ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orange County Library System (search) is barring "unaccompanied" adults from lingering in the children's areas of its 14 branches, a policy that is among the first of its kind in the nation.
As of Nov. 1, adults without children may select items in the children's section, but they cannot read books or loiter in the department, said Marilyn Hoffman, community-relations coordinator.
Adults may visit the teen-oriented "Club Central" section of the downtown library with their kids, but they may enter only with a librarian if they are alone.
Officials with the Association for Library Service to Children (search) said many libraries limit adults' use of computers or bathrooms in their children's departments, but Orange County's policy could be the first in the nation to restrict adults' presence the areas.
"It's not a common trend, but I think it's going to become more common," said Cynthia Richey, the association's immediate past president. "It's, in part, a pre-emptive move."
Hoffman said a specific incident did not lead the county's library board of directors to enact the rules. But Orlando police arrested a man in August after a 15-year-old girl said he tried to molest her at the downtown library. Earlier, the February rape of a girl in a Philadelphia library bathroom underscored the issue of library safety.
Hoffman said the Philadelphia crime was not a factor in the decision to amend Orange County's policy and that its new rules are meant to ensure that all adults who visit the children's departments have a reason to be there.
"It's a public building, and we welcome the public, but we also have rules of conduct," Hoffman said. "We don't see any need for people to be just hanging out in our children's area, an area that was meant for children and their families."