Sunday, August 10, 2008

We Are Not Your Babysitters

Attention parents: We at the library love your children, and we want them to come as often as possible. We offer storytime programs, activities, computer games, special craft days, and some branches even have toys available for kids to play with. We think that the younger your kids are when they start reading, the smarter they'll be when they grow up and enter the workforce, and we fully encourage their active participation in every kid-oriented program we have to offer. The more often you bring your kids, the better it is for all involved.

We are not, however, your babysitters, and you really do need to take care of your children. As safe as we would like the library to be, the simple fact of the matter is that undesirables do come into the library on a regular basis, and the way some of you neglect your children makes it easy pickings for any deranged pervert who decides to try their hand at child abduction. In fact, in the years I have worked at the library, I have seen the following:

A man who would expose himself to young girls in the juvenile section. He was a regular, and by every indication he seemed like a normal, fairly attractive man. None of us would have guessed how disgusting this man would be, and on that fateful day when he was caught exposing himself, he left the library handcuffed with his member hanging out.

A trashy person who used the camera on his laptop to film little kids while he sat at a short distance away, seeming to mind his own business.

Mentally challenged men following little girls around and striking up conversations with them, making inappropriate motions and touching them. The sad fact is that the caregivers for these people are usually no better than the parents of some of these neglected children, and when the two meet dangerous things might happen. We have had more than a few issues with the mentally challenged harassing and/or grabbing patrons.

Middle aged men insisting on using children’s or teen computers, and creating problems when asked to move to adult areas. If they aren’t with their own child, why else would they insist on using a computer while being surrounded by them?

The worst of the bunch was a man who would come into the library with a briefcase filled with coloring books. He would collect pictures of kids and keep them in his wallet, and was able to keep up a charade of being a "family friend" by somehow obtaining photos of young girls and showing them to the staff to prove that he knew the kids. The girls were usually scared and would go along with it, until finally the cops came and arrested this scumbag.

I bring all this up not to scare you away from the library, but as a warning. If you're a good parent, it might be hard to believe this, but a shocking number of parents will leave their children completely unattended in the kid's room and go off to use the internet elsewhere. Under these circumstances, it is very easy for some creep to just come up and kidnap a child without the parent even knowing about it until their computer session finally ends. There are at least two children that I see frequently, around four years old, who are regularly left completely alone while their parent is on the computer in a room that is as far from their child as the kitchen in a restaurant is to the bathroom. They aren’t even left with an older sibling who is watching after them. The parent just assumes that, since the librarian is nearby, nothing will happen to their child. This is idiotic, and not good parenting. I'm sick of seeing these neglected kids, and I wish that someone at some point in these people‘s lives would have sat them down and taught them the basics of parenting.

An old boss of mine referred to the library as "pedophile paradise," and they weren't far from the truth. People just leave their kids in the library and assume that, among our other duties, library workers will look after their children and make sure that nothing happens to them. We are not paid to be babysitters, and we don't just sit at a desk all day with nothing else to do but watch someone's child. This is a dangerous way to think, and parents need to be a little less neglectful of their children in the library.

So please, if you bring your kids to the library, make sure they're with you at all times. Don't just keep it on good faith that they'll stay put and not walk away with a stranger. The library is a safe place, but there are creeps everywhere, and you're not helping matters by basically giving one of these scumbags a golden opportunity to walk off with your child.

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