July 23, 2014

Report from Pennsylvania: Public Libraries Doubling as Unofficial Day Cares

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From The Tribune-Review (Pittsburgh):

“In our community, there is a need for the library to serve as a safe place for kids that aren’t with their parents in the after-school hours or during day hours in the summer,” said Anita Greene-Jones, director at the library in Braddock, where census numbers show 60 percent of families with children living below the poverty level.

Parents’ use of libraries as unofficial day cares has become a common theme nationwide, especially at libraries near schools. The post-recession economy is causing more children to be in libraries because parents’ budgets are tighter, said Larry Neal, president-elect of the Chicago-based American Library Association’s Public Library Association.

Libraries are welcoming places with free educational resources, but parents need to remember that they also are public places — anyone can walk through the doors, he said.

“You wouldn’t send a very young child to a shopping mall unattended,” he said.

Libraries in more affluent communities are experiencing an increase, too. Mt. Lebanon Public Library, which is across the street from a middle school and around the block from an elementary school, gets 50 to 75 youngsters daily, director Cynthia Richey said.

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Some libraries, such as the Wilkinsburg Public Library and the Carnegie Library of McKeesport, sometimes offer snacks and homework help, just as day care centers would.

“They come right after school, and sometimes, they tell me they’re not allowed to go home because there’s no one there, so their parents are using (libraries) as supervision for them,” said Emily Bryan-Reeder, children’s and teens’ librarian at Wilkinsburg Public Library.

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.