“I bring my child to the library for books, not computers.”
“Why have computers in the kid’s area? My child has too much screen time already… why do I have to face more at the library?” We don’t often hear this type of complaint but when we do, we are careful to reply in person and bring a broader context to the dialog about technology.
First, we will say that it is the parent or guardian’s responsibility to set limits around their child’s use of technology (see the ALSC White Paper on Media Mentorship). Second, I suggest that we open up a conversation with this library patron. In that discussion, we can increase our understanding of the variety of experience and ability that fills our community.
As a public library, our mission is to make access to information available to everyone. For children with a physical, learning, or other disability or difference, technology can be a world-changer as they learn to read and access information.
The computers in our libraries provide an opportunity for children with disabilities (visible or hidden) to experience a story or make progress in the decoding skills. (Tumblebooks, Reader Rabbit, online phonics, and games to letter recognition are just a few examples of the technology-based resources that public libraries often have available on computers in children’s areas.)
Yes, some children are simply playing. Yes, some children have access to all this at home.
The point is – many children do not.
So let’s have that conversation – possibly difficult, although it is just as likely to be fruitful – about why we have technology in the children’s areas of our libraries. Let’s have that conversation and let’s be proud of what we do.
Additional Technology Resources for serving all children
- ALA 2018 panel: Seeing the whole community: how to understand and include people with print disabilities ages 0-100 in your quest to spread literacy, reading, and information access by Mark Lee, Pittsburgh Library for the Blind
Thanks to Paula Holmes, ASCLA and ALSC, for help in finding these resources
Image courtesy of Children’s Services of Roxbury
Elizabeth Gray, Yolo County Library, member ALSC Children and Technology Committee