Newport Beach public library staff presented revisions to their children in the library policy at the Library Board of Trustees meeting on Monday.
The existing policy, written in 1994, hasn’t been updated since 2011. Library staff confirms there haven’t been any child-related emergencies at any of the local branches, but they do want to simplify the wording, and make it clear that employees of the library are not babysitters.
“We can’t let the public be under the impression that we can supervise,” said Tim Hetherton, library services director.
As a public library, the building is open to all individuals, he said, and it’s important that parents understand that. At the same time, children over the age of 8 are technically allowed to be left unsupervised at any of the branches.
The new revisions to the policy outline what is done if a child is alone when the branch closes and other emergency procedures.
“What’s good is that it’s less complicated,” Hetherton noted, also saying that they have no way to keep people in or out of the library. “I don’t want the public to have an assumption of safety, when there isn’t.”
He went on to say, “If a parent is worried that their child might leave the library if unattended, then maybe he shouldn’t be left there.”
Employees of the library have always done their best to ensure a welcoming place for children, but they cannot assume responsibility for their well-being. When children are dropped off for crafts or other programs, parents are not currently asked to sign a waiver or any documentation. The children’s staff ensures that these programs last until the time that they are scheduled to end. For example, if a program starts at 1 p.m. and goes until 3 p.m., children are not released until 3 p.m. However, when left to study or read, children are not individually supervised by the staff.
Revisions to the policy were discussed by the board, but no voting took place on the issue. The revisions will be given to the city attorney in December for review. Once it clears the city attorney’s office, the board will vote on the newly revised policy.