Libraries and childrenI’ve certainly heard before of public libraries that have decided to prohibit solitary men adults in their youth areas. As an adult male who has spent a lot of time in children’s areas over the years for professional reasons, the fear that men who are browsing or reading in children’s rooms on their own are automatically up to no good makes my blood boil.

Well, here’s an editorial from writer Kevin Luttery, who says that he was thrown out of the main branch of the Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library simply for sitting and doing some research in the children’s area. He writes that he was evaluating which children’s publishers might be most receptive to a manuscript of his when he was approached by a security guard and told to leave the children’s area.

When asked why, he responded that it was the branch’s policy to prohibit any adult from utilizing that section of the library if not accompanying a child. When asked why such a policy existed, he said that pedophilia was quite rampant in today’s society.

My reaction was one of shock. Despite having been accused of many things in my life, pedophilia has never been one of them. Of course, the security guard wasn’t accusing me outright of anything other than being a childless male, yet his tone and demeanor were both quite accusatory as he escorted me to a different location. As a few visitors stared at us, perhaps wondering what was the nature of my breach, I couldn’t help but wonder a few things myself.

Was it not my right to take a seat of my choosing in a public building? Were my tax dollars not directly responsible for funding the facility?

While no one expects to be able to wander anywhere inside government-funded institutions such as a school or hospital, most people expect public libraries to be free and open to all. Luttery asked to speak to a supervisor, who took down his complaint.

It’s good that the library’s director, John Szabo, saw a train wreck in the making, and responded publicly with an editorial of his own. Szabo said that the security guard erred by acting on his own. He said that “Library staff members evaluate situations on a case-by-case basis and take appropriate action.”

Telling someone to leave a children’s room simply because he’s a solitary adult male is wrong. In fact, no one should be asked to leave a public area of a library for any other reason than their inappropriate behavior. 

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