Council limits adults in library children’s rooms, citing homeless complaints

The Old Town Newhall library. Dan Watson/The Signal
The Old Town Newhall library. Dan Watson/The Signal

In response to what Councilman Bob Kellar called “a circumstance where we have a number of homeless people that kind of make our libraries a daytime depot,’’ the City Council has amended the “Code of Conduct” for city libraries to limit the presence of adults in children’s sections.

The Council unanimously passed the amendment Tuesday night, which reads, in part, “Adults that are not accompanying children and adults that have not been given permission by Library staff (to be in children’s sections) will be asked to relocate to another section of the library.”

“Having read the rules and recommendations for the safety of our children and our families, (the amended library rules) are tremendously warranted,’’ Kellar said at Tuesday night’s Council meeting.

Mayor Cameron Smyth, reached on Wednesday, said the amendment came about not because of any particularly troubling incident or incidents regarding adults interacting with children at the libraries, but because of complaints from parents.

He estimated “between half a dozen and a dozen” such complaints in the last year — some of which, he acknowledged, coming before he rejoined the City Council in December.

“I think over the last year or so we at the city have received complaints from parents who have concerns about bringing their kids to the library as a result of the number of homeless folks that spend their daytime hours there,” Smyth told The Signal.

Smyth said the Council was sensitive both to the fact that the library is a public building, and to the fact that homelessness remains a serious issue.

“We realize the library is a public building and you cannot deny people access, but we certainly do want our patrons, certainly those with young children, to feel secure and comfortable in visiting library,” Smyth said.

“It’s a difficult situation – you’re trying to address the concerns of the parents, but it’s also a public building and we want to be sensitive to that as well.”

The amendment, Smyth said, “will provide a little bit more clarity to our staff in ensuring the children’s area is there solely for children.”

“It’s important we try to address it within the boundaries of the law,” he added. “And (it’s) another reason why I wanted to create our ad hoc committee on homelessness, to address issues and concerns like this while still being in compliance with the law.”

Smyth was referring to the Council committee created recently, on which he and Councilwoman Marsha McLean sit.

Sgt. Brian Allen of the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s station told The Signal that deputies occasionally are dispatched to city libraries regarding homeless people, but that he had “no specific recollection” of incidents concerning children’s rooms.

Santa Clarita operates three libraries – in Valencia, Newhall and Canyon Country.

Branch managers referred questions regarding this issue to City Librarian Kelly Behle, who did not immediately return phone calls.

The new rules are in line with those of other public libraries in the Los Angeles area.

For instance, in its “Library Rules of Conduct,’’ the Burbank Public Library states, “Use of the Children’s Room is limited to children through the 8th grade, adults accompanying those children, and to adults using the children’s collection.’’

According to Brenda Breaux, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Public Library, the LAPL does not have a written policy regarding adults in children’s sections, but “they (adults) are not encouraged to sit down. … They are asked, how can they be helped, and they are encouraged to move to another part of the library” if they do not have specific business in the children’s section.

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