days. Here’s a mom who is going to leave her child for all of three minutes, in a familiar place, where there’s an adult nearby — and, by the way, nobody else! The place is empty! — and it’s still a Big Deal. Which means that parents today have a choice: They can do something that makes sense. Or they can kowtow to the fear-mongering busybodies and watch their kids the way the guards watch the inmates in maximum security prison: Every. Single. Second.’
The Houstenlibrarian, and other librarians in the comments of the original post were horrified at the argument that the Librarian should have just said “sure go ahead”.
It was quite rightly pointed out that, despite what every one thinks, public libraries can often be havens for the mentally ill, mainly because they are so “safe”. Also that even though it was quiet then, that doesn’t mean that in the next minute a whole lot of families will not arrive and fill the space. Also the librarian might need to be called away to do their actual work. You can also add in the point that if anything went wrong, chances are the parent would sue the library and librarian.
On the first pass I was much like every other librarian. Librarians are not childcare workers, and it is not safe just to leave your child, even at organised children’s events.
But on the other hand I have a lot of sympathy for Lenore point.
“How could the librarian feel that the children’s room, with her there, is so unsafe she has to warn the mother about it? I know a librarian is not a babysitter. I know her job is not to watch the kid while mom sashays over to the check-out desk (the book-reading hussy!). But still. The librarian is there. Why couldn’t she say, “No problem!” instead of: Watch out, lady!
While I’m sure some obnoxious parents foist their kids upon clerks and librarians and use them as free child care, whatever happened to the idea of community? Community grows when we lend a hand. It shrivels when a friendly, “Could you help a sec?” is met with icy warnings about far-fetched dangers (Someone could come in! I might not see him! He could be dangerous! He might snatch little girls!) and zero assistance.”
I really, really wish it was that simple…