When library policies ATTACK (your ability to browse the shelves)

I found this post on a very odd library policy via @maureenjohnson yesterday, and found myself very confused. If you don’t want to click the link, the idea is that there is at least one library out there (probably more…) that enforces age-restricted access to the children’s and young adult sections. As in, if I, as a 24-year-old, went to this (these?) libraries, I would have to ask for special permission to browse around (retrieving specific materials is okay, apparently) the children’s and young adult sections unless I brought my youngest brother or borrowed someone’s teenager. Um, what?

The first principle of the ALA Code of Ethics espouses “equitable service policies” and “equitable access”; this policy seems to maybe a little bit totally break that principle.

It’s like the opposite of what happened in Wisconsin last year, where some of the adult patrons wanted to move the “inappropriate” books from the YA section to the adult section, making it harder for the young adults to find them.

This particular age restriction policy also makes it more difficult for children under the age of 13 to get at the young adult materials — they seem also to have to go get a librarian to escort them, though young adults can use the children’s section as they please. As a person who was reading at an eighth-grade reading level by first grade and who was also painfully shy until about the age of 19, I can’t imagine that I would have read nearly as many books as I did in my childhood if this policy had been in place at my library.

I don’t know what the staffing situation is at this particular library, but this policy doesn’t seem to be very friendly to any situation. If there are plenty of librarians and staff in all sections, this policy seems to say that teen and children’s area staff aren’t competent enough to keep the area a comfortable space for the teens without age-restricted entrance. If there are fewer librarians and staff floating around the library, escorting through the YA section adults or children who could take care of themselves takes away time that could be used to help less knowledgeable library users or to work on making the library better. If this policy completely replaces a librarian or staff member in these two sections, well, that just doesn’t bode well for the future at all.

In short, this sort of policy affects a lot of people, is silly, and is antithetical to good library service. What are the upsides?

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