SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County Public Library System Board of Trustees approved an unattended children and disruptive behavior policy during Wednesday’s regular board meeting.
Sheridan Public Library System director Cameron Duff said other libraries in the state are outlining exactly what a child or parent could do wrong in multiple-page policies. Sheridan’s is a one-page policy that board Vice Chair Christy Green called clear and concise.
The policy says children 5 years old and younger must have a parent, guardian or caregiver in the immediate vicinity or within visual range. A non-parent or caregiver must be at least 16 years old to be considered a guardian for a child 5 years old or younger.
The policy also says children ages 6 to 9 years old are welcome with a parent, guardian or caregiver in the library. Any child 10 years old and older is welcome on their own as long as they carry emergency contact information for their parent or guardian.
“It’s not a topic I want to deal with,” Duff said. “When you’re talking kids over 10 it’s really not an issue unless something goes wrong, and at that point all we’re really after is do they have a phone number…where we can contact those parents?”
Duff said the trend of parents leaving children younger than 5 alone at the library has increased this spring. He said recently a 3-year-old was left with a 6-year old at the library in Story, and at the Sheridan library a 4-year-old was left with a 9-year-old who didn’t know any contact information for a parent or guardian.
He said during the situation in Sheridan, a police officer had to stay with the children for over an hour until a parent was tracked down. The case was turned over to the Department of Family Services.
The policy also outlines the responsibility of library staff in these situations. It says if a child is disruptive the staff will first follow policy outlined in the Patron Code of Conduct, regardless if the parent or guardian is in the building.
If the behavior continues, it says staff will try to contact the parent or guardian to pick up the child. If no parent or guardian can be contacted, it says staff can call the police for assistance.
Duff said the policy is meant to inform patrons that staff members have an obligation to call the police in certain situations. From there, he said, it’s up to the police to determine whether or not the situation is turned over to DFS.
“The goal isn’t to try to penalize anybody,” Duff said. “It’s trying to inform them that this is an issue and we need to correct it so that we don’t have to get the police involved.”
Duff said they expect to post the policy Friday in the library and on its website.