In 2018, Ingham County provided students at public schools with library cards so they didn’t need to go to the library to apply for a card. This way, students have been a username or student ID number that gives them access to three books including audiobooks, the library’s digital collection, and its public computers.
To the administration’s surprise, some parents responded negatively, stating that their children were being exposed to inappropriate or sexual material. Scott Duimstra (the library’s executive director) reassured their worries, explaining that the material is divided into children, teens and adult sections.
When parents had expressed concerns about the library access online or at school board meetings, Duimstra contacted those parents. Instead of keeping children from hypothetical conflicts and opting them out, he encourages those who are concerned to visit the library with their kids.
On the other hand, Duimstra is working with the library to help children navigate the areas of the library that are age-appropriate, however, they do not sensor what the children check out because of a library policy.
“We try to work with the parents stating, ‘If your child is receiving these cards, the best way to ensure they are checking out titles that you want them to check out, we encourage you to use the library with them,’” said Duimstra.
The Student Success Initiative program is created to provide resources for students and schools that don’t have access to libraries. For Ingham County, this meant providing all 10 school districts in the county’s service area. Williamston has since been the last school to get on board with this program earlier this month.
“As students began using the cards this week, it’s been extremely positive and I’m embracing what we can do to help kids,” said Julie Chrisinskie, Capital Area District Library’s head librarian.
Chrisinskie hopes that those parents who believe their children are not ready for what the library has to offer will reconsider. Not all feedback from the Williamston community has been negative.
“This has become a completely unnecessary issue! If your child is ‘too young to be seeing or reading certain material, isn’t said child also too young to be getting to the library alone?”, said Danielle Marshall, a local resident, on Williamston Community Care Collective’s page.
Second picture caption: Child seen reading a children’s book behind the library’s holiday section after school.
Duimstra said that when it comes to education, students do better when information is not censored from them. Most of the students who have come to the library thus far have not been exploring inappropriate adult content but instead read what their friends are reading like books in the “Harry Potter” series.