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Washington Library raises circulation privacy policy age from 10 to 12

GTNS photo by Gretchen Teske

The Washington Public Library board of trustees voted to raise the age of the circulation policy from 10 to 12.
GTNS photo by Gretchen Teske The Washington Public Library board of trustees voted to raise the age of the circulation policy from 10 to 12.

The Washington Public Library’s circulation privacy policy, which was called into question following a parent complaint to the county board of supervisors, has been raised from age 10 to 12 following a library board of trustees meeting on Thursday, March 28.

At their regular meeting on Thursday, March 28, board vice president Carol Ray made the motion to raise the age of the circulation policy. The policy in question states the circulation records of any child 10 years old or older may not be reviewed or released to the parent or guardian as protected under the Intellectual Freedom of Children Act.

This caused a stir at the Jan. 15 supervisors meeting when Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. brought up an email complaint from a parent over the policy, then proceeded to threaten financial support for the library by saying to Washington Public Library director Bryna Walker, “Just be aware that if you’ve got some policies that go against our beliefs, it could affect your funding.”

The supervisors have since held a work session as well as attended the February Washington Public Library board of trustees meeting where Seward apologized for his words saying, “I apologize profusely if anyone thought I was attacking any one particular librarian. I was questioning the policy and if I didn’t do it tactfully, I apologize.”

At that same meeting, supervisor Stan Stoops asked the board to keep in mind that there were several people who felt 10 years old was too young for children to be able to check out books and control the privacy of their circulation records.

“There is a consensus out there that 10 years old is too young,” he said. “Please keep that in mind at your next board meeting.”

The library board seemingly addressed the issue when Ray made a motion to raise the age from 10 to 12. She was met with opposition from Frakes who did not feel raising the age was necessary.

“Without beating a dead horse completely, my sense is that changing the policy is not going to diminish the three or four people who objected,” he said. “My thought is, unless we are having a true ‘come to Jesus’ moment, there is no point in changing that age. It doesn’t gain us anything.”

Ray said she felt it was a “symbolic move” to raise the age and felt 12 was appropriate because typically other fees, such as for a movie, are raise when the child is 12. She said she also felt it showed the board was willing to listen to concerns and address them for the benefit of all.

“I don’t mind making a symbolic gesture, and I agree there will be people who still complain ... I think in a small town and in a situation like this, it does not hurt to make a symbolic gesture,” she said, explaining this is a compromise as the supervisors asked for the age to be raised to 14.

Trustee Rick Hofer said he agreed with raising the age and the idea of a symbolic gesture because he wanted to show solidarity between the two entities.

“Even if it’s symbolic, I think it at least shows we gave them attention and consideration,” he said.

Trustee Mindy Graham felt the issue with the current policy is distrust between parents and children and said she feels children should be able to check out any book they want.

“If you can’t handle your child picking out books, then you need to be with your child,” she said.

Trustee Rachel Nicola, who attended the meeting via a phone call, also supported raising the age limit as did board secretary Margi Jarrard, who felt the choice was less of a symbolic gesture and more of a compromise.

“I guess I don’t see it as symbolic as much as we listened,” she said. “I think that we have listened and are willing to make a change and call it a compromise.”

The decision was approved with a 6-1 vote with trustee Harold Frakes being the sole nay vote. The policy will be in effect immediately.

The next meeting of the Washington Public Library board of trustees will be Thursday, April 25, at 10 a.m. in the Wolf Conference Room.