Some parents send their children to libraries after school or when schools are closed for weather emergencies. An attack on an 8-year-old girl in a Philadelphia library has officials questioning how safe the buildings really are, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Librarians say they are no safer than any other public place. “No matter where you are, the library or the shopping mall, the truth of our culture is you have to keep your guard up,” said Martina Kominiarek, executive director of the Bucks County Free Library system’s seven branches.
Carla Hayden, president of the American Libraries Association, said that many unattended children can be found in libraries. “We called them latchkey children in the ’70s, but [the problem has] increased with more dual-income, single-parent and immigrant families,” she said. “More children are not attended to after school.”
Many libraries, especially older ones, have areas that can’t easily be seen by librarians at their desks. Librarians are busy helping people locate books and information. And library staffs are small relative to the number of people they serve – and these days, often getting smaller.
Having a security guard did not prevent the assault on the girl at the Philadelphia library, and neither did her grandmother’s presence nor the policy requiring patrons to get a restroom key from a staff member. Authorities do not know how the man who assaulted the girl got inside the bathroom. Police have charged Brian McCutcheon, a 23-year-old homeless man and a library regular, with the assault.