With some schools around Iowa closed for the Martin Luther King holiday, kids may head to local libraries to spend a few hours. However, some libraries now forbid parents to drop off their kids alone. Iowa Librarian Linda Adams says many young patrons come to the public libraries she supervises, in Arlington and Fayette. Some kids stop in after school on their way home or come in for tutoring. As smaller libraries, they have little problem keeping order, but she sees how in larger libraries they may need policies on unattended children. Adams says with kids home on winter vacation and snow days, busy and working parents may be at their wits’ end finding ways to keep them busy. She says it’s not an unwillingness to “babysit” as much as it’s security concern that sparks new policies about no kids being unattended. Adams says most libraries in the state of Iowa have policies about unattended children, and she says they’re “all concerned about those issues.” In at least one of the nation’s large cities, librarians require an adult to show I-D to get into a children’s section, proving they’re the legal guardian of a young patron. The fear of abduction or assault may spark policies on child and adult patrons, though Adams says more often it’s just a policy aimed at keeping order in the library. She points out sometimes there is no children’s section in a smaller library. Adams says no matter how small, today’s local libraries have computers because patrons want and use them. She says a lot of people don’t have access to a computer at home, and the public library fills that need, saying “we have people every day using our public-access computers and we’re looking at adding more.” But though the computers and the internet help them surf lots of data, she says they’ll always need librarians, too, “to make sure they’re getting the right information.” There are 550 public libraries in Iowa. Adams doesn’t think they’ll ever become obsolete or close down. She says libraries are trying to find ways to combine services as many are facing budget cuts. Adams serves as librarian in the town of Arlington, which has 490 people, and in Fayette, where she says there are 1300 residents and 1000 library cardholders.
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