Boulder Public Library implementing new rule banning unattended children under age 12

New rules of conduct take effect Wednesday

BOULDER, Colo. - The Boulder Public Library is implementing new rules, which it says will protect the rights and safety of patrons, volunteers and staff.

One of the more controversial rules pertains to children. It forbids parents or legal guardians from leaving a child under the age of 12, or a dependent person, unattended.

“It’s not a punitive rule,” Library/Arts Director Valerie Maginnis told 7NEWS reporter Lance Hernandez. “But it’s a rule that is really necessary to have in today’s time and place.”

Maginnis said some parents use the Boulder Library as a daycare center.

She said staff has received complaints about unattended children misbehaving or crying.

And it’s not just inside the library.

City spokeswoman Sarah Huntley told 7NEWS that when she went to the library to attend a meeting two months ago, she saw a little boy standing on the sidewalk in front of the building.

“He was crying,” she said. “He was maybe 6 or 7. It was a little difficult to tell. He told me he couldn’t find his mom.”

Huntley said she started talking to the boy and asked his name.

“I was about to go find a security guard when his mom came running in from the parking lot,” Huntley said. “I don’t know if she just went out to put something in the car and came back, or if she left for awhile.”

“She told me over and over again that she had told her son she was going to come back for him,” Huntley said.

Huntley then pointed eastward and said, “The parking lot is right there and Boulder Creek is just a few feet away. If he had left the sidewalk to try to find her, I fear that something bad might have happened.”

Many parents agree with the new rule.

“I think the new rule is a great idea,” Kat Gafford said, while visiting the library with her two children. “The world is not as safe as it used to be.”

But others question it.

They believe their children are responsible enough to use the library by themselves.

A 14-year-old boy named Nick told 7NEWS that he’s been using the library since he was 10.

“I came here by myself,” he said, “because my mom had other things to do.”

When asked if he thought that children under 12 should be allowed to use the library unattended, Nick replied, “Depends on how responsible they are.”

He said the city should give younger kids a chance.

“I certainly understand that,” Maginnis said. “But things have changed a little bit and we need to be thinking about middle ground.”

When asked how they picked the age group, Huntley said, “That was the recommendation from child-care workers and police. It mirrors the age in statute about how old a child must be before they’re perceived to be old enough to stay home by themselves.”

Maginnis said that although the new rules take effect Wednesday, there will be a one-month grace period.

She said the goal isn’t to kick kids out of the library.

“We want them to visit with their families,” she said. “We want to engage them and help them gain an affinity for it.”

FIVE NEW RULE CHANGES

No person may:

  • Use any other person's library or Internet courtesy card to obtain any library services without their permission.
  • Manipulate or bypass library software systems such as those that regulate computer use or tamper with library computer hardware or accessories.
  • Go barefoot or shirtless
  • Leave children, ages 11 and under, or dependent persons unattended.
  • Bring into any library facility oversized items larger than a total of 50-linear inches -- for example something 10 inches by 16 inches by 24 inches -- with the exception of presentation and/or meeting room equipment.

Library officials say these rules will apply to everyone in the library, except for city employees and city contractors doing work at the library.

The rules may be enforced by suspending the privilege of a violator to use the Library in accordance with the procedures of Section 55-5-18 B.R.C. 1981, officials said.