Janesville75.8°

Too many children getting into trouble at library, director says

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Stacy Vogel
March 1, 2008
— Kathy Whitt loves when young people come to the library.

But not if they’re only there to get in trouble.


The Edgerton Public Library has had periodic problems with unsupervised children since it finished remodeling in February 2006, said Whitt, the library director.


The problems cropped up again after Christmas as children grew tired of being cooped up during the exceptionally snowy winter, Whitt said.


“They were rude to the staff and people out in the parking lot,” Whitt said. “It was really quite bad, and adults were complaining.”


Children—usually fourth- and fifth-graders—were coming to the library with nothing to work on. They’d gather around the computers, run up and down the stairs or endlessly push the elevator buttons, creating a lot of noise and commotion.


It got so bad Whitt wrote a letter to the editor of The Edgerton Reporter a few weeks ago, and the library board instituted some new policies.


Since then, the problems have eased somewhat, but Whitt knows they’ll be back.


The library was actually a bit quieter than usual Tuesday after school let out. Several children clustered around the computers near the entrance, but their volume never rose above a dull roar. At one point, a staff member walked over to the children and raised her eyebrows, and that’s all it took to quiet them down.


Staff isn’t always so lucky, Whitt said. She estimates the library has kicked out about half a dozen kids a week this winter, although some of them have been in groups of two or three at a time.


In fact, the library board recently amended the library’s conduct rules to say that whole groups of students can be thrown out if they’re engaging in inappropriate behavior.


“Any one of these children alone behaves just fine, but any time you get five or six of them together, they get noisy and rowdy,” Whitt said.


The board also changed its policy so children can lose their library privileges without a warning if they are repeat offenders.


And the library now requires a code in addition to a library card for Internet use in an effort to stop children from signing in with other people’s cards.


Part of the problem is parents who send their children to the library when they have nothing to do at home, Whitt said. Tuesday, about a dozen children played checkers and other games in the children’s area with only a couple of parents in sight.


“We are not baby-sitters, and we are not a licensed day-care facility, so please don’t just send your kids here,” Whitt said.


The library tries to provide programming for children during the summer and on non-school days, but too often, children are there with nothing to do but get in trouble.


“If some of them had something to do, there wouldn’t be such a problem,” Whitt said.



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