our library staff have all been reassigned to do childcare for county workers

A reader writes:

I work at a public-facing youth services employee in a public library managed by county government in the United States.

Due to impacts from COVID-19, employees in some other county departments are taking an abundance of leave time or resigning in order to provide childcare to their children doing virtual learning at home. The solution that county government has found for this is to make the public library system into a “virtual learning camp” for county employees’ children, with kids in grades K-8 assigned to various branch locations from 7:30 am to 2:00 or 5:30 pm.

The county manager broke this news to us by hosting a webinar for all library staff; staff could submit questions via a chat function. The meeting started out with some usual praise given to library workers or public employees when they are about to receive bad news: “you serve the public, and love to help people,” “we’ve been so good by providing emergency bonus leave to you,” etc. Once the “camp” news was given and library workers began to ask reasonable questions, the script was flipped. We were told that the county manager had really struggled to justify keeping library staff employed, and that this was the solution.

Many concerns were raised. Library staff are not licensed childcare providers, for one thing. We do not have the proper certifications or knowledge to help teach these children. We may not have staff trained in CPR at every location. We do not have safe, enclosed outdoor spaces for the kids to take recess or breaks. The school board will not be partnering up with the county for this endeavor, so we will not have teacher assistance. Whenever the word “childcare” was used by someone submitting a question, the county manager grew increasingly frustrated with us and insisted on it being called a “virtual learning environment,” since we are supposed to merely “facilitate the children as they learn.” But to me, that’s just semantics. By the legal definition of childcare in my state, that is what we will be providing. And not providing it to anyone, as we would our normal services – this is only for the children of county employees.

Additionally, we are supposed to provide ~3 hours of programming for the kids who stay until 5:30 – all 5 days of the work week. We are still expected to do virtual programs, provide curbside service for other patrons, and (as I am by assisting the Health Department with COVID-19 phone calls) continue volunteering to work in other departments if we already are. This is an absolutely-unheard of workload for us. We are not getting pay increases or official changes in our job duties, of course. We were told that if we did not “buy in” to this plan, we should consider a career change.

This doesn’t even address the safety and health of the children and workers involved, of course. When asked about library staff who are at risk or live with people at risk, the answer was dismissive. “The children will wear masks and maintain social distancing.” Sure. I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but I highly doubt 300 children will all wear their masks perfectly and sanitize their hands properly without their parents around. Also, if it’s safe enough for the kids to be at the library under these conditions, why not have them go to school, where they will also be exposed to a number of people outside their household? The whole scenario does not make sense to me.

Oh, and we won’t be able to open to the public even in a highly-limited fashion as long as this camp continues (from what we’ve been told, it will be lasting an indefinite period of time), of course. I cannot imagine our patrons being happy about this when the news gets out.

My question is: What kind of recourse do I have, if any? Personally, I am incredibly disheartened. We are not unionized at my library, and we work in an at-will state, so I think that I will likely not qualify for assistance of any kind if I quit. I checked the laws for my state regarding constructive dismissal and the information I found reads as very discouraging. I am already searching for other jobs, of course, but I really, really do not feel comfortable going along with the county’s library-as-daycare plan. My coworkers are also almost universally unhappy, but I think that nobody is willing to speak up for fear of putting everyone’s jobs in jeopardy.

Would you and your coworkers consider unionizing?

Even if you don’t formally unionize, if a large group oppose the changes and pushes back with one voice, you can get a lot of the benefits of unionization without formalizing it. (Please point out to your nervous coworkers that the law that protects unionized workers — the National Labor Relations Act — also protects non-unionized workers who act as a group about working conditions.) Updated: Commenters have pointed out that the NLRA excludes public sector workers and you’d need to check the public sector labor relations law in your state.

Another option is rallying public opposition — although given how desperate people are for childcare options right now, you may have less success than you would in normal times. But if your local media doesn’t know about this, you should fill them in.

You should also look into the local regulations around the concerns you raised, like child care licensing, requirements for number of adults per child, and CPR training. If you can show that the plan violates those regulations, it’s going to be a lot easier to push back. Same thing if you can show increased liability for the libraries. For example, what’s going to happen if a kid is injured or becomes ill while in your care? What’s the plan if a kid injures another kid? There are almost certainly a ton of legal issues here.

Beyond that … well, legally, your employer can change your work duties at any time. So they can do this (if it’s not in fact violating childcare regulations, although it probably is).

But the hardest part of this — and the part that makes all the advice above way less effective than it would be in other situations — is that it’s probably true that the county has been struggling to justify keeping your staff employed, and this plan is a response to that. Your coworkers do have reason to fear that if they shut down this plan, the response will be “well, if we can’t do this, then we don’t have enough work to keep you all on.” So the question then becomes — should you fight this if shutting it down means people will lose their jobs? The answer still might be yes, but it makes it a lot harder.

Given that, are there changes you could propose to this plan that would make it more reasonable (for example, partnering with schools for teacher assistance, cutting back on workload elsewhere, changing it from five days a week to three, letting anyone high-risk or living with someone high-risk opt out, etc.)? You’d still be left with a terrible plan that gives you enormous responsibilities you’re not trained for and didn’t sign up for, running a school disguised as a “camp,” with no space for kids to run around and burn off energy, with all the same Covid concerns as schools are struggling with … so it’s not good, no matter how you tweak it. But I’d at least see if there are ways to make it less terrible. There may not be, though.

And yes, this is ridiculous. If it’s not safe for these kids to be in school, it makes no sense to argue this is somehow safer. (It may even be less safe, given the total lack of access to outdoors.) It seems pretty obviously like a desperate attempt to get county workers time to work without childcare responsibilities — at the expense of you and your colleagues.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 819 comments… read them below }

    1. charo*

      LW outlines the problems very well. I hope s/he realizes that going to newspaper and TV news anonymously can get free publicity for these objections.
      Focus first on how it’s not the best thing for the children, and how it isn’t.

      1. Otto Delete*

        I am certain these are all educated and highly trained employees
        But, have they gone through an extra background check to see about child safety issues? Is there always a male and a female around the kids? No sexual miscreants of any kind? To be an LMT and also just a parent chaperone for field trips, I had to be fingerprinted and background checked by the FBI, were any of them?

        1. Ellen N.*

          I believe that public librarians go through the same background checks/fingerprinting as teachers do.

          In some places librarians are drug tested.

          1. Letter Writer*

            I was drug tested and had a general background check, but I was not fingerprinted when I started at this library.

            1. Ashley*

              I don’t know your state laws but that wouldn’t count in my state after they enhanced background checks for anyone remotely near kids. (Thank you abuse scandals galore.) That should be pretty easy to check on the requirements where you are for working with kids. (If you are googled out ask a friend who is a coach or volunteers at Sunday School what they had to do.)

            2. Sarah N*

              Yeah, I did more than this to work at a private daycare. This can’t be legal for working with kids…

          2. LibraryWorker*

            Nope! It varies, but in most places, the fingerprint certification for teachers/childcare workers does not apply to public librarians.

          3. Tthankful for AAM*

            Librarians do not generally go through any back ground checks or fingerprinting and we don’t have drug testing.
            I am sure some places do, but unless you are a school librarian, it is not common practice.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              In my library system, staff have the same kind of general level background check as any other government office worker, but it’s usually nowhere near as thorough as the fingerprint clearance level background check I had to have when I was a public school employee.

            2. Public Library worker*

              At our public library all staff and volunteers have to undergo a background check by the local police department. No drug testing and no fingerprinting though.

          4. drago cucina*

            Not always. I was considered odd when I became a library director and began doing background checks. I also instituted the standard that no one employee would be alone with children or teens. We never did drug tests.

            When I did youth services I would be in a windowless room with a group of children or teens. With a door that I could lock. The things that could have gone wrong {Shudder}

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              I was a children’s librarian in a public library for 2 years, back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and there were no background checks of any kind. No finger printing, drug testing, or rules about being in a room alone with kids. Granted, it was a teensy library in a small town, but reading these comments is making me realize how much times have changed. o_O

              1. Rachel in NYC*

                Really? When I was a volunteer in the children’s section of my local library in the 90’s as a teenager, I’m pretty sure they did a background check.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  That might have been a relatively new thing… some of us are 30 years older.

          5. LITJess*

            Not true across the board. My library does an extra background check for children’s staff only, anyone else just gets the usual credit check that all employers run. And none of the children’s staff is CPR certified or childcare certified as teachers and daycare workers would be.

          6. Jennifer*

            No, public librarians do not get the same background checks as teachers! School librarians, being teachers as well, do. I only had to have a cursory background check to work in a public library. One I interviewed at made no mention of doing background checks, others (few) also do drug tests. I don’t know of any public library than runs fingerprints and does the much more extensive background check that the public school system does for teachers.

          7. Frank Oz*

            I take LSD frequently and work in a library. I wouldn’t be concerned with that. I would be concerned with the fact that I don’t know how to do CPR on a small child.

          8. Christina*

            Nope, at least not in Florida or Maryland. The last time I was fingerprinted was in college to work at a summer camp.

        2. ThreeDogsInATrenchcoat*

          I’m a children’s librarian and I have been background checked at every job I’ve had, sometimes but not always drug tested, and never required to be a mandated reporter.

          In some states librarians are mandated reporters, but not mine, except for school librarians and any other librarians maintaining their teaching credentials (e.g. former teachers, school librarians working in public libraries as temps or as a second job, etc.)

    2. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Yes, and the word is “sexist”.

      This is fundamental institutionalized sexism. The logic here, whether deliberate or unconscious, is: “Teachers are all women.” (Incorrect.) “Librarians are all women.” (Incorrect.) “Women are all mommies.” (Incorrect.) “If women are all mommies, then all women love to take care of children, any children.” (Incorrect.) “Thus, all librarians love to take care of children, any children.” (NO.)

      Arguments about licensing and background checks are excellent, and stronger than the above, because they’re based in the letter of the law; but the above is where this BS policy comes from. It’s intangible, it’s pernicious, and it’s diffucult as hell to dig out and throw away, but god DAMN this has got to stop. It’s the effing 21st century, for god’s sake.

      1. Blisskrieg*

        Did not think of it this way, but I agree–they would never ask this of a primarily male workforce. I mean, if we flip it–Why can’t some of the other county workers watch the librarian’s children? Obviously a large part of the argument is that libraries, like schools, facilitate learning, but I agree there is a sexism here.

        1. TardyTardis*

          I wonder if the library has any men, and if they will be asked to help with childcare? We all know the answer to that one!

      2. Ana Gram*

        Right. Our county’s nearly 100 schools are closed but will the police officers assigned to schools be reassigned to childcare duties? Never. You’ve hit the nail on the head.

        1. Katrinka*

          Our SRO (and about half of them in this county) is a woman. However, they can all be reassigned to places where there is a need. The LW’s county is probably seeing the library staff as surplus workers, so this is a way (in the county’s mine) to justify continuing to pay them. I also suspect that whoever made this decision thinks that county librarians are the same as school librarians.

          I agree that pointing out the safety issues is a great idea. Another thing to point out is that most schools have a trained nurse on hand at least half of the time. And is there a plan to deal with the increased need for other county workers, like custodians? I suspect not a lot of thought went into the logistics of this and that’s why the supervisor got flustered when pushed. I’d also ask if the county’s law department signed off on this (or if they even know about it).

          1. Ana Gram*

            It’s true that our SRO’s could theoretically be reassigned to patrol libraries (they won’t be, though) but they would never be reassigned to do a completely different job they’re not trained for which is what’s happening to the LW. I think sexism is a factor here. I do hope she reaches out to her country/state agency to report this. Perhaps asking some questions so she can “fully understand the expectations” would be a less adversarial way to approach it rather calling to report this bizarre plan.

            1. Letter Writer*

              Thank you for your input. I like the suggestion of taking a questioning approach to start with.

            2. Pomona Sprout*

              What does SRO mean in this context? It’s unfamiliar to me, and googling didn’t help.

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                Never mind. Further down, someone mentioned school research officers and I put 2 and 2 together. I don’t know exactly what those are, but at least I have something googleable to work with now. (Googling SRO mostly pulled up references to single room occupancy hotels, which was not exactly helpful, lol.)

      3. Ace in the Hole*

        I think that’s a stretch. While sexism certainly may be at play, there’s more to this than JUST sexism. Libraries are public centers for learning and librarians are experts in helping people access information. Many libraries (including LW’s) run youth programs. It’s not inherently sexist to think that people hired to work with youths to help them find and engage with information would also be the best-suited people to run a childcare/education program.

        Not that I think this is okay – LW has pointed out the problems. They absolutely should not be foisting all this off on the librarians… it’s not their job, it’s not safe, and it’s probably not even legal!

        1. virago*

          “Many libraries (including LW’s) run youth programs. It’s not inherently sexist to think that people hired to work with youths to help them find and engage with information would also be the best-suited people to run a childcare/education program.”

          If this program is *not* grounded in institutionalized sexism, then I assume that school resource officers, who also are “hired to work with youths,” will be reassigned to this program as well, as both Ana Gram and Katrinka suggest.

          Moreover, school resource officers will have credentials to work with children that librarians don’t have: As members of law enforcement, the SROs will have been fingerprinted and will have undergone background checks.

          “There are more than 2,400 public schools in North Carolina and more than 1,200 school resource officers. Most school resource officers are assigned to work in high schools and middle schools,” The Raleigh News & Observer reporter T. Keung Hui reported Feb. 7, 2019.

          1. Cassidy*

            But resource officers typically don’t work with kids where academics are concerned, like showing them how to log on to a computer, navigate software, and find an appropriate book for an assignment. Librarians often do.

            There IS sexism in teaching in that it is still considered a woman’s field, but by your logic, cafeteria workers also should be included simply because they’re around kids.

            I don’t agree with the overall arrangement, but calling out every single phenomenon as sexist dilutes real instances of sexism.

        2. chaco*

          “Work with youths”, “supervise youths during short programs”, and “supervise youths all day long, including extensive programming” are three very different jobs. I’ve never been to a public library that even allowed kids under 10 to be there unsupervised, let alone sending hundreds of 5-14 year olds for full time care.

          What would you say if the employees in question were, say, zookeepers or museum employees? Also professions that work with children but not in a full time care capacity. Would you find it inappropriate if the high school football coaching staff was suddenly expected to provide full time care for dozens of K-8 students? After all, they work with youth.

          I think sexism is a much bigger element of this than people are willing to admit.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            I’m not saying it’s appropriate to assign this to librarians – I thought I made it clear that I agree with LW in thinking this is not appropriate. But “inappropriate” is not the same as “sexist.”

            It would also be inappropriate if the employees were zookeepers, museum staff, or coaches… but since we don’t know if the county operates zoos, museums, or athletic programs that’s not really part of the question. If the county has a sports program or zoo with comparable staffing and computer access, but only assigned child care to the libraries… yes, that would seem like sexism to me. Sexist or not it’s still completely wrongheaded.

            1. chaco*

              It’s a county that’s big enough and has enough programs that their employees have 300+ kids just in K-8th grade. Yet only the library has been chosen to provide childcare. Not parks and rec, not athletics, not school resource officers. We may not know what exact other departments there are, but we do know that only the library was chosen for this particular task.

              1. Cassidy*

                Because it has books! Computers with access to articles! Games! A space that protects from lightning!


                1. ChildfreeLibrarian*

                  Welp. Found the person who doesn’t understand how lightning works. Your responses in this thread also show that you haven’t been in a library in decades – if ever. Why don’t *you* volunteer to provide childcare?

              2. Amaranth*

                Meanwhile, the teachers are asking ‘why are you working to keep librarians on payroll by doing our jobs?” I’m curious if there is a teacher’s union that would be interested in the situation. At the very least this should be a cooperative effort.

          2. Due Diligence*

            I’m amazed at this plan. In addition to all the practical problems people have already mentioned, some schoolage children regularly need help/supervision during the school day with medications such as insulin, anti-seizure medication, migraine pain relief, ADHD drugs, allergy drugs, and more. How are you going to train library staff to handle this?

        3. Dream Jobbed*

          Right, not sexism. And that’s why every academic librarian will be eventually asked – “do librarians REALLY need tenure?” Only two programs on my last campus was tenured questioned – librarians and the nursing program. What do those two programs have in common? You can make the argument that librarians are non-teaching faculty and maybe. But when you try to take tenure from nursing instructors (the most successful program on campus BTW and the one not hemorrhaging students) where all the instructors happen to be female, yeah it’s sexism.

          Until you can show me a male dominated (or perceived to be male-dominated) profession that is asked to start babysitting little s&^*# let’s just assume sexism.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Alison asks us not to speculate on identities of letter writers and their employers.

        4. A youth services librarian.*

          I could understand if Children’s Specialists were assigned but every other member of the staff has no children’s services experience, they are not trained nor would it be safe to put children in their care.

          In our area they were reassigning librarians to work in homeless shelters. Again, no training, just moving around warm bodies. The threat was show up at your assignment or lose your job.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I’ve been a children’s librarian for over a decade, and I am absolutely NOT QUALIFIED to do what this county is expecting their library staff to do. The fact that I can sing songs to toddlers for half an hour or run a book club for ten year olds once a month does not mean I’m the right person to supervise an entire building full of children while they do their online schooling.

          2. Happily Self Employed*

            I guess they figured enough homeless people hang out in the libraries that the librarians know how to handle any issues with them being intoxicated, reacting to trauma, having other types of mental health crises? Of people in those states interacting with each other, badly? Yeah, don’t see how that could go wrong. /s

        5. Tangerina Warbleworth*

          I’m going to push back on this, Ace. The view is not from modern efforts to reduce sexism, but rather the sexism that is already there, because it has historically been there all along.

          Library work is one of the classic fields defined as “women’s work” along with teaching (especially at the elementary level), nursing, and social work. It’s the same reason that people in these fields are inevitably underpaid. “Women’s work” is seen as merely an extension of the mommy idea: these are all fields that have to do with caring for others, often children.

          You point out that most libraries have lots of youth programs, so it’s not sexism, just en extension of what the library already does. Okay: but WHY do libraries have so many youth programs? Why, historically, has the library been the place to park your kids? Why isn’t the police department the first place people think of to park their kids, if they want to them to be safe? Answer: sexism. Police departments (historically) are full of men, who have terribly important jobs from which they cannot be distracted. Women, however, work in libraries, and since it’s “women’s work”, therefore it’s really not that important**, and they can totally be distracted by children.

          **see people’s descriptions of university librarians not being as important as faculty. Historically, what sex were most librarians? and what sex were most faculty? DING DING DING DING. Sexism goes back hundreds of years, friend, and it still affects everything. That what’s “institutionalized” means.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            To take it one step further, library positions aren’t just *defined* as women’s work. They were *created* to be women’s work, specifically because the people designing the work realized it would be a lot cheaper if most of their employees were women. The sexism inherent in this field goes all the way back to the beginning.

              1. SS Express*

                Because they need money to buy food? Because people who are economically disadvantaged aren’t in a position to just quit any job that treats them badly, especially right now? Because the onus should be on employers and society not to mistreat women, not on women to just not get mistreated?

                If women wouldn’t work in fields where they experienced sexism, most women wouldn’t work. It’s not like there are 3.8 billion great sexism-free jobs just waiting for us to waltz into them.

              2. Letter Writer*

                Generally, out of a desire to increase access to information and resources, though every library worker will have their own personal and professional motivations.

                This question could also be asked of any number of employment fields with rampant sexism but in which women work despite that.

                1. Academic Librarian too*

                  Here’s the thing. I worked in corporate. Men were in charge of all things important. Women could have middle management and assistant positions. Men were mentored and groomed. They were interns, were floaters. Women stayed put. I watched my supervisor mentor young men. Not me. I didn’t think oh look at that. I just didn’t see where I would be in “five years” What I did discover was that I didn’t like working for men. I couldn’t say why. I did like working for most women. I had good experience in non-profits. I had an opportunity to be a librarian. My women corporate mentors were horrified. Such a “step back” to go to a “women’s profession.” I haven’t regretted it but everything people have been saying here is true. There is sexism within and outside the profession. The casual dismissiveness of the professionalism and training it takes to be in youth services from men and women. I thought all those parents at home this spring recognized the perseverance, talent, and education needed to be a teacher. I guess not.

              3. virago*

                Because their only option might be a job that’s worse. Or no job.

                What a stunningly empathy-free response.

                1. Pomona Sprout*

                  Amen to all of this. Also to the comments of SS Express, Letter Writer, and others commenting on the sexism embedded in this colossally rotten idea.

                2. ChildfreeLibrarian*

                  Yeah that person would likely tell you they like to play devil’s advocate as a front for “I like to be a jerk whenever possible, but if you call me on it directly I won’t own up”.

              4. Starbuck*

                Structural sexism can be rampant in female dominated fields (things like low pay) but also oh, what a breath of fresh air it is to be working in a female-led workplace! My entire chain of command where I work (in a female-dominated, low-paid field) is made up of women and it’s such a relief to not have to constantly think about the kind of sexism that comes into play when lots of men are around and particularly in positions of power over me. So there’s that.

              5. Seeking Second Childhood*

                Because they love the work? Same argument could be made the police officer in my family…the only woman on her town’s force. Why does she stay there despite all the sexism? Same answer: she loves the work.
                Why would you want them to walk away?

          2. Ace in the hole*

            I agree that institutionalized sexism is the reason why librarians (along with many other traditionally feminine jobs) are underpaid, undervalued, and so on.

            I strongly disagree that libraries having youth programs is an effect of sexism. The library is a place for kids to go because it is a center of learning. Libraries have youth programs because we want kids to grow up reading books, to know how to use a library, to enjoy learning… much like zoos and parks have childrens programs because we want kids to grow up with an appreciation for nature, or cities have athletic activities for children because we want them to grow up enjoying physical activities. In many places, male dominated fields like police and fire departments also have youth programs to get kids interested in public safety… my local fire department does school events, days at county fairs, ride-alongs for kids and teens, kid-safety consults and carseat checks for parents, etc. Heck, I work in garbage and we do school group tours to take kids around the landfill!

            Your question about why libraries are the place to “park your kids” seems strange to me. It’s the same reason a park is a place to “park your kids” – because it’s a generally safe, attractive, public place for kids to be. Kids hang out at libraries because libraries have free, safe, comfortable indoor spaces with interesting and positive activities (reading, computers, sometimes games). Helping people of all ages, including children, access the resources in the library is not a distraction from the librarian’s work… that IS the librarian’s work.

            Obviously there’s a huge gulf between helping child patrons access library resources vs running a childcare center to supervise kids doing remote school. What they’re asking is far, far outside the scope of a librarian’s duties and completely unreasonable. But I think in this case the idea came from a line of thinking that went “the library is the only suitable indoor facility large enough for what we have in mind, librarians are good at helping people with academic things like books and computer research, the library even runs programs for kids already so they’ll totally know what they’re doing!” Not, as Tangerina described: ““Teachers are all women.” (Incorrect.) “Librarians are all women.” (Incorrect.) “Women are all mommies.” (Incorrect.) “If women are all mommies, then all women love to take care of children, any children.” (Incorrect.) “Thus, all librarians love to take care of children, any children.” (NO.)” I don’t think the idea that either teachers or librarians are women need have entered in the decision at any point, conscious or unconscious.

            I will note, since some people here seem to think I don’t know how libraries work: I grew up going to the library all the time. I have worked in public libraries. My mother is an academic librarian. I absolutely agree there is institutionalized sexism at play in libraries… but I don’t think it’s helpful or reasonable to pin this particular decision solely on sexism.

      4. Batgirl*

        “You love people and helping people! Plus it’s just *playing with kids* so carry on with your normal workload ladies! No we have no idea about bathroom and food logistics, that’s women’s work!”

    3. Sylvia*

      I work in a large metropolitan library system in the West. We have fought off this kind of request for months, but one of our nearby library systems is exploring this option. We are City, they are County. We are AFSCME, they are SEIU. Frankly, AFSCME is more organized than SEIU and I know our union will fight this tooth and nail.

      There are times when being part of a Union really does make a huge difference. This is one of them.

    1. Blisskrieg*

      Agreed, my first response was just sadness that we are in this predicament as a country and then further sadness that this was a proposed solution anywhere in the country.

  1. Kate*

    I can’t help imagining myself being one of the other county employees who will now be forced to use this “service”. Even if I am not comfortable sending my kid to unlicensed pseudo-school at the library, my manager would be like “but now you can’t say you don’t have childcare!” and now *I’m* at risk of losing my job too.

    What a terrible situation all around.

    1. Letter Writer*

      That is an excellent point. Supposedly the county did a survey asking county employees with kids if they would be open to utilizing a “camp,” but I’m not sure how many positive responses they considered necessary before just going ahead with this plan. They sent out the survey one week and met with library staff the day after the survey closed, so it’s not like they had a lot of time to fully consider the implications.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Ten to one the “camp” was not described to be staffed with personnel who are not trained childcare professionals. This is basically – kids show up and there are adults in the same building.

        A) I think county workers can and should push back against the idea that they are supposed to send their kids to an unapproved childcare situation.

        B) Our school system is actually providing day-long on-campus care for kids whose parents cannot otherwise stay with them all day. It is also not instruction but it is going to be staffed with appropriately trained personnel. This can (and should) be done, but it has to be done correctly. What your system is doing is really not going to be good for anyone.

        1. JessaB*

          And um what are you going to feed these children with? An all day camp would require possible breakfast, definite lunch and intermittent snacks. And doing cold sandwiches every day or asking parents to provide when some of them may be very food insecure…how the heck do you keep food safe?

          1. Malarkey01*

            At my son’s school (which he and half the school are not attending) one of the conditions for sending your kid is sending them with a packed lunch and 2 snacks. There is zero food service at the schools in my city right now.

            1. blackcat*

              Yikes. How do they deal with students who are supposed to receive federally funded free lunches?

              1. Coverage Associate*

                Every state but Idaho has increased the supplemental nutrition benefits (Food stamps) for families that used to rely on free or subsidized school meals. At least in some states, it works out to several dollars per former school meal.

                1. Annonymusing*

                  Idahoan here. Yes, we are at the bottom of the barrel for per student expenditure for everything. School in our county is going on right now as if everything is normal. Cafeteria’s open. At the last board meeting, one of the board members, when asked if there was going to be a mask mandate said “no, because we don’t want this to be political.” What the hell does that mean, anyway? I have a close family member who is highly at risk health wise who is forced to work at a school with 1,200 teenagers…very few masks. This school is meant for 700, so way overcrowded to begin with. There are no safety provisions in place. I think this and OP’s situation are criminal.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  s/Someone should call up Science and let them know that non-political people do not get Corona./s
                  [Shakes head in despair.]

                3. whingedrinking*

                  @Annonymusing: Sweet jebus. Are you still allowed to wash your hands and cough into your elbow, or are those “political” too?

                4. Annonymusing*

                  There is a reason we are a high per capita COVID-19 infection rate state! We don’t need no stinkin’ medical/science types telling us what to do, you know.

              2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

                Excellent point! Plus, most libraries have nothing like a cafeteria area and are NOT set up to serve food or for more than the few librarians normally working there to eat.

                This isn’t being well thought out – and yes, it does sound as if the thinking is very much along the lines of “librarians = nurturing females = child-care providers”. I hope that, as this is publicized, there’s public push-back that quashes it – but I fear that desperate parents will welcome it as a heaven-sent solution to an increasingly dire situation.

          2. Kate*

            Also check out the building requirements for a childcare facility. A library I used to work in was looking into doing a camp type of thing and we eventually gave up the idea because it would have required certifying us as a child care center and our building never would have met the requirements.

        2. Mama Bear*

          I wonder if the parents would be happy with the reality. I’m sure their expectations are different.

        3. KD*

          I suspect the parents might feel just as forced to participate when they don’t want to. I’d bet there is a strong “put your kids in this and get back to work, or leave” vibe. I doubt any parent want to send their kids out in public with untrained babysitters who don’t even want to be there.

        4. Rats Avid*

          The SCHOOL where I work cannot open a childcare for employee children (K-8) **who already attend that school** without becoming licensed as a childcare facility by that state. Same building, same children, same staff as it would be if we were not in virtual mode. Different licensing requirements.

      2. Lizy*

        As a parent, my answer would be WAY different depending on how the question(s) was framed. “Would you be interested in a camp for daycare purposes” implies there is a structure (playtime, meal time, time for X activity or Y activity) and that the daycare providers would be actual daycare providers (like, hired to be “daycare providers”). I would be MORTIFIED if I, as a parent, answered a survey that asked this question only to find out the “camp” would be reassigning ANYONE – let alone library workers – to watch over kids so that I can go to work.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I assume it would be unsafe to go outside so basically the building becomes a prison that holds the kids until the parents pick them up? There is not enough space on the internet to list off all the things that could go wrong here.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Yeah, I’m guessing that the county workers who are going to be expected to send their kids to this “camp” would be less than pleased to discover it’s going to be run by workers who are not adequately background checked and don’t have first aid training.

        3. Glitsy Gus*

          Yep. Also, how many of them knew “interested” would translate to “do this or quit your job, because we are cancelling WFH, no exceptions.”

      3. Katrinka*

        If your county is like mine, they do offer summer camps, but those are staffed by trained parks and rec employees who have the proper safety training. I bet the parents surveyed didn’t realize that this was not like summer camp. I’m willing to bet double that they were led to believe that teachers/educational staff (like paras) would be running them.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      And now they can’t file for any kind of “I can’t work because there’s no daycare” aid.

      1. LizM*

        Exactly. Right now, people with dependents whose dependent care has been interrupted can request certain allowances from their supervisors. This includes parents with school-aged kids whose kids are closed. But our guidance is super clear that if schools reopen, and you *choose* not to send your child back or you decide to pull them from an open school and homeschool, you don’t qualify for those allowances. I could see county employees really being pressured to use this “service” even if they aren’t comfortable with it.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        OP, this is one of many inroads. Make sure that the county employees know EXACTLY what is going on so they can “join” you by saying,” H3ll NO” to the volentold services. This handles the problem from both ends.

    3. Ashley*

      If I was a county employee I would be asking a ton of questions around liability if I become required to use this system or if my job was threatened because I refused to use this option for child care. Everyday things for a school like how lunch and peanut allegeries are handled would be a whole new world for this type of set up not to mention if medicine needs to be dispensed. Then you are disclosing all kinds of personal info to people that have no business knowing personal info. I can’t believe the county solicitor has approved this plan.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Eh, the library should have a lawyer or the municipality that holds the library (depending on how that is structured).

      1. MCL*

        Serving lunch (maybe breakfast too? snacks!?) in a library to that many kids 5 days a week is just asking for a pest problem, too.

        1. Ellen N.*

          You are correct. My husband teaches high school (currently remotely). He told me that after every nutrition and lunch break seagulls descend to eat the leftover food. The school is about five miles inland from the ocean.

          1. drago cucina*

            I grew up in S. California and this brought back memories. Our school yards were about 12 miles from the beach and the gulls were fierce. They would hang on the edge and if not looking snatch your lunch.

          2. Raising an otter villiage*

            I went to a high school about 200 miles inland from the ocean and we had the same problem. Not to mention all manner of bugs and rodents.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          Also how many bathrooms does this library have? That seems like a logistical problem besides the mind exploding nightmare of the entire rest of this horrible idea.

      2. Clisby*

        At least in my state, the county solicitor would have nothing to say about a plan like this. But the title “county solicitor” might well mean different things in different jurisdictions. Where I live, it means the top criminal prosecutor in the county.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          County solicitor can be the District Attorney who prosecutes crimes (he represents the people).

          A county attorney could be someone versed in municipal law, etc. ,the non-criminal side of law that deals with governance. Towns and villages can have their own separate attorneys. Around here, libraries have their own attorneys also. Lots of attorneys all around, OP. Keep looking and find out who they are. A lot of places have their attorney listed right on their website.

          1. Jennifer*

            I’d be contacting the media, and advise them to question the county attorney about the legality and liability issues!

      3. Artemesia*

        How do they handle the inevitable barfing child with norovirus? Who will clean up, care for the child? How will they handle the inevitable COVID outbreak? How will they handle the kid who decides ‘screw this’ and starts hitting, biting or otherwise bedeviling his peers? What materials are provided to keep the kids busy and reading, doing schoolwork, etc. Are art and learning supplies being provided — how are these sanitized? Are masks being provided for the kids and sanitizing supplies? Has everyone had background checks who will be working with kids? Who handles the inevitable kid with wet or worse pants?

        It is not a terrible idea to provide day care and use the library necessarily – and with older kids might be a good idea. But it requires materials, support and safety management. And with kids younger than 8 or 9, it requires a lot of materials, support and safety management — and for everyone program support.

        1. Clever username goes here*

          All of this. Also not mentioned: what about kids with special needs or learning challenges? Kids who take medication? Good luck with THAT without specialized training. No way I’d send my kid to the library (no offense intended to the staff, of course).

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            As a retired special-ed teacher, yes, I was wondering about that too. And of course, not all special needs are intellectual or emotional – many children have complex and challenging physical limits that require very specific knowledge to manage. Librarians are professionals as skilled as any, but are very seldom trained in this specialty.

            Who thought up this batspit-crazy idea, anyway ??!

      4. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Dispensing medicine is a BIG deal. I’m from a teaching family, and most of the schools I’m aware of require all medication to be kept at the nurse’s office, and teachers send kids over at the appropriate times. So, what happens when the kid with asthma or ADHD or other issues that require daily medication are reassigned to a “school” location where there’s nobody to put in charge of that?

        1. Due Diligence*

          Precisely. Who’s going to make sure insulin is kept cool in a refrigerator and injected safely, for example? That needles and sharps are disposed of properly? This plan is crazy!

    4. Lauren*

      And the expectation is I’m leaving my (hypothetical) 5 year old daughter minimally supervised with someone’s 14 year old son! I see all kinds of problems beyond just the massive ones originally pointed out.

      1. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

        Oh, there are tons of cans of worms on this one.

        I’m the mom of a formerly medically complicated child who has graduated to a developmentally complicated child – so let’s look at a few of the more obvious problems.
        1) Baby Spawn has a NG-feeding tube – who on staff wants to get trained for the care and maintenance of that?
        2) Keeping Preschool Spawn growing requires keeping an eye on how many calories he eats a day. Who is assigned to watch him eat, estimate the amount of each food he ate and write down a log for when I pick him up?
        3) Preschool Spawn uses a walker to get around. Other kids adore his walker – but it’s not actually a toy for group use. Who’s job is it to explain to all of the other kids that the walker is Spawn’s and other kids can’t use it even if Spawn is choosing to crawl around or play with toys in a sitting or standing position? Who is going to monitor that? How would you handle a ‘turbo-boost’ scenario where a well-meaning young friend grabs the back of the walker and gives Spawn a boosted ride while Spawn frantically walks as fast as he can because his walker has suddenly become possessed? (That happened on his first visit to preschool; it happened with no previous warning – and took three adults to end the chaos. It was also the funniest thing I’d seen in a long time.)
        4) Diapers – how are you going to handle those? Where are you keeping the supplies for diaper changing – and all of the wet/dirty clothes? How are you going to keep track of which supplies belong to each kid? How are you going to let parents know when new supplies are needed?

          1. JessaB*

            In a school you have a lunch room, in a special ed classroom you have feeding supplies and teacher’s aides to help with NG and other feeding issues. Parents do send toileting stuff, or aides help those who can use an actual toilet with help. You have written plans for each kid whether mainstreamed or not. You have adequate personnel, you also have a lunch room with a proper kitchen, probably a fenced in play space, and if not an indoor gym. You have teachers and aides that are specially trained so even a mainstreamed kid, their teacher can call for help. They’re grouped by need, and by age. etc.

            I used to be a special ed teacher of preschool and elementary aged kids.

            1. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

              A whole lot of trained support staff who have spent time with preschoolers before.

              NG-tubes and G-tubes are common enough that there’s usually someone on staff who either learned the skills on the job – or got into SPED after having a medically complicated kid.

              In a classroom of 8 kids (with a few out due to the sheer number of colds circulating prior to COVID), there was one teacher and two paras. One of the paras who Spawn really enjoyed knew the food tracking trick: count food on Spawn’s plate before feeding, look on the floor for any thrown food, and count the amount of food after to figure out what he ate.

              The walker thing happened twice in the first three visits – but the second one didn’t move the walker because I saw it coming and used my body weight to stop it dead. At the third visit, the kids in the classroom had one of those moments where they all stopped dead and were staring at Spawn in his walker. The teacher quickly explained that the walker was part of Spawn like Boy1’s hearing aids were part of him and Boy2’s glasses were part of him – so no one else uses it. The class nodded appreciatively and scattered back to their toys.

              Diapers – each kid brings in their own set of diapers, wipes, creams etc. The staff have gloves etc., for biohazard control. There’s a set of cubbies in the large bathroom where clothing and diapers are stored by kids. The staff put any soiled clothing in gallon baggies to control smells, writes the name of the kid on it and send it home at the end of the class. They also send notes home in the kids’ backpacks when they need new supplies.

              I was a regular-ed high school teacher prior to Spawn’s birth. Schools can handle a lot of student needs simply by getting staffing and systems in place – but that takes practice and time. Making a bunch of librarians reinvent the wheel for a psuedo-childcare setting is cruel for everyone involved.

          2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            By staff who are trained and certified to do so, in an environment that is approved by licensing authorities as safe and appropriate for doing so.

          3. OhGee*

            Special ed preschool teachers are trained to work with children who have these needs. My sister is one of those teachers. She loves her work and her students and yes, she has some WILD stories. It also means that there is NO possibility of social distancing between teachers and children in those classrooms. In the situation LW describes, kids with special health or learning needs are absolutely not going to have those needs fulfilled.

        1. HBJ*

          I agree that there are lots of issues with this, but OP says this is for K-8 children – so not babies, not preschoolers and no diapers (assuming they’re using the pretty standard rule of must be potty trained to attend.)

          1. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

            Being able to use a toilet for waste elimination needs is not required to enter public schools or childcare run by a K-8 public school system – which is essentially what a full-day K-8 program run by the county is. That’s an example of where Special Education may be needed to help with a student who is behind on activities for daily living (also known as ADLs). I’ve worked with high schoolers in moderately cognitively disabled classrooms who used adult diapers for elimination and needed assistive devices to move independently – so there’s probably at least one county worker’s kid who is in K-8th who would need some form of support for elimination, feeding and/or independent mobility.

          2. Silamy*

            Toilet trained or not, assuming none of the younger elementary schoolers will ever have an accident (or, hell, a stomach bug) over the course of several months of ten hour days with no outside time seems… wildly optimistic. I’m used to elementary schools requiring kids to have a backup set of clothing as a required part of school supplies until third grade. Are there even enough toilets in a library for the number of kids expected to be involved in this program? I’m pretty sure there’s a legal requirement on that number for a childcare facility. And I know many of the public-access buildings near me have closed every other stall and taped off every other sink in order to keep people away from each other in restrooms; if the LW’s location has something similar going on, this gets even harder. There’s also the hygiene questions that arise with children too small to reach the adult sinks -particularly since they’ll also be handling the computers. …are there even enough computers/tablets for this? Are parents expected to supply their own?

          3. littledoctor*

            “this is for K-8 children – so not babies, not preschoolers and no diapers”

            There are tons of people in upper elementary, middle, and high school who have physical or developmental disabilities that require them to use diapers. Basically every school of a few hundred children will have at least ten or so students who use diapers.

    5. jenkins*

      Yes! This is a horrendous idea for everyone. I don’t want library employees to be forced into this kind of position, and nor do I want to send my kids to be looked after by untrained, reluctant people without a proper setting or adequate resources. And the legal liability for the county if anything happens to one of those kids must be just astronomical. I mean good grief.

    6. InfoSec SemiPro*

      -Malicious Compliance On-

      But the library says it’s a “virtual learning environment” not childcare, and isn’t following any of the regulations for actual childcare, so childcare is still not available.

      -MC Off-

      This is horrible for everyone and the people pushing it should feel bad, as well as stop.

        1. QuestJen*

          There’s even a subreddit! It’s deliciously entertaining, should you ever need to kill some time.

    7. anon librarian*

      Oh my gosh, this is an excellent point I hadn’t considered. UGH, what a mess we’re in.

    8. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

      I don’t think this would circumvent the CARES act, would it? The wording talks about if schools are closed–it doesn’t include a requirement to return to work if shady unlicensed childcare is available, does it?

    9. Maggie*

      Exactly, Kate. I am a teacher. I have been saying loudly, repeatedly, continuously, to any HR or supervisor who will listen since early June: I do not have childcare for 5 days a week. They ignored. They punted. They stalled. They hesitated. Finally, a bunch of people put in for one-year leave of absences and the district started scrambling. They sent out an email–if we provided childcare, would you use it? What age is your kid? Would you need full or part time care? THAT WAS IT! That was the extent of the survey! Um… ***in what universe*** would I put my child in childcare where the information needed by the “care provider” is what age and full or part time (with no definition of what on earth full and part time mean)??? Just because they “offer” something doesn’t mean parents are going to be stupid enough to send their child off into unsupervised purgatory where they could get injured, abused, neglected, who knows what! Some people will be so desperate they might use this, but since I am married and my husband is still employed, we have already decided one of the two of us will quit our job if necessary before we send our child to an unlicensed pseudo-school. The poor employees that will be pressured to use this or quit!

      1. Letter Writer*

        That survey sounds very similar to the one sent out to our county employees, though ours specifically called it a camp and not childcare.

  2. glitter writer*

    I’m sorry. That’s garbage. And it’s the same kind of garbage happening in so very many counties, where everyone is somehow supposed to be able to magic away childcare with a non-existent wand.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      This sucks, and you are not alone, OP. I know in my City the public libraries are open to kids of essential workers without child care options. I don’t know any of the details as far as how they have worked through this, other than that they have organized with the school district to make sure the kids can get lunch, I just know the program is there. I do wonder what is happening now that so many more people are being required to go back to work, not just the essential staff that this was designed for back in March. That is a lot more kids that need help.

      Good luck, OP, I hope you guys can at least get some help on this one.

  3. MissGirl*

    This is so illegal in my state. Anywhere you have parents off site from the children had to be regulated as childcare and comes with severe restrictions and regulations. I worked at a daycare at a ski resort and even though the parents were on the property because they weren’t in the building, we had to operate as a licensed daycare. That means only so many kids per LICENSED adult based on age.

    I can’t believe a government entity thinks this can happen. No wonder they push back when you use the word “childcare”. The only good news is that there’s no way this will last.

    1. President Porpoise*

      I wonder if OP would be willing to share the state they work in? Probably not, but I bet someone would have specific knowledge of the regulations there.

      OP, I would quit before I did this. This seems risky on every level.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I suggest you search for “North Carolina Child Care Rules, Law, and Public Information”; I found the page entitled “Child Care Rules, Law, and Public Information” on the NC Child Care Commission’s website, and it has SO many rules….and a way to email the Commission. Just sayin’….

        2. GigglyPuff*

          Okay, I may have laughed out loud. I’m also in North Carolina and can see this. Fortunately our state websites are pretty good. A quick search yielded this, they may be trying to fit under the exempt from regulation as a child care facility.

          But also, as someone in the library profession, this blows. So sorry! Please update us on what happens.

          Also P.S. check Indeed I saw a public library posting for a reference/local history librarian somewhere in state yesterday.

        3. Yarrow*

          As a North Carolinian former public librarian, this is crazy. And also most likely illegal. Childcare regulations kick in if the care is being provided for more than 4 hours a day. I can’t believe government workers think they can do this! Keep talking to your library admins, keep the conversation alive with your coworkers, keep demanding to see their plans, document every part of this so-called plan and take it to the local news and state government officials. This is absolutely a bad plan and it sounds like they’re announcing it all half-cocked anyway.

        4. ES*

          I have worked in N.C. child care as a teacher and director and I can tell you unequivocally: this is not legal.

          1. irene adler*

            Given that: it makes me wonder how this idea got as far as it did.
            NOBODY questioned the legality or safety of this idea? Or at least thought to inquire first?

            Someone is truly off their nut.

            1. whingedrinking*

              Frankly, it’s exactly the kind of plan that someone who neither knows nor cares to learn anything about children, education or libraries *would* come up with. The number of people I’ve heard say that kindergarten is the easiest grade to teach, or are surprised to learn that librarians have to hold master’s degrees, makes me despair.

        5. CatLadyEsq*

          I think your county attorney’s office will want to know about this. It sounds unlikely that they are aware of this plan, and they would probably appreciate the heads up.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I’d inform the county attorney and any state agencies as well — this is the type of situation where I would absolutely want someone OUTSIDE the county’s sphere of influence aware.

            I’m actually shaking this makes me so mad. I’ve never had this visceral a reaction to an AAM letter!

            1. emmelemm*

              Yeah, I’d say kick this whole thing *outside* of the county level. Go to the state. Lay it all out.

              1. DontRiskIt*

                In addition, if you can find out who your insurance broker is, or if the municipalities are in an insurance pool, approach them as well because (as someone in risk management with an insurance broker, who insures public schools and municipalities) this is DEFINITELY something they would want to know. If they do this against state law/regulations they could be on the hook for any insurance claims that might arise. The insurance company can send a critical hazard letter.

          2. Esmeralda*

            ncdoj DOT gov

            Takes you to AG Josh Stein, who is all about consumer protection (= parents, children). Very easy process for filing a complaint.

        6. blackcat*

          Former NC licensed teacher:
          This is not at all legal.
          Go to your local government, state reps, etc. Notify the relevant regulatory authority.

        7. AKchic*

          I would have assumed Alaska, but our libraries are city, not state.

          I am so very sorry you’re dealing with this.

        8. someone else from NC*

          hi, LW; i’m in north carolina and i implore you to contact the NCDPI as well as the state attorney’s office and NCDHHS. this is blatantly illegal on multiple levels; additionally your county attorney needs to be contacted. this is lawsuit tier

        9. Amtelope*

          It sounds like they are trying to argue that this is a track out program, which wouldn’t need to be licensed in NC. However, since it’s all day every day indefinitely, that’s really a stretch. I would definitely, definitely encourage whoever’s in charge to get legal advice, because if this does count as school-aged child care (and it really should), there are a ton of regulations that you won’t be in compliance with.

          1. Amtelope*

            And, taking a closer look at restrictions: a track out program that operates continuously (for all tracks) for at least four hours a day must be licensed. A program can’t be exempt as a “summer camp” after September 15. It’s almost certainly going to count as a school-aged child care program that requires a license to legally operate in NC.

      1. Caliente*

        Absolutely would quit because if I were a county worker forced to send my kid to a bunch of random people who don’t even want to watch them – because they’re, ya know, librarians – and other kids of all ages, if something happened to my kid, well I’d stop at nothing to… I don’t even know what. No no and NO!
        My sons middle school is co-located in a school with a high school and they don’t even allow the kids to use the same staircases, be at lunch at the same time and on and on to protect the younger kids. And they’re middle schoolers, not even elementary. This is awful.

      2. Daycare loving working mom*

        Our state (not LW) has enacted emergency pandemic childcare rules to provide supervision, care, food, and education support (students are doing e-learning with their districts, staff/volunteers are there to help get logged in not do any of the content delivery). As a parent, I understand this is absolutely necessary for parents to be able to work.

        HOWEVER this should not have been forced on you. Just because there is a need, doesn’t mean that a building that has been empty (due to COVID precautions) and staff does not mean you should be forced into this. It seems the exact opposite of everything the libraries have been doing to reduce risk. OP, I wish you luck in pushing back to keep yourself safe

    2. alibi*

      This reminds me of the time we were surveys but we weren’t allowed to call them surveys, because specific reasons. They felt like they could get away from those legitimate reasons if they just used different terminology. It seems a common idea that words don’t have meanings, so that if you just use a different word, everything is magically okay.

      Childcare is childcare even if you call it fred.

      1. DJ*

        Depending on where you are, a survey would have to be approved by a review board because it is considered human experimentation (**insert eye roll here**). Even if all you were doing was asking how their day was.

        1. Caliente*

          That had me cracking up to – its virtual (but its in person) its not childcare (but its childcare). Like who are these people and do they think everyone else is literally and entire idiot? WOW

        2. Miss Muffet*

          It sounds like it’s kids gathering in person to be marginally supervised while they do online school. Like the pods a lot of families are forming. Except the pods are small and families get to choose who they pod up with.

          1. Letter Writer*

            Yes, this. The euphemistic naming of the “camp” makes it extra confusing to explain to people.

        3. MissGirl*

          That’s what confused me. I kept thinking it’s virtual and no it’s not and yes it is. I think the kids are doing virtual learning through their schools but in the library with the librarians.

      2. AKchic*

        A rose by any other name…?

        A turd is a turd is a turd. You can spray febreeze on it all you want, it’s still a turd. You can stick a bow on top and sprinkle glitter all over it, but that is still a turd sitting on the bed for all to see. The dog knows what the dog did. It still needs to be cleaned up.

    3. Office sweater lady*

      Agree, I think this will have so many issues it’s almost not worth the OP making a strong effort to oppose it.

      1. Letter Writer*

        That’s my concern as well. I really want to just cut my losses and quit, and I’m doing everything I can to find another job at this point.

        1. Wherehouse Politics*

          Please quit. I worked in daycare my first years out of college. It can be difficult enough with knowing what you signed up for. Your workplace is not properly set up for this and there WILL be injured or even possibly missing children on your watch. Every day will be highly chaotic and intensely stressful. Also, covid first and last makes this unacceptable. The schools are closed for a reason. Is it worth risking lifelong disability or even death? Don’t do this. Sure- push back as a group but be prepared to walk or run away. NO

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Actually even in schools kids can “get themselves lost” when motivated.

            Few days after I moved into the house I live in now the school down the street knocked on my door asking if the boy who used to live here was hiding in my house or yard. He was eventually located – in an AC duct in the school. Boy in question was 7.

            This was all about three years ago.

        2. Troutwaxer*

          I suspect an anonymous letter to your county attorney will do everything you need. If not, quitting does make sense. Do remember that jobs are very hard to find right now and that there will eventually be a vaccine. IIRC, at least a couple are going into Phase III trials right now.

        3. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

          If you all push back and they end up laying off staff as a result, you will be entitled to unemployment benefits. As you already know, you likely wouldn’t be if you quit.

        4. Mama Bear*

          I hope you find a new job. And I hope you let them know you are leaving b/c these concerns were not addressed and you felt they were hanging library staff out to dry.

          I started to go to college for teaching and then decided teaching was not for me. Dealing with a group of kids for hours on end is not everyone’s cup of tea and takes a special kind of patience.

          Also, re: some of the toileting concerns above – who is going to constantly sanitize everything? Kids are gross on a normal day. This is not a normal day.

    4. Ali G*

      Where I live there are so many regulations (down to the number of parking spots needed per capacity) that all anyone would need to do is make one call to the county office that regulates daycares and this would be shut down so fast. If this goes forward, the staff should make an anonymous tip that the library is operating an unlicensed daycare and that will be the end of it.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        You mean the department run by same county that came up with this idea? And whose employee’s children will likely be signed up for this camp?

        Honestly this is a terrible idea and really doesn’t make sense. If kids can attend these pseudo daycares then they can be in school, taught by professionals.

        1. Letter Writer*

          Yeah, I can’t really report this to the county when the county manager is the one that is pushing this idea so heavily.

          And I completely agree. Why send your kids to the library to be in public all day instead of sending them to school?

          1. mf*

            What about reporting it to the state? This sounds very illegal. Also, how about leaking this to a local newspaper? Library patrons AND parents who are county employees will be furious.

          2. Baffled Teacher*

            Report it to the state and the state’s attorney? There must be at least one lawyer at the state level who will consider the childcare rules. I also agree with notifying local/regional media.

          3. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

            Report it to the media, that the county’s solution for lack of childcare is to put employees’ children in unlicensed facilities with untrained and unqualified staff. I’m pretty sure they will change their tune quickly.

            1. Letter Writer*

              Commenting in reply to you, Baffled Teacher, and mf: I’m going to do some research this afternoon to see who I can contact. Thank you.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Please come back and update us, LW. I hope you can get this nipped in the bud. I don’t even have kids and I’m horrified.

              2. blackcat*

                WUNC (NPR affiliate) has a tip line. I’d recommend them. They handled a tip I gave them once with great discretion and no one ever connected me to the story.

              3. Ann Perkins*

                Good luck! I would recommend trying the Department of Health and Human Services. They appear to be the state entity that regulates child care.

              4. Distance Learning*

                I’m also in NC, and just set up a (small, safe, staffed by people who chose this job) virtual learning academy, and I worked with the Regulatory Services consultant for my county’s Dept. of Health and Human Services. And no, what’s being proposed is definitely not legal.

              5. drago cucina*

                Hope you’ve found good answers by now. I’d suggest:
                1. Report it to your state library association.
                2. The state office that oversees public libraries. In Alabama it’s the Alabama Public Library Service.
                3. Report it to the Public Library Division of the American Library Association. (Okay, I may have posted about this on ALA Connect’s Public Library Division section. Maybe linked to this page.)
                4. Whoever is the county’s insurance agency. That may be a department of the state. You want to make sure that the employees are covered if there is any harm to children.
                5. Contact the local police department and fire marshal for a safety walk through. You want to make sure you’re in full compliance and doing everything you can to be safe. (Librarians love passive aggressive.)

            2. papertiger*

              I wonder about reporting it to the Department of Child Welfare. In some states at least, any report on a childcare is a mandatory investigation, unlike reports on families or individuals, which can get screened out.

          4. Circe*

            You can totally report to the county, just keep going up the chain of command. County managers report to county commissioners, publicly elected officials who would be doubtless shocked at this change.

            I’d also reach out to the county licensing department for child care and see if they realize just what’s been proposed.

            This county manager is overstepping…

            1. AKchic*

              Right? “I’m tired of my kids and tired of trying to teach my kids, so let’s just send them to the library like the good ol days!”

              That’s how it feels.

    5. theothermadeline*

      I also wonder how this county can argue that it’s not childcare when they are requiring provision of after-school programming and care. MAYBE there could be semantics around making libraries digital learning environments during the school day (highly tenuous) but after school? That’s called daycare.

        1. theothermadeline*

          The proposal is that the kids access the learning while physically in the library. The county is attempting to solve the issue that has been caused by our society largely valuing schools as child storage.

    6. Sam.*

      Is there a state agency or board that OP can report this to? If it’s illegal (and it seems pretty likely it is, regardless of state) surely there’s an authority it would be appropriate to involve. That may be the most effective route to shutting this down.

      1. Silly Janet*

        I would look up the childcare licensing requirements for your county (it is usually done by county or region), and I would be positive they are violating most of the protocols.

    7. Emmie*

      Leadership can categorize this as childcare, but the actual implementation matters. Others have pointed out ways to push back on childcare. Yet, it looks to me like the leadership is creating an unauthorized school in the county / district. Virtual instruction, particularly with K-5 students, requires extensive adult involvement and participation. We’ve accepted that parents are doing this because of the pandemic; however, other county employees performing those duties are functioning as de-facto teachers or educational paraprofessionals. In many states, those require staff to hold state licensure and complete state-mandated background screenings among other requirements. The background screening piece varies by state, but those requirements are more stringent – usually fingerprint based – and are typically triggered by unsupervised contact with students, or regular contact with students. Some states require these screenings for daycares, and require the daycare (not the individual) to be licensed. You may have some success pointing out the school risk factors as well – especially when the local governmental unit runs the school system. I am also troubled by how the county draws the line with participants. It permits only county employees to participate, but prohibits residents from participating. This line-drawing creates learning pods, which perpetuate inequities. I am sorry you’re going through this. I hope these additional factors are ones you can raise to your county attorney.

    8. The New Normal*

      I would REALLY love for the county Department of Public Health or CDC to be notified of this plan. Because I cannot imagine them approving it!

      1. Helena*

        Eh, I wouldn’t expect a response. Our county is doing all-virtual because “having kids in person in school is unsafe”, even for kids with disabilities that require in-person support as reasonable accommodation. However, the county is simultaneously offering in-school “virtual learning support” for a very large fee. My many, many attempts to reach out to any and all state- and federal-level agencies have failed. I got form letters back from my Representative and Senators (along with requests for donations to their re-election campaigns.)

  4. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    This is just… such a shitty thing to do. Like legitimately terrible. This is of no benefit to the kids, the Library employees, and of limited benefit to the county workers using the Library as a daycare. Because make no mistake, that is what this is. There will be limited learning happening, and the Library employees will be spending most of their time just keeping the kids corralled, let alone getting them to focus or learn anything.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Yeah, that’s one of our chief worries. What 5 year old will be able to do their virtual schooling without adult supervision and assistance?

      1. Cascadia*

        none. As someone who works in a school, the answer to your question is no 5 year olds are capable of doing anything without adult supervision and assistance.

        1. Caliente*

          And lets not forget the kids in need of assistance! My 12 yo has focus issues and needs to be redirected throughout the day AND assisted/prompted, etc. with various work.

          1. M*

            My bf works as a SPED para. In the spring, during our lockdown order, his school was still open in the capacity that this proposed library plan, except that all the childcare workers there were licensed for that type of work. He had a terribly tough time with getting the kids to focus on their work, let alone stay 6 feet apart and wear their masks. Not the kids’ fault, of course, because it was a weird situation and predicament for all involved, but my point is that, even with proper licensing and acknowledgement of the hurdles involved, it’s not just as easy as parking a kid in front of a computer or iPad and letting them do their thing. And that’s WITHOUT even getting into the issues with legality of this sort of “camp”.

        2. Nobby Nobbs*

          Not quite correct. IME they’re perfectly capable of picking their noses and wiping somewhere inappropriate without any adult assistance at all!

        3. Third or Nothing!*

          My 3 year old can get dressed all by herself. And feed the dog. And get her own snacks. But something tells me she’d really struggle to do virtual learning all by herself even in a few years, although you can bet that little firecracker would try.

        4. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

          They are exceptionally good at sharing germs. My 3 year old son and my 4 year old nephew are in the same Early Childhood Special Education preschool classroom. My sister-in -law and I agree that the kids in the class must lick each other’s eyes as a form of secret handshake every time the teacher and two parapros are looking in the wrong direction and that was pre-COVID.

        5. Zombeyonce*

          I’m sorry to tell you that you’re completely wrong. My 4 year old has proven that if you fall asleep on the couch, she can watch hours of Octonauts on Netflix without any supervision and find the button to play the next episode all by herself, all without making enough noise to wake you up.

          Though staying in a seat long enough to anything productive is sadly out of her reach without constant reminders from adults.

      2. Midwest writer*

        To add on here: Guidelines for kindergarteners doing online learning max out at about 45 minutes of active learning. So you are supposed to … just entertain the kids all day? Expect them to read quietly? Play with toys that you then have to sanitize daily? This just seems to ignore all of the realities of why school is so hard to do in person right now. (Says the wife of a teacher and a mom from a state that pretty much is requiring in-person schooling.)

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Tell that to my school district, which has a full (9 a.am. to 3 p.m.) schedule for all grades starting at preschool. Sure, there are breaks in the schedule, but lots of places are requiring way more than 45 minutes for kindergarten.

          Which is almost worse. Getting a bunch of kids to play legos and color and play games without killing each other is probably easier than getting them to sit in front of their laptops for way longer than developmentally appropriate.

          1. Midwest writer*

            Ugh, that stinks. And is, like you said, not developmentally appropriate. To be fair, my kids’ district hasn’t set those guidelines (and my kids started back, normal schedule, yesterday), but I have seen them posted from a few different sources from around the country.

          2. Glitsy Gus*

            Yeah, the structure of school really isn’t great for the littles, especially if they don’t have big playgrounds. I used to be a substitute teacher in big city schools, so were talking multiple story buildings with really small play yards. There just isn’t space to let the kiddos out as much as they need, that play yard needs to be used by everyone, so the kids get their two recesses and that’s it.

            I learned pretty quick that ’round about every half hour or so, having a “dance break” did wonders for keeping Kindergartners and first graders with it enough to make it through until pick up time. I even started bringing my own CD & player, just in case. There was Chicken Dance Break, Snoopy Dance Break, Hokey Pokey, Rubber Ducky, and a couple extra so I could change it up.

      3. LizM*

        Kindergarten is as much about socialization as it is about learning. My 5 year old can handle maybe 20 min of zoom before he wants to get up and move around. If he had other 5 year olds and they were feeding off each other’s energy, it’d be pure chaos.

  5. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    I worked for an organization that provided similar services as part of their core mission, and all I can say is that this is a liability disaster waiting to happen. One of those children WILL get lost, injured (via an accident of a kid being a kid), harmed (by another kid or an unaffiliated adult; child on child abuse is a thing, especially when you have a large group of kids with a big spread of ages where the staff does not know the children) and it will be deemed to be your fault. You are all unfortunately likely to be named in a lawsuit if this happens, and depending specifically as to what happens, charges of child abuse or neglect may be pressed.

    If you have any personal assets that could be taken in a suit (a home, etc.,) a spouse whose job could be jeopardized, children at home who are reliant on your care, or plans to continue working for many more years, get the heck out of this situation before it ruins your life.

    When the poop hits the fan, the county will scapegoat the front line staff and not take any responsibility for their poor decision making. I’m sorry.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      If my child was injured, and I was forced to use the non-licensed service because I worked for the County, then I would sue the county hard! This is a delicious lawsuit dinner for any lawyer.

      1. Yarrow*

        That’s what’s wild to me! Where are the county’s lawyers?? How on earth did it get to this point without someone saying “whoa whoa whoa, how is this supposed to work? You can’t do some of these things.”

      2. Lawerly*

        I wouldn’t say “delicious”, but I’d feel fully justified in my lawsuit because the county should not have created this ‘program’ and employees not certified or licensed should not agree to provide care for vulnerable humans. “Agree” isn’t fair, but the person who has no ability to refuse is the child.

        I’d be so shocked if this arrangement had been accurately described to parents. A county government would be hideously ill-advised to instruct parents “Surrender your kids to unlicensed daycare or be fired!” I’d feel even more justified suing the county that lured the parents in with a legitimate-sounding description like “County-sponsored supervised virtual learning center, conveniently located in the local public library.”

    2. Lady Meyneth*


      As hard as it is to decide to quit with the job market as it is, it’s honestly the very best alternative if this plan goes foward. This could legitimately ruin somebody’s life.

      1. emmelemm*

        Not to mention that beyond all the legal and financial nonsense that would happen if a kid gets seriously hurt in any way, the LW/other staff who were “in charge” via this plan would undoubtedly feel terrible and guilty, even though they were forced into an impossible situation through no fault of their own.

    3. I like stripes*

      As someone who worked at a YMCA camp as a teen I can say losing a child/child wandering off is something that still haunts me. I had a ten year old wander away from my group and my co-leader was supposed to do a head count but didn’t. I didn’t double check, but I should have. Did an eyeball check, thought she was there. She wandered down the hall and the director found her on one of her surveys of the camps. Shut down the whole entire camp 5-13 year olds to show me and the other counselors a lesson. It was years ago and still haunts me today. Ten year olds shouldn’t wander off but they do. What happens when a five year old just walks themselves out the building? Are they going to post staff at each of the entrances to make sure that doesn’t happen? Lock them up? Clearly no one with any childcare experience is making these decisions because we know what happens when you don’t follow protocol.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I used to get lost at my school, with teachers supervising who knew me and probably ought to have caught on to where I liked to sneak off to. An unaffiliated library with people who were not trained and weren’t familiar with me/kids like me would have stood no chance at keeping me contained.

        (I also would maul other kids, but that’s a whole different can of worms.)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            We got them at our library. They are about 3-4 feet long. They live outside. I can just see one kid picking it up and showing the others. What. a. mess.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              What kinds? As the kid who picked up snakes to show the others, and was not very good about holding them in the correct way, I have strong opinions on what sort of snakes are more bitey than others.

      2. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        There’s no age limit to a child wandering off.

        It’s happened to us at Scouting / camping events. One was called away by his mother who arrived early and didn’t think to tell anyone. Man, we searched the entire school yard for a long time before we figured that out.

        At a camp, one kid wandered off to find his sibling and mom at another section of the same large camp and he told someone who was supposed to tell someone (we had a patrol system) instead of an adult. The first someone was a poor choice because he told no one. We nearly had the camp – about 800 people – on lockdown to find him. And these were not little kids – these were 11-14 year olds where we were trying to instill as sense of team and responsibility.

        There is a serious lack of thinking here: surely, library workers could be put to better use elsewhere. This really hammers home how little they think of this profession.

        1. Absurda*

          “This really hammers home how little they think of this profession.”

          Well, on average, library workers are predominantly female so of course they are the natural choice for providing free daycare. /sarcasm

          I went to library school and have an MLIS. I learned a lot of incredible skills there, but none of them pertained to childcare.

          1. whingedrinking*

            Now, now, let’s be fair – these are the same kinds of people who hideously undervalue the work of teachers, especially in early childhood education!
            (I will still never forget the time I heard a male lawyer sneering that he wasn’t afraid of his opposing counsel, an older woman, because “look at her, she’s a kindergarten teacher!” It’s like, dude, you clearly do not know that kindergarten teachers are made of cast iron.)

      3. Third or Nothing!*

        I also worked at a YMCA summer camp as a teen and had a similar experience. Protocol was always two counselors with any group of kids, but one day during a field trip to a local waterpark I found myself somehow supervising two different pools full of our 5 & 6 year old campers. That was extremely stressful but I had no way to contact my coworkers to get some help so I just kept running between the pools and scanning for each and every kid to make sure they were all still there. And then one wasn’t. And I panicked, as any 18 year old would. Called a lifeguard for help, the whole nine yards. And then from the direction of the restrooms, an adult YMCA staff member comes sauntering up with the missing kid who apparently needed a bathroom break and didn’t bother to inform anyone that she was taking her. Until the day I gave birth to my daughter, I never felt such raw fear as I did that day when I thought something had happened to one of my precious charges (who I loved dearly).

        It’s unconscionable that the county bigwigs are trying to put that level of responsibility on the shoulders of library staff.

        1. Mama Bear*

          Losing your own child is one kind of fear. Losing someone else’s child (had some teens wander off on a trip once) is a whole other level of terror.

        2. I like stripes*

          I’m sorry you also had a bad YMCA camp counselor experience. I learned that you ALWAYS ask what the ratios are at camps and make sure that counselors have plenty of backup for bathroom breaks. If your counselors have to call the director for a backup adult to keep ratio just so they can use the bathroom/take a child to the bathroom your system is broken.

      4. This is a Bad idea.*

        I win! A class of three-year-olds were informed that the next activity after washing up and using the bathroom was going to the library. (three floors above the classroom) three three-year-olds instead of returning to the group rug, left the classroom and were found on their own by the elevators. Yes, tons of fun explaining how you lost track of three-year-olds with 2 adults in the classroom.

    4. Lorax*

      Yeah, even if this is technically legal, liability is a huge issue. I don’t know if, as a function of a county government, the library is self-insured or not, but either way, such a significant change in operations would surely require some recalculation, and potentially a huge premium increase. I don’t know if there’s a way to find out if they’ve actually run those numbers — either in actual cash money paid out for insurance coverage and/or in increased risk of payouts due to litigation — but if not, someone numbers-minded within the government might be able to shut this down from a financial standpoint alone. Or maybe they already have, and they’re just willing to risk it.

      But honestly, my risk-management alarms are absolutely blaring reading this. COVID aside, how are they planning on handling other risks? Food allergies? Kids who need medications dispensed throughout the day? The risk of kid-on-kid violence or harassment? Or sexual assault (a real thing I’ve had to deal with in middle schools)? How are they handling pick-up so that they ensure kids aren’t going home with strangers/known abusers/folks with active restraining orders against them? Does all the staff working in the building undergo background checks? What about risk of damage of library facilities or equipment? What about severe weather contingencies? Do you have shelter space for all those extra bodies? An evacuation plan for little people who can’t just drive themselves to safety? How are they handling sensitive information about the kids? What’s the emergency medical plan if a kid gets hurt? What’s the communication strategy with parents if something should pop up throughout the day? If kids have access to the internet, how are they going to protect their online information or monitor their content access, especially if they bring their own devices? I mean, all of these questions get at worst-case scenarios, but that’s usually what you need to plan around, and it just… doesn’t seem like that’s happened here.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        I posted further down-thread, but just in case it gets buried–Letter Writer, if your county has a Risk Management officer or department, reach out to them. I was a public librarian in your state and our county Risk Manager would absolutely not have allowed this.

        1. Lorax*

          100% agree. This needs to be brought to the attention of the risk management officer, county attorneys, and whoever is in charge of handling insurance coverage. These folks understand risk, and you’re sitting on a potential powder keg.

          Another question to ask about: What’s the indemnification and legal protection situation like for employees? As noted above, if you don’t leave, you at least don’t want to be held personally responsible for a bad decision made by the organization. I’m no lawyer, but I doubt you can indemnify away all (or even most) of the risk in this specific scenario. But someone in county government should be trying their damnedest to protect the employees who would be tasked with carrying out this half-baked plan. Find out to what extent employees are covered by the organization’s insurance policy, what ISN’T covered, and what kind of waiver language/liability release language is being used to protect employees. Some specific things: Will the county/library system be paying for legal fees if an employee is named in a lawsuit? If so, to what extent/are there situations where legal fees would not be covered? What about damages awarded as the result of a lawsuit? Hopefully there’s a legal resource within the county that can spell out exactly what risk you’re undertaking personally and what protections are in place.

      2. President Porpoise*

        Also, special needs children and the wealth of assistance and regulations that go with their care?

      3. Mr. Shark*

        Wow, you bring up a ton of good questions that I wouldn’t have thought of, and obviously no one at the County level that planned this have thought of.

  6. Lynn*

    Also — this is my advice when companies are doing weird and dumb stuff, and it applies here:

    Email about it. Emails create evidence that conversations don’t. Also good are “as per our conversation at x date I wanted to remind you about y law” emails. And save those emails to an external source, like a hard drive.

    1. LizM*

      “I want to make sure we are on the same page. Based on our conversation on X date, you instructed me to do ABC new duties as part of my job. Please reply if you feel I captured this conversation wrong.”

      When liability is involved, you want a paper trail that you are not acting beyond the scope of your job.

      Use statements, not questions – this puts the onus on them to reply if you summarized incorrectly.

    2. Aglaia761*

      The commenters have all given you great advice. I wanted to point out that NC is a one party recording state. So I would recommend you record any meetings as backup and CYA.

      Also forget reaching out to the county…go straight to the state and report this.

    3. BadAmerica!NoBiscuit!*

      Yeah, an email like:

      Some items from the meeting on are still unclear. Please clarify:

      Who will be holding the liscence for child care for the facility?
      From what company will the required liability insurance be purchased, and what organization will be named as the primary insured? (County, Library Department, etc)
      Where will the epipen be stored?
      Which staff member will administrate the epipen and when will they be trained and certified?
      Where will medications be stored?
      Where will Schedule 1 and 2 medications be stored?
      Who will be responsible for administering medications and when will they be trained and certified?

      Just relentlessly go through the entire set of child care laws with specific questions that ask for accountability and action.

      Someone will see it and freak out. If Legal sees it the whole thing will disappear as if it was never a thing.

      1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

        This is an excellent list. I would also add asking about procedures in the event of sexual assault, and also will thorough updated background checks be done on everyone? Those ought to put the fear of liability god into them.

        1. Mama Bear*

          You can’t even volunteer at some churches without going through some sort of training and a background check. I can’t volunteer at my kid’s school without taking child abuse identification training every couple of years. Sounds like the county is asking OP and their coworkers to be less informed than a parent volunteer.

          I agree to start asking about these things. Ask about when CPR and First Aid training will be scheduled, too.

      2. Letter Writer*

        Thank you for this list. I might send this list to the Risk Management person when I contact them.

      3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I was thinking the same thing, and this is a very smart approach. In addition to the above, you can run down other safety considerations like:

        Who is going to be doing the headcounts, and how often? Where will children be signed in and out? Will we have a list of authorized persons who can pick a child up, or do we turn them over to whatever rando shows up at the library and asks to be given a kid? Who escorts the kids to the bathroom? What about kids who need help toileting? Who helps them wipe? Are we mandatory reporters now? Will we be trained on that? How are we supposed to break up physical fights? Are we supposed to get between two middle schoolers and get our nose broken, or are we just supposed to let them hammer on each other until they get tired? If a kid falls unconscious, should we attempt CPR without training, or should we just let them lay there and call 911? What about smaller injuries, like a bloody nose? What do we do then? Are we going to get first aid and CPR training, or should we just wing it based on what we’ve seen on TV?

        Also. oh. my. God.

        People just assume childcare is something anyone can do. Dunning Kreuger effect. The more ignorant you are of what a job requires, the more confident you are that you can just do it.

        1. papertiger*

          It just speaks to how devalued so-called women’s work is in the US. I’m sure anyone at the table making the decision to implement this plan was either a man or had no children.

          1. Aglaia761*

            I don’t know. There are plenty of women out there who believe the “Universal Truth” that women are natural caregivers and should automatically want to have and take care of children no matter what.

          2. Letter Writer*

            Our county manager is a woman, but she did say she’s “conservative” about things, so…

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          When I worked at a daycare in college, we were required to ask for ID for any adult coming to pick up a child and check that ID against the list of approved adults. The number of parents (usually dads) who yelled at 19 year old me for asking for ID before storming out to go get their wallet out of the car still baffles me to this day. That they expected me to just hand their baby to anybody off the street claiming to be them without verifying it first…

      4. Bubble teacher*

        Not to be too pessimistic, but I’ve sent a lot of these lists of questions in the past few weeks and the response has been.
        1- It’s in “the plan” (it’s not)
        2- Ask your principal (no one’s told them anything either)
        3- Silence.

        Still, it feels good to send it and maybe someone will listen.

        1. BadAmerica!NoBiscuit!*

          The best way to address it is just to be relentless, but with the tone that you are trying to solve these issues.

          So to address “It’s in the Plan” I would say, “I was unable to find it in the plan, please point me to the procedure/policy in question”

          Responding to “ask your principal” I would say, “I asked Mr. Darcy and he didn’t have that piece of information. I’m CCing him so that we can both get the information.”

          For silence: I’m emailing to follow up on X, Y and Z. I would like to confirm that there is certification for X required position or that there will be no such certified person.

          Every time I got silence I would also CC a wider / higher range of people. “Hi team, I’m having difficulty getting an answer on this issue. Since of course we need to be prepared with this legally required certification, can anyone tell me at what date that certified person will be on site?”

          Yeah, it’s annoying and won’t generate good will, but it will present as an attempt to play along but make sure that we do everything legally. It’s REALLY hard to push back on that in email without setting yourself up for a lawsuit. Someone will generally crack and admit there isn’t a plan.

          Once you have that in writing, you can go to the media, the board, the mayor, whatever higher authority has the power to intervene.

          1. Wherehouse Politics*

            To hell with good will at this point. This needs to be actively shut down by any means (though through any/all legal means on hand.

  7. Jimming*

    Wow. Definitely figure out the laws. If you can demonstrate it’s illegal it’ll be easier to get the public on your side and push back as a group. I can’t believe the parents are ok with “drop my kid at the library for 10 hours a day”

    Good luck OP. Keep us updated.

    1. LQ*

      I would expect that the parents are people who are desperate for any kind of child care support and are afraid of losing their jobs because they don’t have child care and their other option is to leave their kids at home alone or quit their jobs. This sounds entirely like something parents would say yes to if this is an option.

      I’ll bet it was pitched as our counties excellent librarians will help your kids with their online schooling for free so you’ll still be able to work.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        They may be able to spin it if they focus on the safety issues. Commenters above have already come up with some pretty scary scenarios, even setting COVID aside.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I would bet cash money that the parents haven’t been told anything other than “we will provide an on-site learning environment for your student.” Or if they *have* been told anything, it is painted all over in BS like “staff will be appropriately trained” where the county is planning that appropriately trained = a single sheet of paper with a few bullet points.

    3. Sparrow*

      If they’re confident it’s illegal, I imagine there’s some kind of governmental agency they can involve, too.

    4. White rabbit*

      Given how many people left their kids (of all ages) at the POOL last summer where my teen was a lifeguard, I don’t doubt that there are parents who would do this.

    5. PhysicsTeacher*

      I’m guessing this will be pushed on parents as “Now you have no excuse to take the expanded FMLA under the FCCRA because there is available childcare for you, so come to work or be fired.”

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I wonder if there’s any consideration for *approriateness* of childcare. Could an employer say that because they made available a conference room for children to be in unsupervised they were providing childcare?

    6. Aisling*

      Librarian here – tons of parents already drop off kids for the entire day at the public library. You see it every school break and during summer. As long as they’re older (usually 12+), there’s not much we can do about it. But kindergartners? This whole thing plays in to the misguided idea that public libraries are childcare providers anyway, and this library will have to deal with that perception for the rest of their days if this were enacted.

      1. WhatAMaroon*

        From context clues I’m assuming the older kids aren’t just bookworms who sit and read at the library all day quietly but are somehow disruptive? Because I was definitely one of those kids who got dropped off at the library but that’s because I liked to study in the quiet or read whatever books struck my fancy and I don’t remember ever feeling like that wasn’t ok. But maybe I’m just now as an adult realizing that wasn’t super cool

  8. Dave*

    If any of your co-workers know someone with code enforcement (bonus points if it outsourced by the local municipality) to have that angle reviewed? Fire codes also come to mind. I don’t know how many people are normally allowed in a library but you are basically turning a library into school or at best a day camp so there might be some different code requirements to be met.

    Another route would be to ask a ton of procedural questions such as how do we handle a suspected COVID case? Helping a local school set up their procedures there is a lot involved with this answer including quarantining rules for those that travel (state dependent of course). This won’t solve the problem but it should slow down the implementation while working multiple angles.

    If you do have library donors or community leaders that could apply pressure this would be the time I would call in my favors quietly without my name being used. (And remember sometimes it isn’t who you know but who your friends know.)

    Best of luck!

    1. Radical Edward*

      Oh my goodness yes, building codes and evacuation plans (fire drills, tornado drills, whatever you might need). I have shut down a few questionable proposals over the years using this angle. Also, specifically with children – think of bathroom access. Both numbers and types. Does your state have any requirements around that depending on the ages or numbers of children/people in the building? Does it matter that this isn’t an ‘event’, but rather an ongoing (by the county’s own admission) semi-permanent operating plan?

      I am not sure if OSHA would be the right place to call in this case, but it might be a start.

      1. Mockingjay*

        State Department of Health. They are the ones who enforce OSHA, state, and in some cases, county/local statutes.

        Also (IANAL), would a call to the state’s Attorney General be useful? Where the hell do you start with something like this?

        (I’d just leak a description of this mess to a news channel…)

        1. Jackalope*

          The good part about this is that it’s contacting a state organization so NOT the county level where you’re less likely to get any traction based on your situation.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            And you can position it as “I want to make sure we’re doing this correctly” rather than “I assume that when they learn what we’re planning to do, they’ll shut it down immediately.”

        2. QED*

          I don’t live in NC, but in my state, this would definitely be an issue for the state AG! If you go on the website, there’s a contact page with different phone numbers and also an online form. If you explain the situation and ask them to keep your name confidential, they should do so.

      2. PedsPT*

        What if a child needs medication during the day? Who is responsible to administer? Where will it be secured safely? Can kids keep inhalers on their person?
        Are you going to accommodate kids with special needs? Nonverbal? Impaired mobility? Not toilet trained ( which is not necessarily covered by age). Has all staff gone through background checks? Have you had training to recognize signs of abuse? Will you fall under mandated reporters ? There are so many questions and concerns…

        1. Take Six*

          The mandated reporter question is an interesting point too! If a child shows up one day with bruises, or says something concerning about their home life is anyone trained to address it? Are you legally required to report it?

          1. Yet Another Librarian*

            I have worked at public libraries (not in NC) where all library staff members, even those whose job descriptions did not specifically include working with children, were considered mandated reporters and had to undergo mandated reporter training (which just included a 30 minute video, but that’s a different issue.) So it’s possible (but by no means certain) they have already had this training.

        2. pope suburban*

          This. There is *so much* that this harebrained proposal doesn’t cover. My agency does licensed child care, and boy howdy, are the preschool’s rules different than ours for summer camps. And even our rules for summer camps are more stringent than what this county manager appears to be proposing for this virtual school. They’ve failed to consider the bulk of the elements in a successful, safe, licensed child care program. We wouldn’t sign off on a one-week summer camp that was this shoddy. How can any of these people be expecting this to work out?!

          Actually, I suspect I know; they’re counting on people being desperate and they may well be underestimating, for a variety of reasons, the public-health risks posed by CV-19. But that doesn’t mean that I or anyone else, most especially LW and their coworkers, have to truck with that nonsense. I hope this gets shot down in the safest possible way for everyone involved.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            The lingo is slaying me. A camp? Are there archery lessons in the YA section? Perhaps swimming instruction over by the periodicals?
            I don’t think they can call it a camp.

            1. pope suburban*

              The choice of “camp” wasn’t accidental, either. We’ve been keeping our programming separate as always, but other organizations in the region have tried to fly under the radar as outdoor summer-camp programming despite not being remotely that kind of thing. I wouldn’t be shocked if these people are attempting a similar dodge with vague language like “day camp” or “virtual learning center” or some such. Some folks seem to think that no one’s ever going to check up on them and see what they’re doing.

            2. Metadata minion*

              Academic, indoor-oriented camps are a thing. This is emphatically not what’s being proposed here, but “camp” doesn’t have to mean outdoors.

      3. I'm just here for the comments*

        This. Also, is there a Fire Marshall’s office you can contact for inspection of the facilities? Requirements for childcare places may be different than those for the general public places, and the library may not meet those standards to function as a “camp” or childcare center. They may even have the power to shut down a building until compliance is met (or, you know, the plan is abandoned).

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Here we have an occupancy rating, x number of people allowed in a given space. It varies with the size of the space. It’s part of fire code.

    2. Ranon*

      Fire marshal and/or building code enforcement would often be the one enforcing occupancy limits/ change of occupancy/ fire safety. And yes, childcare/ education is generally considered a different use than the one libraries are designed for from a fire standpoint (we want it to be really easy for young kids to get out of buildings in case of fire)

      1. I'm just here for the comments*

        I should’ve kept reading for your comment before commenting, and yes, anyone can call to report a complaint or concerns.

    3. SweetestCin*

      In my state (not NC) K-12 buildings fall under a particular AHJ that public libraries do not. It has been a while, but at one point, you had to go through a very specific process to bring the AHJ into the equation when turning a non-K12 space (so a public library) into a K-12 space. Things that were perfectly allowable in a non K-12 space (think construction types, sprinklers, fire ratings of doors, etc.) were suddenly a hard NO in a K-12 space, meaning “You can’t do this without significant construction”.

      And that’s not even going into the regulations and such having to do with the day to day of a childcare facility.

  9. Stay safe, y'all!*

    You should consider contacting a local investigative reporter, if your town still has one. There are so many problems on so many levels, and the public should know what is happening.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I was thinking the same thing. County employees are paid by taxes, so the public has every right to know what’s happening. This just sounds awful no matter which way you slice it…

          1. Not So NewReader*

            You go, LW!!
            You follow half the advice here, not only will you be super busy but you are going to knock this one right out of the park.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      In my state, I’d contact our public radio station – they do a surprising amount of investigative reporting.

    3. Threeve*

      Absolutely. I bet even a small amount of digging would uncover some really shady motivations behind this absurd, unsafe plan.

    4. AnyaT*

      This. If the county is shutting down libraries to the public so they can operate as a private (free?) daycare service for govt employees, I’d think the hue and cry from residents would be heard in the next state over. Local elected councillors would probably get more calls about this than all other issues combined. The public pressure to end this would be immense.

      1. I work there too*

        To be clear, the library isn’t being shut down for this purpose. We’re already closed to the public, this what they’ve decided we’ll be doing while we’re closed.

        1. Undercover Lady Lawyer*

          It wasn’t the motivation for closing the library but once it becomes a childcare facility the question becomes why is it safe for that use but not safe for the public to use the library as a library.

          1. I work there too*

            Oh, absolutely. I only mentioned it because I’m confident that the county managers thought process was “well the libraries are closed, so the librarians clearly are not doing anything all day”.

            1. e271828*

              Every librarian I know has been frantically prepping their libraries to re-open to the public (in some cases with profound physical rearrangement of the space) while providing library services like curbside pickup/book checkout, devising and providing virtual programming, etc. None of them are sitting around doing nothing.

              Library staff in this situation may need to communicate how busy they already are more loudly to both the county management and to the community? I assume you’re doing some version of all this and have numbers on how many patrons are utilizing the library although the physical building is not available?

              1. A. S.*

                Our public library closed for a while. Now it’s running a curbside service which is great. Place books on hold, when they are ready drive to library and pop your trunk, the librarian brings them out and puts them in. It’s been a lifesaver for my bibliophile kids.

    5. moql*

      If you don’t still have a local paper, maybe try someone at the nearest large paper? I know in my state there are Report For America reporters who are based in my city but have done articles on a rural area 6 hours away that has no local coverage. It does look like there are a few in NC, including one who is specializing in economic impacts of corona:


    6. Lyudie*

      Yes! Letter Writer, even if you are not in the Raleigh area, consider contacting the Independent Weekly. I suspect they’d be very interested in investigating this.

      1. also in NC*

        the independent and the N&O would be totally over this, agreed! i would also suggest the fayetteville observer because of their large readership base (they circulate in all the counties adjacent to cumberland).

    7. Karen R*

      I agree with this. And it might help to emphasize that this is only for the children of county employees. With so many parents desperate for childcare, providing a tax-paid free perq to government workers is unlikely to go over well with the general public and this is election season. It’s taking the low road to point that out, but your options are limited.

      Also, I did a quick Google, and I see at least one NC city (Goldsboro) doing much the same thing with their Parks & Rec department – children 5-12, city employees only at some sites (though everyone at other sites), even calling it a “Virtual Learning Camp” so there may be some state-level initiative going on. If nothing else, you might want to contact people who work at one of these “camps” elsewhere and try to suss out what sorts of issues are coming up. Even if you ultimately can’t stop it, better to go in with as much knowledge as possible.

  10. CatPerson*

    I wonder if this scheme was vetted by the county’s legal department. I would think that there are all kinds of liability issues that would put the county at risk!

    1. Letter Writer*

      That’s what I wonder, too. The county is opening itself up to huge liability here, and also dumping liability on the library and its staff. It’s maddening.

      1. Syfygeek*

        I want to know which county so bad. I know it’s not any of the ones around me, but speaking as a born here, live here NC’er some places in NC just make you shake your head.

      2. Ominous Adversary*

        I can guarantee you it was not, and that some higher up decided not to tell Legal because they’d just say no .

    2. EPLawyer*

      I am betting not. Someone in the City Manager’s office decided this was a brilliant idea and just ran with it. Daycare or Virtual learning environment — doesn’t matter what you call it, librarians are awesome but they are not daycare workers OR teachers.

      What hit me — they can’t open as a library while this fiasco is running. The County is saying we can’t keep your jobs, but we won’t let you do them either because we want you to be daycare providers so we can make other county people do their jobs.

      And kids totally WILL NOT wear their masks and socially distance all the time. They are kids. If your plan requires kids to not be kids to work, then your plan has already failed.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This is what I was thinking: Nobody has objected because it’s absolutely being done under the radar.

      2. Jadedreamer*

        Guarantee it was a person with no childcare experience who dreamed this up. And also guessing that the librarians are primarily female.
        “The gals at the library can take care of the kids. They love kids right?!”

      3. I work there too*

        The meeting in which they announced it was a total farce. The county manager specifically said that we won’t be opening for the foreseeable future because it’s too dangerous and then turned around and said that since we aren’t providing our usual services, this is how we make it up.

        1. Elaine Benes*

          wowwwwwwww. I hope y’all update us after this goes public/you get the state involved because this is (for all the reasons everyone’s mentioned) one of the most batshit ideas I’ve ever heard.

  11. Ominous Adversary*

    Unionizing is a long-term solution. They need media attention and legal advice, right now. The county is breaking the law and putting the children and the librarians at risk.

    1. who knows today*

      Yes I thought that was extremely strange advice to lead with. By the time they are done unionizing the issue will be moot! Plus now we know LW is in NC. Unionizing there is basically impossible in 2020.

      1. Ominous Adversary*

        “Protected” here means that if they are disciplined or fired for standing up for themselves, a few years down the line they might get a favorable decision from the NLRB. Right now, what they need is immediate action to stop this nonsense.

    2. Brett*

      North Carolina bans collective bargaining by all public sector employees. Although unionizing is technically legal, without collective bargaining the unions are very weak.

  12. Exhausted Trope*

    Unfortunately, this is true. It’s a horrible, disaster-filled situation waiting to implode.
    OP, I feel for you. I agree with That Girl, get out now.

  13. Glomarization, Esq.*

    Leak this to the press, and also file a complaint with whatever regulatory agencies would cover unlicensed schools and childcare facilities.

    There is not enough time for a unionizing effort to address this. But the more the public and the regulatory agencies know about it, the sooner it will be shut down.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Yeah, I’d love to unionize, but I don’t think we have enough time for that. The county wants this camp to start ASAP. Thank you for the advice.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Just my opinion, but I think you will make out better this way than with a union. Again, just my thought.

    2. rageismycaffeine*

      This. OP, you said you’re in North Carolina – please tip off NC Policy Watch. They do excellent investigative journalism and they’ll jump on this.

      1. virago*

        Excellent idea!

        Joe Killian sounds like the person to get in touch with:
        Twitter: JoekillianPW

        His work as investigative reporter “takes a closer look at government, politics and policy in North Carolina and their impact on the lives of everyday people.”

      2. virago*

        Excellent idea!

        Joe Killian sounds like the person to contact. His work as investigative reporter (his official title) “takes a closer look at government, politics and policy in North Carolina and their impact on the lives of everyday people.”

        joe (at) ncpolicywatch dot com
        (919) 863-2402

        Good luck!

  14. alibi*

    This feels REALLY gendered. Librarians = stereotypical womens job = all women can provide childcare = all women MUST provide childcare = since childcare is such a natural woman thing to do, they don’t need additional training or support.

    I honestly feel someone was like “we need people to provide childcare. …Where are all the women? Oh right, librarians. They’ll do it.”

    1. Mama Bear*

      A better solution might be to ask Parks and Rec, who probably already have camps/programs for kids that they would otherwise run in non-covid times.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Our county is using the schools themselves and the business that runs the before and after school program is providing the virtual learning environment. Which still is FRAUGHT with problems. Like the littles won’t have to wear masks except in hallways. They will be pods and only around other people in those pods. Until they carpool with their best friend down the street who is not in their pod, oh and their older brother is not in that pod because its by ages. So yeah, one infected kid and half the program could be down.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Our county, too. And the equity issues are astounding, too. Apparently it’s safe to have a few kids and adults in the building, but instead of providing in-person public school with unionized teachers to the highest-need kids with those spots, we’re providing a place for middle class kids whose parents can pay the fees to be supervised by lower-paid non-union child care staff (and putting the COVID risk on those staff who are largely women of color) doing distance learning? It’s worse in every possible way.

        2. The New Normal*

          Our county shut this down. We had to work to get permission for teachers to bring their own children onto campus. The only way it was allowed was by requiring each teacher to sign an agreement that their kids will stay in the classroom, that the classroom is not shared, and there will be zero socializing or interacting with others on campus. They want family groups to stay isolated together. As a classified employee, even though I am the only one in my office, I am not allowed to bring my school-age child with me.

    2. Letter Writer*

      Oh yeah, librarianship is a highly gendered profession. Even the way the county manager addressed us felt like it used gendered stereotypes about library workers in order to justify the childcare idea.

      1. Sara without an H*

        It’s also a “helping” profession. We librarians luuuuv to help, right? So we’ll gladly “help,” even when we’re not qualified and the work is dangerous. Right? Right?

        Letter Writer, you have my sympathy.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Libraries are also resource sinks. They’re always at risk when budgets are tight and always on the line when somebody starts worrying about how a service will justify its own cost. There is no way to make a library profitable so when somebody higher up is looking to cut costs, the library will always be in the headlights.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Which is absolutely ridiculous. Libraries provide valuable services! Ours has a children’s play/learn area, genealogy services, a makerspace, rental spaces for parties or meetings, a couple of video game stations, and even a native rooftop garden, in addition to all the wonderful books you could check out. In the Before Times, it was our go-to place for activities outside the house during bad weather because, well, it was free and we couldn’t afford membership at the fancy indoor play spaces. Even without all those cool extras, libraries are such an important community resource.

        Hey LW, thanks for all the stuff you do to make your community a better place. Libraries are awesome and I’m so sorry this is happening to y’all.

        1. Letter Writer*

          Thank you, I really appreciate it. This situation has made me reconsider working in public libraries in the future.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Oh hon that breaks my heart. I wish I could give you a hug, or at least make you a nice cup of tea. You’re in a ridiculous situation that should never have happened in the first place and I hate that the important work libraries do for your community is so undervalued by the people in charge. It’s right up there with nature preserves/parks and museums, at least in my opinion.

          2. Greyscale*

            If it helps, my 18 month old LOVES to read. Before the pandemic, we would go to the library 2-3 times a week because all she wanted to do was hang out in the storytime area. She’d cry when we left. Now the library is doing curbside checkout which is a GODSEND because we’d read all the books in our house within 3 days.

            Thank you for choosing a job that’s so important to your community. I’m sorry that some bozos in the government don’t see and appreciate the work that you do. We see and appreciate you.

          3. Bibliothecarial*

            Aw, friend, I’m so sorry for your situation. I hope you can get out of that system and into a good one, because libraries really can be fun and wonderful places to work. I’ve been working in public libraries for ~10 years now and have worked in some unhealthy organizations and some truly great organizations, with good managers, directors, and a good board who stand up for the staff. (That makes all the difference.) This is the first time I’ll tell someone to run in a library – run out of there, don’t walk. Sending hope, resilience, and good thoughts your way.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          I think the fact that libraries have all this stuff probably makes them seem like a good spot for this kind of camp, but what the county folks pushing this may not realize is that these spaces are generally not set up for this kind of group care and it may create huge problems. Elementary and middle school kids who are each with a parent or caregiver are a whole different ballgame than large groups of kids in terms of the kinds of spaces, furniture, supplies, etc. that are needed. Especially without trained staff to supervise and organize all the activities, the level of destruction that a camp is likely to cause for the facilities is pretty significant. Not to mention that library stacks are a terrible physical layout in which to supervise kids who are bored and inclined to mischief.

          “Hey, they have a makerspace, it’ll be great!” does not mean it will work to dump dozens of kids into that space without adequate staff, training, and resources.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            (Not that you were suggesting it would be a good idea, Third or Nothing! Your talk of resources just made me think about it.)

      2. FuzzFrogs*

        Yep. Libraries are constantly under pressure, as well, to BE the resources the local government no longer wants to fund elsewhere, or has never provided. Libraries are often de facto job centers, homeless shelters, etc.–it’s a perfect storm of sexism, a belief that we have “easy” jobs and we need to work more to justify ourselves, and the nebulous banner modern libraries fall under of being “community centers,” with the idea that we’ll do whatever our community needs of us.

        People expect us to have fax machines, weed whackers to rent, video games, computers, internet, language lessons, after-school programming every single day, dedicated research staff that can report on the soil conditions in Jerusalem, doctors, book value appraisers, 3d printers, sewing machines, book mending services, free printing, fully qualified teachers, free tutoring services, every issue of Consumer Reports ever published, and some sort of magical, print book with every piece of information known to man. And that’s just to name things I have personally witnessed people asking for. Nothing we can provide is good enough, because we have to provide whatever it is they want, or we categorically fail. And all we’re armed with is a shiny master’s degree in finding books.

        1. Alice*

          People expect us to have fax machines, weed whackers to rent, video games, computers, internet, language lessons, after-school programming every single day, dedicated research staff that can report on the soil conditions in Jerusalem, doctors, book value appraisers, 3d printers, sewing machines, book mending services, free printing, fully qualified teachers, free tutoring services, every issue of Consumer Reports ever published, and some sort of magical, print book with every piece of information known to man.

          That’s so accurate. And I’m not a librarian, just a tired PhD student increduled by all that librarians have done and continue to do for me and my community.

          Only to be thanked with this? Oh hell no.

          I am so sorry.

    4. AndersonDarling*

      That was my thought. The decision makers are labeling librarians as bored mommies, and not skilled professionals. No one would consider this an option for the parks department. “Hey, your maintenance staff isn’t doing anything, so they can watch these 20 kids.”

      1. Mazzy*

        I usually err on the side of things not being gendered when I read letters, but I agree this feels gendered. And the worst part is, that stereotype is just wrong. A very close relative whose anonymity I will protect by not getting specific was a librarian, and he was not the type of person you’d want to leave your kids with. He was a great person, but he was very old school and strict and would probably have the kids taking off their masks and doing calisthenics on the lawn. He was better with the older people, but kids? Maybe for short periods of time, but he was not a caregiver type. He sometimes bought single friends from the library over on holidays, and while all of them were nice, you could tell many were socially awkward and very shy. So as an adult, I had to put effort into getting them to talk. That was fine, but I could not picture them working with children all day!

        1. Student*

          It’s clearly gendered. You know what else is down during COVID, beyond library use? Every dang thing except IT needs.

          Have the parking-citation officers step in to give childcare. Surely the county’s need for childcare is greater than their need for parking enforcement right now. Or maybe some of the county accountants could step in, since there’s less cash flow to manage. Or excess firefighters, since call volume is down in most spots.

          Or, in this case, the actual schools could serve their intended function.

          But, no. They’re looking for woman-dominated profession to provide daycare to other people’s kids. Because they assume that women inherently, magically know all about every childcare issue, and because no group of male professionals would tolerate this for a moment. If they took this crazy idea to the firefighters or accountants the parking meter police, they would whine and moan and rage to the heavens to stop it. The county is depending on the librarians to roll over like good little baby-loving ladies to please everyone else at their own expense.

          1. Gumby*

            Pretty sure excess firefighters have been sent to CA and other states on this side of the country. I mean, if they have *any* experience with wildfires at all. (City firefighters are indeed different, I know.)

            1. Gumby*

              Sorry, not really your point.

              But also? I have a family member who is a firefighter (city not wildfires) and he is amazing with kids. Particularly in the 0 – 10 age range. In many ways he’s just a big kid himself. A very big one.

      2. Jo*

        I’m a public librarian elsewhere in NC. In my county, it is the Parks & Rec department that is providing the childcare for county workers.

    5. OyHiOh*

      To be accurate, *some* libraries have excellent Education departments and some of those Education departments may even have a certified teacher or two on staff.

      Still doesn’t make a library a “virtual learning camp” or whatever this county is saying. Reminds me of a Friday open thread a couple weeks ago phrased as “llama grooming” is technical and highly regulated but these tech kids seem to think if they call it something else, they don’t have to follow the regulations.

      Y and Boys and Girls Club are doing virtual learning day camp environments in my community. Difference, of course, is that they already have appropriately trained staff and are organized to manage that sort of situation.

    6. LizM*

      In our County, Parks and Rec provides before/after care during normal school years. Those programs are being re-tooled into childcare and virtual learning assistance for the children of essential workers, which would include some County employees.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        Not the same at all. You’re talking about re-tooling existing programs to employ existing qualified and trained staff to do work that is pretty similar to what they’ve been doing all along. And it’s an actual public service available to all.

        Is your county Parks and Rec also drafting its equipment maintenance mechanics and groundskeepers into running daycare service? Are your gardeners now doing a job they’ve never done, have no training or qualification let alone interest in doing, only doing it for other county workers and not the public, and straight up ignoring entire sections of laws regarding everything about paid child care from building and fire codes, professional qualifications and standards, licensing and insurance requirements?

        If that all is happening in your county, then you too should speak up against it. But I’m guessing that’s not at all what’s happening there, it’s just re-tooling an existing childcare program to handle increased volume and longer hours.

        1. boo bot*

          I don’t think LizM was suggesting it was the same thing, I understood the comment as illustrating that the responsible version of this involves modifying existing programs and employing experienced childcare workers.

          1. LizM*

            Yes, thank you boo bot. That’s what I meant.. I meant for this to nest under Mama Bear’s comment above.

    7. Absurda*

      This was my first thought as well, that this was gendered and they wouldn’t ask a predominantly male group to do this kind of work.

      Okay, no, tbh that wasn’t my first thought but my second thought. My first thought was “but what if you don’t like kids?” which would have been my first question to the county manager.

  15. Leap Day Highway*

    Ugh, and I thought my library employer was bad when they pulled out the “if you can’t find it in your heart to help people, consider a career change” line – but at least that was in the context of providing relatively normal library services!

    Alison, how would your advice change if this was in a state that bans public sector unions? We just got a limited authority for public sector unions here in Virginia this year, but there are still a couple other states that ban it outright.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As others have pointed out, unionizing is a longer-term option anyway … but the law that protects unions gives a lot of the same protections to employees acting as a group. But I think leaning hard on the legal angle, and the media one if it works, may be the strongest option.

      1. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

        Allison, the NLRA does not cover public employees at any level of government. Not even just Section 7 (which gives general rights for collective action). Postal Service employees are covered because…well, they just are but no one else is.

        1. AnxiousPorcupine*

          Came here to say this. The NLRA’s concerted action protections don’t apply to government employees.
          Agreeing with those who think this may not have been vetted by legal.

  16. Migrating Coconuts*

    This is a huge liability issue, and most likely illegal, no matter what the powers-that-be call it. You need to contact whatever department in your state licenses child care facilities. Someone will get hurt/sick and someone will sue the library system. It’s only a matter of time.

  17. AndersonDarling*

    The frightening thing is that was apparently discussed at many high levels and all those people agreed to it. (Probably because they assume all librarians are just mommies that want to play with kids all day.)
    I absolutely think that the public would want to hear about this and would also be outraged. Why do only county employees get to use this daycare service when it is being paid for by tax dollars? Why does the county get to bypass daycare/day camp laws? Why couldn’t any resident use the same script and open a “not a daycare” and “not supervise” children at their homes?
    This is a liability nightmare waiting to happen.

    1. doreen*

      Depending on exactly how it’s set up , “only county employees get to use this daycare service ” might not outrage people. NYC opened child care centers when the schools closed. The centers were located in schools, staffed by Dept of Education employees. They’re open to essential personnel, including those that do not work for the government , but they aren’t open to everyone. I haven’t heard any outrage.

      But that’s totally separate from using library personnel.

    2. We are still in a pandemic*

      The framing should be that with the librarians monitoring kids that I guess are suppose to be during online classes/homework while at an all day camp, the librarians can’t provide their defined services that the taxpayers have already paid for and can be provided. Since the librarians are providing computer passes, releasing print jobs, and doing youth programming, I guess this Is why the county officials don’t consider this to be a huge deviation from a library’s function in a distorted way.

      Notice they got very defensive when there were concerns raised about not being childcare. Maybe there are laws on requirements for camps. It may not be as strict as daycares, but there is likely some that the library can’t fill.

      Even though libraries are generally closed, almost all are providing remote services/programs and working on infrastructure projects that mean better services in the long run. Many are also providing curbside pickup and computer appointments.

      Libraries are still providing services and functioning albeit it’s different BECAUSE WE ARE STILL IN A PANDEMIC, which is why the argument that the county officials are having a hard time justifying keep positions is bunk. The line of thinking from higher ups is common in professions like this because they think enough staff will not make noice, that the library is a bonus, and not essential for a functioning society.

      The problem is that the higher ups saw a problem and came up with with a poor solution to kick the problem to someone else. I really hope the LW can get public pressure to shut this down. Otherwise, I doubt the county officials would concede on any suggestions.

      For some citizens, it should be because they are not getting services because of this scheme. For others, it’s that they are not given the same opportunity to get childcare as the county staff. I’m assuming the cost for the camp will be free or greatly less than the average childcare facility. For county officials who decided not to send their kids to school, this seems like a worse idea. Maybe the hope is that the staff quitting or taking significant time off will decide to send their kids to school? It’s still insane.

  18. Yet another Alison*

    This really speaks to how people do not value the training and experience required to work in either library services OR early childhood education.

    “Librarians just scan books and hand them out, early childhood educators just read books at circle time”


    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Well, of course they don’t. After all, those jobs are historically associated with women. :joins you in mad:

    2. Letter Writer*

      Yeah, it’s offensive to teachers, childcare providers, and librarians. We’re not interchangeable.

    3. Seal*

      You hit the nail on the head with this. As a librarian, I find it exhausting to have to constantly justify my profession, especially during a pandemic.

    4. LizM*


      If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s how many people view educators are little more than glorified babysitters. Apparently, that’s how they see librarians too.

  19. Colette*

    Do all library employees have to have police checks/vulnerable segment checks? If not, I’d point that out, too.

    And what sort of ratio do they have between children and adults? A trained teacher in a school environment might be able to have a class with 30 kids; an untrained adult in a library won’t be able to handle that many kids. (It’s not even primarily about training – the space and expectations aren’t set up for it.)

    How are you expected to check kids in and out (and make sure they go home with someone authorized to pick them up)? How will you know about the medical issues the kids have and how to handle them? How will you know how to get in touch with the parents if necessary?

    What does your space look like? How will you keep the kids distanced?

    What ages will these children be? Does the programming have to be age-appropriate? (A 10 year old is not going to be interested in the same stuff as a 3 year old.)

    1. Batty Twerp*

      She said K-8, which I think is ages 5-14? (not US based, happy to be corrected).

      This screams all kinds of wrong – children this age range have many varied needs, and I’d be expecting 1 librarian to 8-10 children, especially the younger end (although 14 year olds are going to need supervision!)

      Even if we took the extra social distancing/hand sanitation/masks (or not) aspect of Covid out of the equation and just looked at the practicalities of having to supervise 300 children (at various locations) without their parents – there are bathroom breaks, First Aid requirements (CPR being the first one, but also other paediatric first aid considerations – allergies, medications, etc.), fire drills & evacuations, background checks for any adult who will be in the building.

      I… I’m on the point of screaming at this point. OP – please unionise and blow your whistle loud. This is doing a huge disservice to your staff, the children *and* their parents and I hope whichever idiot proposed, and the idiots who agreed to this ludicrous plan get fired. (I wanted to use a stronger word than idiot, but that probably would’ve put me in moderation indefinitely!)

      1. BunnyWatsonToo*

        Unless I missed it somewhere, no one has mentioned feeding the kids. Do they expect the kids to bring sack lunches, is food being brought in? Either way, library staff has the added burden supervising lunch and all that goes with it.

        1. The New Normal*

          And dealing with allergens, which means training in how to safely administer epipens…

        2. Letter Writer*

          Kids are expected to have lunches with them, but anything further than that is unknown to library staff at the moment. Snacks? Who knows. Where will they eat? Who knows. What about cleaning procedures? Who knows.

          1. Wherehouse Politics*

            As someone who had worked in daycare, there will always be some children parents will drop off without food. They would ask us to pick something up for them on their lunch break and they would reimburse us. No that wasn’t allowed, yes they got away with it.

  20. Shirley Keeldar*

    When (not if!) one of the kids or staff tests positive for COVID-19, what is the plan? They can’t just shuffle you off with “the kids will wear masks.” Somebody’s going to get sick at some point. Then what?

    LW, I am really furious on your behalf. And on behalf of these kids and their families. This isn’t safe or fair or right.

    1. Natalie*


      Do all the kids who were around that person now have to quarantine for 14 days?
      What about all the staff who were around that person?

      I am absolutely appalled.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I’m just wondering what their policy will be for any of the regular stuff teachers need to deal with. What happens when a child has a blow-out tantrum? What happens when a child strikes a librarian or another child? What happens when a child disappears? Curse words? A kid doesn’t want to wear his pull-ups? A kid wants to wear another kids pull-ups? Kids with medications? Ahhh! I don’t want to keep typing because it is so terrifying that this is happening!

  21. Foreign Octopus*

    I’m not being facetious here, I truly don’t understand. Alison says this:

    “…it’s probably true that the county has been struggling to justify keeping your staff employed, and this plan is a response to that.”

    If they’re able to find the money to pay for this ridiculous plan, then could they not also just use that money to pay the workers to stay at home or something like that? Or do public library budgets need to be justified to the local authority? Because, the way I see it, that money is there so I’m struggling to understand why they’re not just paying the workers regardless and why they need to find work for them to do, particularly work like this.

    1. Colette*

      If they go ahead with this plan, they pay the librarians (which they are already doing) and the county employees and everyone is doing their work. (The OP specifically said none of her existing work goes away with this plan.)

      If they pay people to stay home, they’re not getting the work done. And it’s likely that some of the work has to be done.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Yeah, this was the argument used. The county manager did not state it outright, but she implied that if we don’t go along with this plan, library staff will lose their jobs, and I imagine the money from our salaries would be used to provide childcare for other county staff.

        1. Colette*

          The thing is, this is so predictably going to go wrong. Someone is going to get sick, or hurt, or climb the book stacks, or break a computer, or go home with a parent who’s not supposed to have custody.

          Since it appears that there are actual laws that will support you, I’d contact that agency. And in the meantime, I’d ask all of the logistics questions. “What paperwork do we need to do when the kids arrive?” “Who will be pulled off regular duties to supervise?” etc.

          1. Catalin*

            +1 to death by logistics

            And Colette is right: something will go wrong. This is the equivalent of speeding to get somewhere faster: a ticket/accident will make the trip MUCH, MUCH LONGER.

        2. AnyaT*

          I’m still shocked that they think using taxpayer money to provide daycare for government staff will be ok. I work for a municipal government in Canada, and our Council would probably fire the city manager if they tried this. Giving government employees free daycare would be political suicide.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Honestly, there would probably a lot less pushback if it were explained as “You still want your trash picked up and your roads maintained and your sheriff’s deputies on the job, right? And you don’t want us to pay these librarians to just sit in an empty library and do nothing all day, right? So we’re killing two birds with one stone!”

            1. Sandan Librarian*

              It doesn’t sound to me as if the librarians are doing nothing. It sounds like they’re continuing to provide curbside checkouts, maintaining online resources such as subject guides, databases, ebook/movie/audio circulation, and undoubtedly a host of other behind-the-scenes activities, none of which qualify as “nothing.” But that’s just my read.

              1. Sandan Librarian*

                I reread, and the letter does not explicitly say that they are currently doing all of those things, but I expect that the library had plans for reopening in some capacity and there probably were people doing some of those things (particularly the online resources), and it sounds like those services will be put on hold possibly indefinitely to pursue this policy.

                1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

                  The post says they are doing curbside. I don’t know about volume, but at least in tasks, at my local library, this would be an increase in workload. We have all self-checkouts. So now a patron places a hold instead of getting their own book and checking themselves out, and it has to be pulled, transported, and then checked out and taken outside by staff, not to mention answering the phone when people are there to pick up, and probably to place those holds for people who can’t or don’t use a computer. Less patron supervision, but more work in other ways for the staff.

              2. Rusty Shackelford*

                I didn’t say that’s necessarily what’s happening, but I’m sure that’s how it could/would be justified. Anyone who would come up with this type of plan would have no problem bending the truth to justify it.

          2. Midwest writer*

            This. Often, money comes to specific funds to be used in specific ways. I guess it could technically be salary money used for salaries, but it seems like it’s going to cause problems.

        3. Catalin*

          Gee, it would be just *awful* if the local media got a hold of this story. Your local NPR station, regional/local newspaper, maybe even a local tv station would EAT THIS UP. Headlines like ‘taxpayers footing the bill for county worker daycare”.
          Your name can be left out of the media (which I recommend, you don’t want to be wrongly labeled a ‘troublemaker’ if you’re a career librarian.)

          1. Joielle*

            I’ve seen this suggestion a couple of times in the comments and I have to say – as a government employee, I hate it. There are plenty of reasons that this is bad without leaning into the awful idea that government employees are always wasting precious tax dollars with their ridiculous needs. This is the kind of thinking that leads us to having to bring our own post-its to work.

            Plus, the OP said further up that the implied threat is that, if the library staff won’t do childcare, they’ll all be laid off and the money will be used to provide childcare to county employees anyways. So the taxpayers’-precious-dollars argument doesn’t even work in the long run.

            1. Sacred Ground*

              Also, the threatened outcome would actually be better for the kids and their parents since the paid childcare would presumably be done by qualified people in locations built for that purpose and complying with all legal and insurance requirements. It would still suck for laid-off librarians but how is it better to be driven out of your job by absurdly unreasonable demands, danger to your own health, and personal liability risk? (Yes, personal. When a kid gets injured/sick/abused, the individual not-teachers will be named as defendants in the lawsuit.)

              1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

                I agree. Requiring people to do an incredibly stressful and dangerous job until they are driven to quit with no recourse for unemployment is worse than the vague possibility that they will be laid off, when it sounds like they are in fact tasked with assignments already.

            2. Metadata minion*

              As a non-government-employee and non-parent, I would *love* it if my local government paid for employees’ childcare. That sounds great! I get on an intellectual level what the mindset is that makes the idea politically nonviable, but on a visceral level it just baffles me.

        4. valentine*

          if we don’t go along with this plan, library staff will lose their jobs
          This is really backwards because the scheme seems designed to get rid of the libraries, what with cutting services to patrons. It seems like the county manager doesn’t value libraries in the least and wants to treat children like neglected pets.

          Any chance the county workers think teachers will be involved? I don’t imagine they’re all so afraid of being fired they wouldn’t push back on “Dump your child and device at the library with just their staff all day.”

          1. Letter Writer*

            I agree with your points – I also don’t think county leadership truly values libraries if they want to use us as a childcare solution.

            I’m not sure if anyone outside of the library has even been informed of this plan yet. The CM told us last Thursday and then went on vacation the next day, and it sounded like county leadership hasn’t even worked through answers to library employees’ questions, let alone telling parents the full details of what this camp will actually be like.

            1. Hexiva*

              I’m laughing at “and then went on vacation.” Really just shit on the desk and walked out to leave everyone else to clean up the mess. I don’t know whether it’s worse if she knows how much chaos this is gonna cause and peaced out on purpose to avoid it, or if she legitimately has 0 idea that this is gonna ruffle feathers.

            2. A. S.*

              I just think this plan is so asinine that it will never get off the ground. But I’ll be scanning the news for the inevitable article about it. Good luck. BTW I loooooove curbside service, it’s been a lifesaver for my tweens.

    2. Mama Bear*

      Justifying their employment with this plan means that someone (or many someones) don’t understand the things librarians do that aren’t checking out books. Sounds like some education needs to be had.

      1. Colette*

        It’s reasonable in a pandemic to move people from their regular jobs to other required work, and to decide that some of the regular work can wait.

        But this is a terrible plan.

      2. doreen*

        I’m not going to say it’s a good plan – but it’s possible that the alternative of paying the library staff to do their regular work is not an option. The choices for a lot of non-essential government agencies are 1) pay the staff to do different work ( which doesn’t have to be childcare – I know govt employees who are distributing masks and doing administrative tasks regarding testing that aren’t related to their regular duties) 2) pay staff to either not work or work only a few hours ( my library has a few hours a week of online story time, but that’s only a couple of people or 3) lay the staff off until the library reopens.

        1. These Old Wings*

          I agree. I feel like they would be better off moving the library staff to cover the workers who may need to leave due to childcare issues. There are no good options here, particularly for parents, but this is the worst option possible!

        2. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

          I’m so surprised whenever a public entity is unwilling to pay people to do less. Obviously state, city, county etc. are different, but I feel like they should work out policies to keep people employed doing even minimal work rather than just offload them straight to unemployment.

          1. doreen*

            Most state, local and county governments have to balance their budgets. If revenue drops 50%, spending is going to have to drop 50% and a lot of it will be salaries and benefits just because that’s where a lot of the money is spent.

    3. The Rural Juror*

      It may depend on which taxes pay for library services and the employees there. Some offices are partially paid for by taxes but also generate their own revenue with fees for service, such as a county clerk. The library can generate some with late fees, but not much in comparison.

      Libraries are partially funded by sales tax, but a lot of stores are closed and there’s not as much sales tax generated. It really eats into their annual budget and makes things tight . From the county’s view, the library may be the most expendable, especially if it can’t be open to the public during the pandemic.

      Alison isn’t wrong to mention it, it’s probably going through the minds of the people making the (very bad) decisions here. It sucks, but it is part of the equation, unfortunately.

    4. MissBliss*

      What I’m imagining is that there is money budgeted for the library. That money is being used to pay the library staff currently. However, they are not able to do their jobs as originally anticipated– that could result in less revenue than the library normally receives. But it’s also possible that it’s entirely unrelated to what the library itself is doing. The library could be spending as much and receiving as much revenue as normal, but there’s another county agency that’s hemorrhaging money or raking in outrageous expenses, and the county is just looking for SOMEWHERE to cut SOMETHING. Usually that sort of thing would happen before the fiscal year began, but I’m wondering if, in a pandemic, there’s flexibility to shuffle money around.

    5. Apocalypse How*

      Also, the camp will require the libraries to be closed to the public for months. Has the county even tried investigating plans to open in a limited capacity? I live in the same state as LW (posted in the comments.) Our county libraries were closed for several months, but now they are open for dropping off books and placing books on hold. When your hold comes in, you get a link to make a 15-minute appointment to pick up your book. When you arrive, your book is in a brown paper bag, on a table outside with all the bags in alphabetical order. It’s been very nice to be able to check out books again. With school starting in a haphazard way, parents (who don’t work for the county) will need to get books for their children’s education. They could be cutting off the community from educational resources for months.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Oh, we’ve been doing curbside pickup (that’s what it sounds like your library has been doing) since May. We even offer printing services curbside, as long as we don’t have to touch their device and can assist from a distance.

        But we will not be able to plan any further public services with this camp in place, I think. It will demand far too many resources and too much of our time. If I was a citizen who didn’t work at the library, I’d be really ticked off by this plan.

        1. East Coast Girl*

          Sorry, LW, looks like we were responding at exactly the same time so I didn’t have the context of your comment to work with. :-)

      2. East Coast Girl*

        Similar things in my area. Our public library system has been offering online programming for kids and adults, and once it was safe to do so started allowing curbside pickup and returns of library materials. More recently, they’ve opened in a limited capacity – you can’t browse but you can go to the circulation desk to pick up/return materials or to ask questions of library staff. I think they were doing “ask a reference librarian” type stuff online, too. Also lots of posting to social media from the staff with suggested reading and activities during the pandemic. In short, our library staff have been BUSY and it’s a shame that it sounds like maybe Letter Writer’s library system wasn’t allowed (I am guessing by the county, argh) to be as creative with continuing to provide services. As a librarian by training, I am offended at this entire plan on your behalf LW. I really hope you send us an update when possible!

    6. Nerdy Library Clerk*

      Libraries are seen as antiquated and irrelevant by a segment of people. After all, you can just use Google and Amazon, right? So who needs free books? (And internet and maker spaces and meeting rooms and programing and citizenship classes and GED classes and ESL classes and small business workshops and people who actually know how to evaluate sources of information and…)

      Granted, a lot of things libraries normally provide are on hold or severely limited right now, due to COVID. But the answer to that is not turning them into unlicensed, untrained day care!

      I’d actually be a little worried about the long term fall out from not partially reopening the libraries as libraries, too. Where I work, we have curbside service and limited inside service (browsing, device charging, computer labs – socially distanced and frequently cleaned in the case of the areas/items for the last two) as well as a ton of online services and phone services. It keeps services available as best we can, and reminds people of how important libraries are. This awful plan, in addition to being all kinds of health and legal risks waiting to happen, also seems to play into the idea that libraries – as libraries – aren’t important.

    7. Liz*

      From my experience, it’s often to do with ringfenced money and specific budgets. So if the council identifies a specific need (in this case childcare) then there is a call to allocate money to solve that particular problem. That money is then available to spend ONLY on services that will fulfill that need. Meanwhile, the library service has basically had its budget cut because it’s not seen as a priority at this time. So the library staff are facing redundancies, and the city needs childcare. The library figure they can solve one problem with the other by nominating the library staff to fulfill the childcare need, thus the ringfenced money is now available because they are providing a different (higher priority) service.

    8. valprehension*

      Public libraries are often largely funded by the local authority, so yes, their budgets are under scrutiny. The library system I work in laid off a ton of people back in April, and I was initially confused for the same reason (it’s in the budget! Just pay the people!), but our CEO explained that the city is looking at an enormous loss of revenue and we want to make a point of “doing our part” to cut costs for now. It sucks, but there wasn’t work for them (there wasn’t nearly enough work for those of us lucky enough to stay on staff either, tbh). We have started recalling people recently as we gear up to start reopening (I’m in Canada – covid numbers are fairly stable here)

  22. Rachel Morgan*

    I’m a library director and I would fight fight fight for my staff NOT to deal with this. And I mean hard.

    This is ridiculous. Librarians and libraries are NOT in loco parentis. We are not parents, we are not caregivers, we are NOT schools or daycares. We are a place for learning & information exchange. Not to watch kids while parents work etc.

    Without the proper certifications – daycares and camps both require specific numbers of carers per child – that library is doing something very illegal.

    Report them. To CPS, Department of Human Services, the county. Whatever it takes.

    1. Riblets*

      Yes yes. I suggested she goes to the local media, maybe you could offer an expert opinion on why this is a trash idea. This is my fantasy anyway, I know my local news would chomp at the bit to cover this.

    2. Letter Writer*

      Thank you. I am heartened to know that some library directors would fight this to the teeth.

      Our library director was part of the meeting in which the camp news was broken to us, so I guess she is “on-board,” at least in a professional sense. I of course have no idea what her personal feelings about it are or if she fought it behind closed doors.

      1. Mary Read*

        Sorry to hear that your director is not stepping up. What did your library board say? Were they consulted in any capacity? I

        I am also a librarian in NC, and I just cannot fathom this situation. I really cannot wrap my head around a public library having the physical space to accommodate this.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Does your library board know? It’s probably up to the director to notify them, but maybe nudge your LD and make sure they have done that?
        I’m a board member. The LD calls me with something like this, I’d be all over it like flies on honey.

      3. This is a Bad idea.*

        I was a public youth services librarian in NYC over twenty years ago. Asbestos was found in many schools and they were shutdown during the beginning of the school year. Where will the children go? The mayor said the public libraries. I worked my tail off and provided all day programming. I did have a tad of vocational awe.
        During a pandemic. Hell no. For all the reasons above.

    3. Another public librarian*

      LW, this sucks and you have my deepest sympathies. This is so typical of a profession that no one (including our governing agencies) seems to understand, in the slightest.

      It’s been my experience in various public library systems (not in NC) that the county risk management and law offices don’t always have a good sense of what’s happening in the library. There’s a chance that even if the county manager is pushing this, they haven’t yet gone through the law office. (Hopefully your director would have made that happen, but who knows.) If there’s not a way for you to safely/anonymously report, do you have a trusted, not-easily-affiliated friend or family member who can contact risk management or the law office to say that they heard this was going to be happening?

      Once this gets cleared up, I think you should try to get it written up in Library Journal or some other industry publication — counties not understanding how we operate is so common, but I don’t think we talk about it enough outside of our own systems.
      Good luck and please update us!!

    4. AnotherLibrarian*

      As a fellow librarian and manager (though I do not work in public libraries), I am glad to see others in the field as appalled as I am. This is beyond unacceptable, OP. Another thought- can you get your state library association involved? Ours would step up on this one I suspect.

  23. Mama Bear*


    I would continue to inquire about protocols. Have they thought about registration? Any parent who has put their kids in a camp or school knows the song and dance with emergency contact information, medication, and health forms.

    If a child has a peanut allergy, how will the library staff handle that? I get the intent but there are so many problems. Will the library staff be held accountable for injury or death? I’m serious – what if a kid brings in COVID or what if they simply fall and hit their head? I wouldn’t want the liability. Does the library’s own insurance cover accidents? Could they be sued if something happens? I would press from a “if you make me do this, then I need to know I’m (we’re) protected from a lawsuit” angle at minimum.

    OP has some very legit concerns. Even summer camp needs to have someone who is trained to dispense medication and provide first aid and CPR. Heck, hospitals even have babysitting first aid classes for teens for a reason!

    1. HungryLawyer*

      Yep! And what are the screening protocols to make sure kids don’t come while sick? Are they doing temp checks at the doors? If so, how will staff get the PPE needed to safely do those checks (extra masks, gloves, and face shields)? Are there enough bathrooms to service potentially dozens or hundreds of kids to wash their hands regularly? Will the county provide hand sanitizer? What is the protocol when (not if) a kid shows up without a mask? Taking away even the very risky childcare-focused liabilities here (food allergies, staff background check, pick-up procedures, etc.), there are significant COVID-related risks that could end killing someone. WTFFFF

      1. Absurda*

        Yeah, it boggles the mind that it’s too dangerous to send kids to school in person, but sending to the library is A-OK. I mean, is the library cleaner or bigger than the school? Is it some magic place where germs can’t get inside?

        1. boop the first*

          True, when I think about any school I’ve attended,
          And then I think about any library I’ve visited,
          Schools are designed for sanitation! Lots of whiteboards, shiny metal, vinyl flooring, glass.
          Libraries are all carpet, wood, dim lighting (weirdly), and an awful lot of surface area, most of which is paper. How would they even sanitize anything?

  24. Liane*

    Also part of the Legally Questionable Stuff: childcare providers, school staff, Scouting volunteers, etc., all have background check requirements that library workers, yes even in he children’s sections, don’t have.

  25. Riblets*

    One thing that could work is going to the local news. This is risky since they may not take the angle you want, but it is likely they will take an “outraged” stance since the government is only offering this service to county employees (and it’s public tax dollars blah blah blah). Hit them hard with that angle and the safety angle, and it could help. I really don’t think it can hurt, especially if you are likely to leave the job anyway. Or if one of your coworkers is definitely quitting, get them to do it.

    1. Letter Writer*

      If I’m able to land another job (fingers crossed, I’m really trying) and someone else has not leaked it yet, I definitely plan to do so when I quit. This decision puts so many of my coworkers in jeopardy, and many of them feel discouraged from speaking up.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Wishing you the best of luck. This is a crappy position to be in, but I’m glad you’re thoughtful and want to do the best for your fellow employees. None of you deserve what the county is pushing on you.

      2. Properlike*

        Hang on. This is a public library and using county funds — all of these meetings should be public. Transparency and all that. Are there no records or minutes of these meetings?

        All this to say, you don’t have to “leak” what’s already supposed to be public… you just point people to the link on the appropriate department’s website where it discusses this.

        Also, since your county’s being dumb, you can contact the state-level branch of CPS/Early Childhood to get their “guidance” and then tell them the County’s plans. A lot of times, the State will do their own investigation when local agencies have lost their minds.

        1. Letter Writer*

          I don’t think there’s a record or minutes of the meeting we had Thursday, at least not one that I have access to. They didn’t even provide a recording of the meeting to us, which they usually would.

          But yes, I will take yours and others’ advice to report what I know to state agencies. This plan is a disaster waiting to happen.

          1. Sparrow*

            Oh yeah, they definitely know they’re being shady. Did you write up your own record of the meeting after the fact? It seems like that might come in handy (and it sounds like you have some coworkers that could contribute, as well, to make sure it’s as comprehensive as possible).

            1. We are still in a pandemic*

              No, it sounds like a staff meeting. Open Meeting laws are more for high level decisions made by the board.

          2. mrs__peel*

            If they’re refusing to release public records about this, you could try contacting the ACLU of North Carolina (or a local ACLU branch, if there is one) and see if they want to get involved. Oftentimes, a request for records is all that’s needed in order for government agencies to realize “Oh no, people are paying attention to this and we’re going to get in big trouble!”

            (I used to be an ACLU law clerk and saw this kind of scenario many times).

  26. WantonSeedStitch*

    I really hope we get to see an update from you, OP, saying that this plan has been scrapped for being illegal/poorly thought out/utterly awful. Please let us know what happens!

    1. Four lights*

      Yes, the more I read the comments the more I’m hoping this plan easily falls apart because of regulations.

    2. Pomona Sprout*

      I’m hoping for an update, too. And call me vindictive if you want, but I would not shed a tear if that update were to include news of a certain County Manager being sacked, not just for coming up with this ridiculous “plan” but announcing its implementation without having the sense to run it by the lawyers first. Like most of the other commenters, I can’t believe this wouldn’t be in violation of a host of laws, in addition to being a liability nightmare, and I think it demonstrates very poor judgment on the CM’s part to take this idea and try to run with it without carefully considering even a fraction of the ramifications.

  27. Concerned Academic Librarian*

    A few months ago I was having a discussion with some friends who are, shall we say, on the “you’ve got to live your life” side of the pandemic spectrum of concerned. I was upset about the public libraries opening because friends were telling me they were worried about parents dumping their kids off, which they do normally, but now with the pandemic being what it was, what were they all gonna do. I got called paranoid.

    But this goes beyond what I was predicting. This is actual formalized childcare no matter what they call it. At least before, public library friends would call the cops when parents neglected to pick their kids up or let them run wild around the library.

    I have no advice other than maybe trying to leak this to the media, but you have my sympathy.

    1. Shramps*

      And they shouldn’t call the cops on kids or parents! That’s not what police are for.

      I’m not trying to be confrontational but cops are so widely misused.

      1. Shramps*

        To explain, I’m complaining about the circle
        Of resource misuse because our nation’s priorities are so out of wack.

        Parents shouldn’t use libraries as day cares, cops shouldn’t be called on children or parents, etc.

        1. doreen*

          I don’t exactly disagree , and people call the police in far too many situations where it’s not necessary – but I’m wondering who should be called when a seven year old is still at the library at closing time. Because I can’t imagine library staff being OK with just leaving that kid on the street and and most government agencies ( including CPS) are not set up for immediate response.

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            This. The cops are the ones who can call a CPS officer to respond immediately to a situation.

            If you file a CPS report via tipline/webform, that will be handled during the next business day. If the kid is there at close of business Friday, you’re not letting them sleep there all weekend.

            Police officers are trained to handle these things: it is very much part of their job.

            1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

              Yes: an abandoned or unaccompanied child is very much a police matter. Where else would you turn?

      2. Concerned Academic Librarian*

        My understanding would be that parents would leave their children off at some point. My friends work in a wealthy suburb by the way. The children would be unattended. When it came to closing time, parents weren’t there. So now you have staff stuck in the library waiting and waiting and waiting. You can’t leave them there out in the parking lot. Staff are neither licensed or paid to be childcare. Since it’s after closing, now they’re not being paid at all. At a certain point, what do you do?

          1. another Hero*

            Oh I meant this will happen to OP; I hate it as a solution in Ordinary Times, though I agree you have to have some way for someone still working to care for the kids

          2. Academic Librarian too*

            “this will happen” As a youth services librarian , this is exactly what happened. When is an 8 year old considered abandoned. It is after closing. The building is closed and alarmed. The parent isn’t picking up their phone. Should I bring this kid home with me? Yes, I called the police.

            1. Yet Another Librarian*

              According to my library’s official policy? 30 minutes after closing. This is absolutely information that should be laid out in your library’s policy regarding unaccompanied minors, and posted on your website.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Where I worked, this would also be a violation of the Child Abuse Protection Policy. The child is now alone with adult staff with no witnesses (the witnesses would have to be neutral third parties or other children, because there’s a risk staff would cover for each other in the event of abuse.) The staff person would have to file an incident report explaining how and why the policy got violated and what they would do to prevent it in the future.

      3. Sacred Ground*

        If you find yourself suddenly in custody of a child abandoned by their parent into your unwitting and unwilling care, what are you supposed to do? Take them home with you and raise them? Chase the kid out into the street and let them fend for themselves? Abandoning kids is a crime, yes?

        Seriously, who else would you call in a situation like that?

        1. Jessica will remember in November*

          Child Protective Services or similar? You need a social worker, not a cop.

          1. LizM*

            CPS isn’t usually set up to respond immediately. In my experience, a police officer will show up, ensure that the child is not in immediate danger, and then coordinate with CPS to find a safe place for the child to go while the situation is sorted out.

          2. GothicBee*

            I don’t think CPS can respond immediately the way police/emergency services would, especially if its after hours. You’d likely need to contact the police for help even if you start with CPS.

        2. Absurda*

          Take them to the fire station or a hospital like an abandoned baby? Otherwise, I think the cops would really be the only answer, they can get CPS to respond right away and, probably, track down the parents.

          TBH, if I were in a less than understanding mood, I would think it would serve a parent right to go the the library after hours to pick up their kid only to find it dark and locked and have no idea where their kid is. A more empathetic part of me knows that sh*t happens and a delay in pick up may not be 100% within the parent’s control.

          At any rate, still shouldn’t be the librarian’s responsibility.

          1. Concerned Academic Librarian*

            I really don’t think any library worker wants to get in a car with a minor child and now have to transport them somewhere.

            Circling back to the OP’s situation, librarians and clerks aren’t licensed childcare workers. Unless we are talking SLMS, they aren’t educators.

            1. Drago cucina*

              Taking a minor anywhere could be a fireable action. Policy at old library was wait 15 minutes past closing, with 2 staff members present, for parents. After 15 minutes we called the police. Truthfully it was usually longer. If they were under 15 they would come and contact CPS. 15-17 they would swing by and ask the teen if they needed assistance. If not they would just do extra drive bys to make sure the teen was safe.

              1. Academic Librarian too*

                yes this was the policy but I did wait an hour before taking any action which usual meant I was there two hours after closing. Not happy but it certainly isn’t the kid’s fault.

          2. fhgwhgads*

            Conveniently, in my city many of the public libraries are next door or across the street from fire stations. Like 75% of those I’ve ever been to. So if the policy were actually to take them to a fire station, it’s a VERY short walk.

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              Uh, libraries being located adjacent to fire stations is not a hard and fast rule anywhere that I’m aware of. And even if they were, it’s not the librarian’s job to take them ANYWHERE, nor is it a good idea.

              Dealing with an abandoned child involves, among other things, ensuring that child’s safety, which is squarely within the purview of the police. It’s downright silly to suggest that it’s not.

  28. Reality Check*

    I agree with OP that if it’s too dangerous to go to school, then so is this scenario. This is why so many people are getting suspicious/not taking the virus seriously.

    1. Roja*

      Exactly. Like why is it extremely dangerous to send your kids in large groups to a real school with licensed teachers, but it’s somehow perfectly safe to send them in large groups to a library with people who are not in any way teachers or childcare workers? Like seriously, the virus doesn’t care whether they’re in a school building or the library!

      I do think, in general, that the schools should be virtual (as problematic as that is for so many reasons) but if the alternative is that the kids are just going to pack themselves into non-school environments then they might as well just go to school.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Because all of the kiddos will be sitting quietly with their devices, virtually learning, with no input required from the library staff! It’s perfect! :-/

    2. The Vulture*

      I guess supposedly all the kids are to be busy accessing their respective virtual learning, but that prevents their parents from going to work if they’re at home, so they’re at the library. But it’s not any safer than being at school and it’s not going to work on soooo many levels.

    3. Shramps*

      Because the school they are learning from is virtual, even if they’re doing it in real life somewhere.

      It’s a scam. It’s trying to use loopholes. It’s so unsafe.

    4. Gray Lady*

      The library staff isn’t providing the teaching, they’re supervising the kids learning virtually through their own schools.

    5. Massive Dynamic*

      Distance learning camps are a thing now, actually. Definitely shouldn’t be for this LW; this is absolutely nuts for all the reasons detailed above and I hope they get the idea successfully shut down. But please do allow me to share how this can actually happen relatively safely:

      Source: spouse and I are essential workers and our grade schooler attends a DLC. Per our state’s guidelines, groups are 12 kids max, and teachers do not rotate between groups; they stay with the same cohort of kids day in and day out and the kids do not mix with any other groups either. Each kid has their own computer brought from home or borrowed from the district and the teachers provide a lot of IT support during kids’ zooms. They also help answer kids’ questions during independent study (especially helpful for us because these teachers are fluent in a language our kid is being taught in and spouse and I do not speak it).

      Everyone wears masks, all day. Plenty of hand sanitizer and soap/water available. Temperature checks and symptom scans happen throughout the day. The kids can actually play and relax with friends during breaks/lunch/afternoon. It really is a godsend to families like mine, and it’s definitely safer than regular school.

  29. Natalie*

    This is not safe.
    It is not safe for the children to go to school.
    It is not safe to have this ‘camp,’ either.

    You and your coworkers have been put in a terrible position.
    And if county employees don’t want to use this service (because…it is NOT safe) are their jobs in jeopardy as well?

    I don’t have any advice…but this is really awful, and I’m so sorry.

    1. mf*

      This camp is even LESS safe than school. At least at school, kids are supervised by childcare professionals and teachers, who are required to get certain vaccinations, are certified in first aid, are trained to deal with kids in a crisis (building fire, school shooting, etc.).

  30. Cat Lady*

    Seconding all of the outrage above, but also… why are they calling it a virtual learning environment? This would be totally different if they were actually asking the library to provide virtual educational programming. But it sounds like they’re using a misleading name for “in-person environment to complete distance learning facilitated by non-teachers.”

    1. Letter Writer*

      You hit the nail on the head.

      The kids are supposed to have a laptop or device with them to complete their virtual school while at the library. We will be tasked with “supervising” them, supposedly, but I cannot fathom some of the younger kids (and older ones, if the subject is challenging!) not asking us for help with their work. But none of us are qualified as teachers or even tutors. We can of course find information and resources to help – under normal circumstances, that’s one thing I love doing at my job – but that is absolutely not the same as teaching.

      They’re calling it a virtual learning environment so they don’t have to call it childcare, in my opinion.

      1. A*

        So, all of the kids are supposed to each bring their own device from home? And I assume the library staff would have to be responsible for making sure that the kids don’t break, lose, or steal each other’s devices?

        1. another Hero*

          Yeah, in normal times library staff are expressly *not* responsible for people’s stuff, but a bunch of (developmentally-appropriately) irresponsible small people with a bunch of expensive devices is a guaranteed cluster****.

      2. Apocalypse How*

        So, all of the kids are supposed to each bring their own device from home? And I assume the library staff would have to be responsible for making sure that the kids don’t break, lose, or steal each other’s devices?

      3. Mockingjay*

        And can your library’s IT infrastructure support that kind of bandwidth? There will be a TON of devices sucking up data and it will be S…L…O…W.

        1. another Hero*

          Yeah, if your wifi is anything like ours it legit wouldn’t support this. Could be worth asking about if you go the Polite Logistics Email route.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I doubt many libraries have the kind of heavy load infrastructure for that many streaming devices. And putting that in would likely cost more than the salaries of all these people they’re trying to ‘keep busy’

          Bottom line, the resources for this plan aren’t there, the safety requirements for this plan aren’t there, the running costs are very unlikely to be met, the illegal aspects are probably enough to make a lawyer salivate, it’s incredibly dangerous for both the kids and the staff (viruses LOVE enclosed environments with lots of humans), it’s a public relations nightmare waiting to happen….

          I actually can’t think of a single positive to this.

          1. mrs__peel*

            The positive is that the county employees are now rendered ineligible for unemployment because they have “”childcare””. /s

  31. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    If they’re allowing kindergarteners, they’re subject to the adult/child ratio for five year olds, which is around one adult per 10 children. If someone tries to sneak in a 3 or 4 year old that ratio gets even tighter, to say nothing about diapering facilities for even younger kids. If OP really wants to shut this down, it wouldn’t be hard to tough it out for a few days and then call relevant state agencies in to observe.

  32. Shramps*

    OP, I hope you feel comfortable enough to blow the whistle. This is not right.

    I realize these are ~unprecedented times~ and we need to be flexible, but a county government librarian is not a childcare professional. I am flabbergasted that they think they can just skip so many steps.

  33. Alt*

    There is no practical way this does not qualify as childcare, with all the associated licensing requirements. I also cannot fathom that the county’s insurance will cover this mess.

    I’d send the county commissioner’s an email (paper trail time), asking how the state childcare licensing requirements are being met, whether the county’s insurance covers the liability for a full-time childcare program, how the budget is being addressed since a public library budget probably shouldn’t be spent on private childcare without a vote by the county government, who will be handling medical needs for administering routine medication/etc., how illness screening will be done, how contact information for all parents and guardians will be stored in the library, and all the associated issues with running a day care, a school, and a public organization are all going to crash into each other here.

    1. Reality Check*

      You beat me to it. Something tells me the county’s insurance underwriter would really like to hear about this.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’d love to be a fly on the wall when they do. I might learn a whole new slew of curse words…

    2. another Hero*

      Oh yeah the budget question is clutch. They aren’t spending THREE HOURS A DAY DOING PROGRAMMING without any expenses

      1. Letter Writer*

        Yep. And we’ll likely need to provide snacks to these kids, because 7:30 to 5:30 with only lunch sounds…not good, to put it lightly.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          So, they think the best way to take care of kids at the moment is put them at vastly increased risk of catching a deadly virus, leave them with untrained personnel, only feed them once a day…..

          I dunno what your superiors are drinking, but it’s strong stuff.

          I don’t have or even like children but even I know that looking after them requires a whole slew of things that must be done properly else the consequences can be severe. Add a deadly pandemic to the list and…well, I’m no expert but I bet any trained childcare expert is having stress just trying to work out the logistics of that.

        2. Alt*

          And since I forgot this in the original message, if you’re like most libraries, a portion of your funding is grant money, which is going to affect which salaries get paid, which resources are available, etc. That money will not be available for a childcare program, and misusing it will result in a loss of funding.

  34. itsame*

    Our system supposedly considered doing something similar to this as a “volunteer to do it or get furloughed” option for EMS in March, but ultimately the logistics of how that would work (coverage, ages, where would the kids go or would we be expected to go to their houses, etc.) got the idea scrapped. About half our staff got furloughed and a bunch of paraprofessionals got cut, so those folks are now retiring/moving to other systems/interviewing against each other for spots.

  35. Jennifer*

    Wha…?! Brain malfunctioning with so many criticisms at once. The only one I can put into words now – these people aren’t trained in childcare. I don’t think it necessarily takes a rocket scientist to babysit but it is a skill. Some may not even like kids. Just because we’re in a pandemic doesn’t mean people are willing to leave their kids with just anybody.

  36. pcake*

    Letter Writer, I hope you keep every email and screencap every chat about this. Every word. Ask for details, screencap those. I hope you find another jobs ASAP, but the legalities of this free childcare – which is free to the county but extra unpaid work for the librarians – are going to overwhelm these people. What if a child goes running around the room or out the door – how are you supposed to stop them? If you touch them, a parent could sue; if you don’t, well, you can’t let a kindergartner run around outside. What about distancing for safety? I guess the county isn’t worried about that – but you have to be.

    Best of luck to you!

    1. Wherehouse Politics*

      Not just sue, but all the disastrous possibilities
      could even become a criminal liability- something that will stick to you for life.

    2. Letter Writer*

      Unfortunately, no emails have yet been provided to me about this situation, other than the email telling library staff to attend the webinar meeting we had last Thursday. Higher-level library staff might have emails. I’m lower in the hierarchy, though, so I currently do not have a paper trail to use as evidence.

      Thank you for the well wishes, though.

      1. drago cucina*

        Letter Writer, I gave some ideas above and you’ve gotten some good ones from other commentators. If you feel comfortable call the NC State Library office that oversees libraries: 919-814-6780 . They may have authority to call and ask pertinent questions. I don’t know about your director. When I was a public library director I may have quietly taken this in and then behind closed doors brought up all the reasons why this is a very bad idea. I’m hoping that’s what’s happening in your case.

        I hate to say it, but the county’s attorney may not even be pinging on why this is so bad. I frequently had to correct the city attorney on library issues. “No, we cannot do that, it’s against state statue….” “No, we cannot do that, it’s against supreme court ruling….”

        It wouldn’t hurt to have the staff develop a list of all the ways they’ve been serving the public that will be impacted. The adult virtual book club? Gone because the person in charge now has to corral the 7 year olds. It wouldn’t hurt to ask if you’ll be paid at the same rate as school staff. Most librarians and library staff are paid so far below school staff it’s obscene. Heck, if I was the director I’d ask about a raise to be on par with area principals.

        The disrespect and lack of thought that went into this idea makes my head explode.

  37. Anon for this*

    I don’t understand the reluctance to name and shame this county from the roof tops. It’s illegal on so many levels (if you have even a passing knowledge of the hoops you have to go through to provide city/county/state funded day camp/child care /whatever you want to call it you know this) that the minute the public at large gets wind of this plan it will be shut down. The OP works in an at-will state and is subjected to losing their job at them whims of someone else anyway- I can’t see how speaking out against this (Especially as a group) will make that any more likely than it already is.

    Name and shame.
    Call/email every single media outlet you can think of. For Pete’s sake the media is TOTALLY focused on NC right now because of the RNC!
    Tweet it to the world. Blast it on FB.
    The only way this gets shut down ASAP is exposure.

    1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      That’s definitely true. If you’re going to lose your job either way, you might as well say what you want.

      (I feel that way about breakups and other life situations too.)

      1. Anon for this*

        I want to add that I have 100% empathy for the position that the LW is in because it’s a crappy, no-win situation that LW shouldn’t even be in in the first place!
        But I feel if it’s already a no-win situation, then there’s nothing to lose when you speak out. I dunno. Go down with a fight, I say.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            On one hand, they bring in this daycare center and you quit.
            On the other hand they lay you off.

            Net result is the same. You have nothing to lose.

            Except for one not-so-small thing. If you report the proposed set-up, you may AVOID: injury; lawsuit; jail time, and the inability to sleep at night for the rest of your life.
            This right here tips the scales for me. I am willing to bust my butt at work and I do. I am not willing to get injured, sued, jailed nor sleepless.

        1. Wherehouse Politics*

          A reference is good to have on hand, but Letter Writer nor anyone in their position can reasonably accomodate the myriad of dangers and liabilties for one. Quoting upthread: “injury; lawsuit; jail time, and the inability to sleep at night for the rest of your life” are far worse than not having a reference. They may be able to procure one from another library staff member on the same page anyway.

    2. Jackalope*

      The problem is that in a small career circle your reputation spreads a lot further than in some areas. If the LW wants to continue in a library-related career (either now or in some vaguely post-pandemic time frame), becoming known as the one who did the “name and shame” on the Internet could absolutely kill that plan. It’s very different from, say, making an anonymous tip to the state regulatory agency.

      1. Mary Read*

        Yes, and in NC all the library directors know each other. The state library has been doing Zoom meetings with directors all over the state pretty regularly plus emails. If the LW went public, everyone would know.

        1. Letter Writer*

          This is a good point. The situation I’m in has made me reevaluate my desire to continue working in public libraries, though, so I don’t know how much I’ll want to worry about that.

          1. Anne of Green Gables*

            As a fellow NC librarian, I’m deeply sorry to see that this is changing how you feel about staying in the profession. But I do disagree a little with the fact that if you decide to go public, it would only have a negative impact on your career. When news of this breaks, and if they go through with it I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it breaks, other librarians will hear about it. And many, many, MANY of them will be on your side. I have been hiring manager fairly frequently. Knowing you blew the whistle on this would not in any way stop me from hiring you.

            1. Letter Writer*

              This may or may not have made me tear up. Thank you, your comment is very encouraging.

              1. Another public librarian*

                Knowing a candidate had blown the whistle on something like this would actually make them very desirable to me; willingness to speak up when something is Very Wrong is a soft skill too many library employees lack.

              2. drago cucina*

                Agreed. It would actually give you more credibility if I were interviewing you. I want someone who wouldn’t cave to pressure to do something wrong or against policy.

                I went through a very tough situation with some of my county commissioners last year. They went on the news and tried to paint me as fiscally irresponsible and misusing public funds. I was able to counter it with facts. Left for a new, higher paying library job in my area. The new job knew all about the situation and lauded me for my ethics.

              3. Rhythm of the Night*

                I work in libraries and I would absolutely hire someone who did this. I would be ecstatic honestly.

            2. Sparrow*

              I’m glad to see this – I was hoping it would be the case that other librarians and even library directors in the area would be in complete agreement with OP and would not penalize them for speaking publicly on this!

          2. Not So NewReader*

            IF (notice big “if” here), this problem damages your rep, you can come back here. I am sure Alison has some tips…and I have no problem betting readers here would have some helpful things to offer,too.

            What’s Alison’s readership up to now? Picture allll. those. people. walking along with you. Someone upthread let you know about a job opening already. See? The help is rolling in already.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          More than one NC library type person has posted here, and they’re all horrified. With any luck, if the LW wanted to continue working in a library, they would find support and understanding for reporting what was going on.

      2. Jennifer in FL*

        But her problem isn’t with the library (or really even library leadership, even if the director seems to be going along with the plan)- it’s with the county. The County Manager wouldn’t be providing her a reference anyway. Not to mention “I was let go because I objected to doing something illegal” trumps a reference from an employer attempting to break the law.

  38. Figuring out my own Virtual Learning Environment rn*

    If I was you, OP, I think my response would be a written communication to the powers that be, with a be a tried and true Allison tone of “of course” — Of Course we want to help out people in and provide a service to the county but need but Of Course we need to think through and do this legally, and let’s work together to find the answers to these questions and scenarios. Then I would stick to the legal or very clear ones (which are hefty and enough!) – what about licenses, ratios, snacks, bathrooms, allergies, behavioral incidents, technical issues, late pick-ups, weather or facility closures, Covid incidents, non-coved illnesses (runny noses – kids have ’em constantly) etc. I wouldn’t bring up anything in the gray areas — like, why is this ok but schools opening is not? — because I think the black and white Qs will be enough to sink this plan. It’ll be cleaner and harder to argue with. Keep everything in writing. Document it all.

    I say this with full empathy for you AND for the cities trying to figure out how to run essential services with no childcare. Virtual learning needs supervision and engagement from an adult, and that’s the truth. There’s some la, la, magical thinking going on to not address it. But by sticking to the clear legalities and a positive, Of Course we are open to this idea so let’s do it Rightly and Smartly, I think, will go a long way in resolving it in your favor.

    Good luck; thinking of you.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Recommend (if you can find willing coworkers) that several of you send this email – same content. The more of you, the better.

      I like the tone of VLE’s comment above – just stick to the facts and list specific questions (that you know they can’t or don’t have an answer for…).

  39. Morning reader*

    I don’t understand. If the library building can handle 300 unrelated individuals at once, why not just open the library For normal library activities? If that’s not safe, how is this plan safe?

    It sounds like the library is a county department so the county is overextending. But every library I’ve been in has official policy about not allowing unattended young children. Along with violating childcare regulations, this violates legally established library policy.

    Is there anything else the library could do to help the county employee/parents? A matching service to connect family pods, tutors, college students at home, other volunteers who may be able to help? WiFi outside the library for socially distance outdoor office space? Recruiting licensed day care providers (from community connections) and teachers to set up child care/mini classrooms in the county office building so that working parents are near their children? The underlying problem is that the library was not included (or listened to) in this emergency planning. If the library people were at the table, they could come up with better ways to solve this problem.

    1. moql*

      This one is important to me! If the library is safe for kids to use then why can’t I use it too?

      (I don’t actually think I’d feel safe going in to the library yet, but it seems like such a logic fail.)

      1. MonkAdrianMonk*

        It seems to be not just one library, but an undetermined several throughout the county.

  40. What's with Today, today?*

    This sucks. But our library has been shut down since March and all employees are still technically furloughed. All the options might be bad.

  41. Library worker*

    AAM, please do not invoke the National Labor Relations Act with this OP, since they’re a public sector worker at the local/municipal level. The public sector labor relations law in their state would apply, and in many cases, it will differ from the NLRA.

    OP, you should reach out to the AFL-CIO’s Department of Professional Employees for guidance on your legal options in relation to unionization: https://www.dpeaflcio.org/join-a-union. They are very knowledgeable about library workplaces, and can connect you to potential union options like AFSCME.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      You beat me to it. The NLRA specifically omits public employers. And even those states that have laws allowing for similar provisions sometimes have additional caveats, such as allowing for unions and collective bargaining, but outlawing strikes.

  42. Caroline Bowman*

    Even where I am ( a tinpot banana republic where stupid, toweringly dangerous ideas are ten-a-penny and frequently touted as The Answer To All Problems by people who should know better), this is a crazy, unworkable little scheme.

    As a county worker being asked to leave my child, especially a younger child, in the care of an unlicensed, not-personally-known-to-me person (however amazing!) in an unregistered facility, all day, every day of the work week would be a hard no. As the supposed childcare-provider, if something went wrong (something will go wrong. It will. It always does), you’d be in the firing line. Also, you are not a childcare provider nor school teacher. Are they asking firemen who aren’t busy to go and work in the sanitation dept to cover people who are shielding or out sick? Were teachers who weren’t working during this time asked to come and check library books and man the 911 phones?

    This is an insult. It’s also crazy and dangerous and just no.

  43. Ripley*

    Going to the local media also has another advantage: Once it’s reported in a local media, then other library sources will pick it up. Your county officials haven’t seen anything until they start getting emails, letters, and media coverage from enraged librarians across the country.

    Have you had a conversation with the North Carolina Library Association? Someone on the Executive Board might be able to help and they will have the advantage of knowing the library laws in your state: https://nclaonline.org/executive-board

    1. Catherine*

      I second going to your state library association. They have the knowledge and the connections to be helpful here.

      There are also some library groups organizing around this issue, not necessarily from a unionizing stance, but for info sharing, and checking out some of them could also be really helpful as you approach this. Think recommendations for building cleaning, policies that should be in place for having members of the public in the building, stuff like that, so even if you can’t change what is happening, you can get as many safeguards in place as possible. https://libraryworkers.net/index.php comes up a lot (and I just saw is in a later comment already! go librarians!)

  44. CJ Record*

    I wonder how IEPs and other IDEA provisions would be applied. You know, just as another vector of lawsuits towards the county to consider.

    1. Kimmybear*

      Yup. Our county is using school buildings and county employees to provide parent paid “learning environments” for students with disabilities. But since it’s the county and not the school system it seems like an end-run around the FREE part of FAPE.

  45. Jean*

    This is so outrageous that I would be taking it to local (and national) media. People in your county should know that this is the type of government that is stewarding their lives at the local level. Not only is it an obvious bad-faith attempt to skirt unemployment requirements for people dealing with childcare issues, it’s an absolute witches’ brew of liability pitfalls for everyone involved. Good luck OP. Please update.

  46. digitalnative-ish*

    Wow. Way to devalue librarians and childcarers in one go. This is so many magnitudes of terrible, I have no idea what to say.

    Much sympathy from a library school grad. Hope you’re able to fight this.

  47. CommanderBanana*

    You absolutely need to get the local media involved. I have a feeling county residents are going to want to know why their taxes are paying for childcare for county employees.

  48. another Hero*

    Ohhhhhh no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no. Absolutely not. I don’t blame you for looking and trying to get out of there. You can never trust the people above you who thought this was an acceptable risk to put you at again, and if library leadership is down for this, you can’t trust their professional values at all.

    First, the people who are saying to leak it are right. And the people who say you should look up how the law defines childcare are right. (Hey, at least you’re librarians, huh.) And the people who point out that you’re being used to deny your coworkers across the county better options are also right. You can organize not just with your coworkers at the library but with people around the county. Does your sheriff’s office have a union, or anyone else like that? I mean, get the cops out of libraries, but this is a seriously desperate situation, and they might be more likely to?

    Are the library admins on board with this? If so, ask them a lot of questions about policies and procedures. What’s the plan when a kid gets covid? What’s the plan when kids need attention and help? What are you supposed to do about the work you now won’t be able to do because you’re providing childcare? etc. Drawing their attention to liability kind of seems like the only option. But alas, there have been plenty of library admins perfectly content to put staff at risk lately, so that might not get you far. (Still, most of them seem to be doing it for the sake of public opinion, and this won’t benefit them there.)

    Three hours of programming a day?! Other people haven’t commented on this bit (they may before I get this posted), but good heavens, if that’s supposed to be anything more than coloring and reading, your bosses should also be able to weigh in on how you’re making that happen. (Yes, teachers do more than that, but they tend to be trained in it, reuse and borrow lesson plans, be exempt, and have a high rate of attrition in the first couple years when they have to come up with it all every day, so the comparison doesn’t work.) Literally just. Three hours! Per day! I’d do as little as possible there because you definitely don’t want to find yourself being expected to continue after-school stuff to that extent once you’re open to the public – may it be a long time from now. Three hours! A day! For kids of all ages!!

    A relevant question: are only YS staff being conscripted for this? Because that doesn’t seem possible, but your AS and other staff may well not have any knowledge about, like, kids? Are you expected to create programming for them to run as well? If they’re devoting their time to kids, who is offering whatever virtual and outreach services you’re providing to adults rn? Basically, I guess, it seems like it’s worth asking how services continue.

    And while of course you don’t want to be open and offer all-day childcare to the public right now, it’s deeply, deeply not ok to use the public library staff to provide this but *not* provide it to everyone. And yet it’s hard to bring up bc you don’t want the answer to be expansion of the quasi-service. But the SO MUCH time you spend on this is time you can’t spend offering services to the public. If you’ve been doing things like virtual storytime, can you point out that three! hours! of programming! per day! is so much that you will have to curtail the services you provide to everyone? I mean, that’s not an argument that will work except with people who, you know, care about people, but it does matter! A lot!

    I’m so sorry you’re in this situation, op, it’s extremely not fine

    1. I work there too*

      To the best of my knowledge, all departments will be responsible for “supervising” children while they are “in school”. However, YS will definitely take the brunt of the programming in the afternoons. I’m in IS and I, at least, am committed to shouldering as much responsibly as I can, but to put it simply, we don’t know how to do children’s programming. We’ve never done it before, we have no training in it, and several of my coworkers do not work well with small children.

  49. AnotherAnon*

    Manager in municipal government in one of the top 10 largest cities in the US, so maybe I can provide some perspective. Our department runs summer youth camps, as far as I’m aware none of those employees require childcare licensing. They restarted ours on a limited basis right as things were peaking in July in one of the most infected places in the US and did not cancel them. They followed state childcare guidelines for COVID safety, but I don’t believe this was a requirement. Before that, those employees were reassigned elsewhere during closures and any who complained were told their duties can be reassigned and that they were provided training for the new duties, so they had no options. We also have employees from a still closed department that have been transferred to our department for the next year. Their jobs are tangentially similar but there are definitely differences, and the employees had no say in where they were going or their schedule (our new employee is now working weekends). Pre-covid all of our libraries had publicly available services that can be used by children, and their presence does not require librarians to have any special certification simply because there are children involved. Being County, your employer is likely self-insured in regards to liability.

    All this to say… I’m not really sure how much push back you have. For what it’s worth, I think it’s extreme to put people who may not have any inclination for children in a position whose main duties are to be responsible for them. That takes it to a whole different level. But realistically your employer probably has limited options right now. My city has responded really well to the budget crises and we are in a better position than expected, but there have still been a lot of difficult changes required to ensure people aren’t laid off.

    1. Anon for this*

      But even those youth camps (even if they aren’t labeled as “child care” and therefore don’t have specific licensing requirements) have restrictions on number of children allowed, illness protocols, bathroom requirements, food service handling requirements, adult/child ratios, emergency procedures, contingency plans- I could go on. Not to mention they are, you know, ACTUAL youth camps/child care options.

    2. Paris Geller*

      My city runs summer youth camps as well and I don’t think they require specific childcare licensing, but I think there’s some differences between those camps and this idea. First, anyone who sends their kids to those camps has to sign waivers, acknowledgement forms, etc. (which the library in this case might do, I realize, but it doesn’t sound they have yet). Second, a lot of public libraries have it written into their policies that they do not act in loco parentis — it’s actually a pretty foundational principle considering our profession’s commitment to the freedom to read. We don’t censor what children pick up at the library because that’s the parent’s responsibility. In this case, all that changes.What if a kid looks up something inappropriate during the day when they’re supposed to be doing schoolwork and the parents get mad? Generally the library falls back on to the fact we are not responsible for what children read or use the computer for, but in this case they ARE providing supervision and childcare, so that won’t fly. It’s totally antithetical to how public libraries normally operate.

      1. President Porpoise*

        Yeah, what are you going to do when one of the older kids accesses porn on the library computers? I believe there are legal rulings out there related to censorship at public libraries that prevent the librarians for shutting down that kids access, but that’s a kind of virtual learning that the littles really shouldn’t be exposed to! Probably (hopefully?) there’s something that they could do since the kids are underage, but are you going to be monitoring all 300 laptops at once? Something’s going to happen.

        1. Lawyerly*

          No, your statement is incorrect. U.S. Supreme Court precedent is the opposite- filtering software on public library computers does not infringe on adults’ First Amendment rights. United States v. American Library Association, 539 U.S. 194 (2003)

    3. AcadLibrarian*

      I’d just like to point out not all public library staff are considered county employees. In my system, the only county employee is the director. The rest of the staff are considered employees of the library board. We have separate insurance and do not participate in the county pension plan as well. As far as I know in my major-metropolitan area, only one system has staff considered to be county employees. The other dozen of so major library systems are the same as mine. I’m not sure about the rest of the state, but I would assume it’s the same there as well, since most of the rest of the state is rural and the libraries are run by regional systems, not county.

    4. emmelemm*

      What AnonForThis said. Even if these camps aren’t specifically licensed as “childcare”/”daycare”, they presumably have been running for years and have established protocols for medications, food allergies, adult/child ratios, etc. And they have people knowledgeable in those regulations running them. Even if you shift one or two county employees who normally serve a totally different function to help at these camps, they are presumably doing so under the guidance of long-time employees who are aware and comfortable with all of the things that need to be done to supervise children. Just sticking all the children in the library with the librarians is not that.

  50. ONFM*

    I know you’ll hate me for this.

    Do you use any county services? Trash removal, water, sewer? Those jobs are getting done, and someone is watching those workers’ kids. Have you had pizza delivered? Gone to the grocery store? Bought stuff from Amazon? Someone was watching their kids, too.

    It sounds like your county is about to recall workers and reopen many of its facilities (or resume pre-pandemic operations). In order to do that, someone will have to watch their workers’ kids. I also bet that your locality doesn’t have an abundance of available, low-cost childcare – most places don’t. So the county can either lose a large number of employees to resignation/termination – or attempt, in the most ham-fisted way possible (because that’s how government works), to provide an alternative.

    It really sucks right now, but I think we’ve reached the point where people are going to have to either quit jobs en masse or “deal with it” – and I know that’s not nearly the right phrase here, but I don’t know what else to say. This is what is happening now. Especially when you work for a local government – where budgets are absolutely subject to public input, council/commissioner approval, etc. I know for a fact that there are public conversations going on in my city about laying off workers from departments like libraries, parks and rec, etc., because those facilities cannot be safely reopened, we’re going on 6 months of closures, and budgets are shrinking. People here are calling for teacher’s aides and school janitorial/cafeteria staff to be laid off too, since school didn’t restart this month.

    I just want to reiterate that this isn’t a “librarians v. the county” fight – it’s a further unmasking of how precarious many of the social support networks had become before the pandemic. I’m really really sorry you’re in this position.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I was having a lot of similar thoughts. The proposal here is hair-brained at best but it’s born of desperation. I agree that the letter writer and her colleagues should be appalled by this plan, but it’s indicative of what many municipalities are dealing with in trying to safeguard essential services while dealing with the very real reality that this isn’t going away anytime soon. I don’t envy anyone dealing with the horror show that is back to school in fall 2020.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        ETA: I agree with everything downthread as well. I’ve been saying for YEARS that presenteeism is a major public health issue, and lack of comprehensive and affordable childcare support is a travesty. I actually heard someone say, “Well, I mean, what do they do when there is a snow day and they have to come to work? They figure it out!” Um … one parent usually calls in, that’s what they do. It’s not a solution.

        But neither is this. :(

    2. Paris Geller*

      Not the OP, but I have to say that generally, librarians know better than almost anyone else how precarious social support networks were even prior to the pandemic. In my area, that is one reason we stayed open longer than almost any other city service–because it was “if, the libraries close, where will the homeless go? Where will the children who are out of school go? Where will those who need to apply for unemployment go?” and on. Trust me, we KNOW how fragile these systems are, because job creep has made most public librarians para social workers and teachers already. Many of us are trained to distribute NARCAN, deal with active shooter training, etc.

      But librarians aren’t licensed childcare providers.

      1. AnonKid*

        If a parent is at the end of their rope (like my single mom was a long time ago), I don’t think they’d quite care about “licensed providers”. I got dropped off at a chain smoking neighbor’s house with scary dogs 5x a week so mom could work.

        I am not a parent and 100% on your side that this shouldn’t happen, but “we’re not licensed” is going to fall on deaf ears to parents that have no other options.

    3. AcadLibrarian*

      It’s hare-brained, yes. But library staff are not trained childcare providers. And it sounds like this library has been providing services to the public as well as helping other departments as well. The fact that we have failed to provide low-cost childcare is not the responsibility of the public library. I’m also curious about how this library is set-up. When I worked for a public library, we were not considered county employees. The library director was the only county employee. The rest of us worked for the library system at the direction of an independent library board.

    4. another Hero*

      I’d rather be furloughed than this. Your point is well-taken, but part of what’s outrageous about this is actually the fact that it’s not being offered to the public. It’s not actually additional safetynet for anyone but county employees. The county knows the risk is unreasonable, so they’re ignoring the public part of a public library *and* cultivating a site of immense covid risk. Because we just don’t have public spaces in the US, libraries are often called upon for slipshod mending of safetynet gaps in just this way, with people saying “well, someone has to do it, and the library is there.” But it often–as in this case–ignores that library staff have particular training and the gaps people are trying to mend require really different training. Even allowing for the unusual-ness of this time, it’s part of a pattern, and it’s also unfair to the kids and likely unsafe; childcare is regulated for a reason.

      1. Letter Writer*

        I would also rather be furloughed. At least then I could qualify for unemployment. But now, if I quit, I lose my health care and will risk not qualifying for assistance.

        1. CircleBack*

          This kind of drastic change to your job responsibilities might make it possible for you to appeal if your employer denies unemployment. You’re right that there’s a level of risk – and there would possibly be a delay in receiving unemployment – but it’s not impossible.

        2. #nonprofitlife*

          I can do nothing but empathize but I’m doing that so hard at you. I’m in the same place. Please just remember that people care about you and that there are other jobs out there you could use to sustain yourself for now, if the situation comes to that. Please don’t lose hope.

    5. Letter Writer*

      Oh, I don’t hate you for this comment. I’m currently in school for a B.A. in sociology, so I’m definitely aware of how a lack of childcare hurts workers, especially low-income ones.

      I will echo what Paris Geller said above, though. Librarians and library workers already wear a lot of hats. We are a de facto homeless shelter during the day when we are open to the public for normal service.

      I also agree with Rusty Shackleford. I, as an employee, should not and cannot be expected to do everything for everyone, and telling (not asking) library staff to do this camp without proper training, certifications, or legal protection smacks as highly unjust.

    6. Insert Clever Name Here*

      And if there was any indication that the county hand thought about any of the very valid questions other commenters have raised (are there enough toilets? liability when a kid assaults a kid? liability when an adult assaults a kid? Wifi bandwidth? check-in procedures to reduce potential COVID exposure? check-out procedures to ensure non-custodial adult doesn’t walk off with Sally? can they heat up their lunch? are the staff trained to spot abuse? have the staff had background checks?), while the situation would still suck it wouldn’t be as horrifying.

    7. UrbanChic*

      I could not agree with this wise comment more. There are no good options here. A whole fleet of municipal essential workers have been working non-stop since the pandemic started to keep basic services going that we all depend on (like healthcare/hospitals, electricity, water, sewer, mail, gas, internet, fire, police, etc.). Childcare is expensive and super hard to get into! In my town it is a months long waiting list – and my husband and I are both truly, truly essential (he is a police officer, I work for a food bank). Now with schools closed, households must make longer-term accommodations, and that could mean quitting jobs. Our county staffing is also reaching a level where further departures could mean disruptions in critical services. Even though our schools will be remote, cafeterias will be open so kids of essential workers can virtual learn from there. Kids will be supervised by admin workers and janitorial staff. I’m sorry that this is the solution that is being presented to you, and I agree it totally is awful, but there are no good choices right now. This was tried in San Francisco in the early days of the pandemic, and there was a piece in the Atlantic a few months ago about how libraries were serving as “second responders”, including providing care and internet to kids that don’t have it. It may be worth looking at how those scenarios went before reaching back out to your management with questions.

    8. Heather*

      It’s never OK to force employees to open themselves up to personal liability by requiring them to perform tasks they are not trained to do.

    9. Hanging with the furry freeloaders*

      I actually think this is a false equivalence. Garbage collectors, pizza delivery folks, grocery store employees, etc, are all doing the job they signed up for. The OP is being asked (required) to do a job that she did not sign up for. And yes all those essential employees may have kids that need childcare when they are at work, the question at hand here isn’t how the OP is going to arrange for childcare during working hours. The question here is that OP, without adequate training, is being told to provide childcare to other people’s children.

      And let’s not forget that the reason schools are closed is because we’re in the middle of a public health crisis, and the OP and other librarians could very well be putting their lives at risk because of this thrown together proposal.

      Also, OP, do you know YOUR legal liability if something happens to one of the children in your care? Can the parents take you to civil court? Could you be help liable in criminal court for anything? (I’m thinking older kids with drugs, weapons, fighting, assault)

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        The question here is that OP, without adequate training, is being told to provide childcare to other people’s children.

        And the parents of those children are being told “we have arranged for childcare, albeit untrained and understaffed and in an inappropriate setting, but since you have childcare available, you don’t get to opt out of working due to childcare being unavailable.”

      2. Not So NewReader*

        . If more of these people were needed (the garbage collectors, pizza delivery folks, grocery store employees, etc,) they would be provided with training, get licensing and have resources given to them to work with.

        I am not seeing a plan for that in OP’s situation. I see this in government a lot, here it’s called an unfunded mandate. We just had something (don’t want to derail too much) mandated here that cost an estimated $300M and NO moneys were alloted. So there are thousands of people working unpaid time to make it happen.

        They think that they will just pay the librarians as always and the rest of what is needed will magically fall into place. No. What will happen is that many people will work off the clock because they have NO choice.

    10. agnes*

      This. I also work for a public entity and we have done everything we can to keep people employed, but we are close to running out of options–and everybody just saying no and “not my job” to anything we propose isn’t helping any. .

      I hear the concerns, and if the LW and her colleagues could approach this with an idea of what could work to keep them employed and help with the child care needs of their colleagues, they might come up with something that could work. We have never had to deal with anything like this in our lifetime and giving everyone a bit of grace while still voicing your thoughts and concerns might work better.

      Otherwise you might see a pink slip. That’s not a threat, that is a reality in most local governments lately who depend on sales tax and other fees to pay our salaries.

      1. Undercover Lady Lawyer*

        But, the thing is, “helping with childcare” means the OP and coworkers are the responsible parties when a child gets hurt, abused, kidnapped, killed. Why should anyone gracefully put their head in a noose? No one should have to deal with other people’s children at work if that’s not their job. The risk of harm is too great and the risk of undeserved prosecution (in both the legal sense and in plain English usage) for the slightest of non-reasons is unacceptable.

    11. memyselfandi*

      I was scrolling down to the bottom to add a similar but more general thought. All the issues that have been raised regarding legal, safety etc. are all valid. But, to me this action by the County is a reflection of a larger change in what we expect schools (and libraries, too, I guess) to do. Many of these functions were once performed by other institutions such as civic and cultural organizations, churches and parents and relatives who were not harnessed like a mule to their employer. We created a world that cannot be sustained in the face of the environment we live in (and you can think climate change as well as novel viruses in that regard) and we need to come to grips with that. I work in the public sector. My job changed when COVID hit, my staff were reassigned to other duties, and my personal professional goals were put on hold and possibly permanently derailed. It sucks, I know. But maybe there is a solution if we think about the larger problem.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Oh, believe me, I find it appalling that there’s no proper social safety net and equitable, free access to childcare for workers across the board. I still do not think I am comfortable continuing to work for this library if this plan goes through. I will quit if it comes to that.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It’s not up to you, as one person to fix all of society’s issues, either. Unfortunately, it does impact your wallet.

          You know, I could understand this if they said, “We have to lay people off. If anyone is interested there is work doing x. You can contact Sue if you want to sign up for x.” If he was a really cool leader he might throw in, “If enough people take this offer we may not have to lay off the remaining people.”

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Exactly; It’s a crime that there isn’t free equitable public childcare in the US, but it’s also terrible that there it’s a crime that there isn’t free equitable public childcare in the US, but it’s also terrible that there isn’t universal access to healthcare, and that doesn’t justify asking librarians to pretend to be doctors with no training or logistical support or budget.

      2. CatsAway*

        By ‘reassigned to other duties’ do you mean that your staff were given greatly increased workloads (because coming up with 3 hours of activities per day for kids to do is A LOT of work, never mind supervising kids while still doing their other library duties) and asked to flout regulations/the law in their new duties? Because that’s what the LW is being asked to do.
        In regards to your point about society expecting schools to fulfill roles that family/churches etc would have taken in the past, for the last ~100 years public institutions educating your children away from your home, through 8th grade at least, has been the expectation so we are in a pretty unprecedented situation here.

    12. Steggy Saurus*

      Or you know, if it’s safe for the public librarians to be providing child care, excuse me, virtual learning camps, all day perhaps the teachers could, just maybe, do their jobs? What is the difference between teachers teaching in a school and librarians providing childcare in the library? There isn’t any.

      1. fhgwhgads*

        Right. Everyone has brought up a lot of really important non-pandemic-based reasons why this is illegal as well as a terrible idea. But there also is still a pandemic. It’s NOT safe for teachers to be teaching in person indoors all day, masked or no, distanced or no. The duration makes it untenable before you even get into the children being children part.
        If somehow this plan goes through despite all the logistics that have clearly not been considered, this library WILL be the source of a cluster within 2 weeks. I’d bet money on it.

        1. Letter Writer*

          That’s one of my big fears. Our library system has somehow, across all its branches, managed to not have a single COVID-19 case so far.

          I don’t know how long that will remain the case once this camp starts.

      2. LibraryAdjacent*

        Not to mention- schools are designed so that kids can be in there safely–why is the library being considered a site for this AT ALL? There are so many spaces in a library where a kid could be out of sight all day if they chose. Are they planning to reorganize the space so that a mix of kids of different ages/educational programs/abilities to sit still are visible to a member of the library staff at all times? If teachers are out of the mix because they’re delivering online instruction (itself an overwhelming task), why not set up computers/desks/supplies/etc in the school’s cafeteria or gym and bring in county workers from all agencies to supervise? At least in the school building there would be enough bathrooms, plus the custodial, cafeteria staff, security, classroom assistants and aides that frankly, would be necessary for something like this to be an all-day endeavor could still report to their jobs. I’m assuming in a properly staffed “camp”, library staff could bring a lot of value in the form of programming (programming that they could actually prepare for), homework or research assistance, and enrichment activities for students who are on a break or finished with their classes for the day. This is 100% work that they won’t be able to do if they’re running around trying to help students with their computer issues, facilitate bathroom breaks or meal times, keep people from bolting out the door, etc.

    13. Media Monkey*

      i’m in the UK, and even in the depths of lockdown when no one could go anywhere for anything but buying food or emergencies, children of keyworkers could go to school. they didn’t receive in person teaching and social distancing/ masks were worn but they had a safe place to do their distance learning. not clear why it doesn’t make more sense to put the kids in a building designed to hold them and keep them safe with qualified staff rather than create a whole new system to avoid them going to school?

  51. SassyAccountant*

    I’m in Florida, and they make our librarians do this every time there is a hurricane. Their job duties then become child care providers so that “essential” employees can do their jobs. I always thought this was absurd considering everything that could go wrong when you’re not trained for that job duty or have facilities that are conducive to small children. But all of our handbooks say “and other duties as assigned.” Which is such a load of crap. If you have a sh*t employer they can legally ask you do just about anything. You’re an accountant? Well guess what? You are also the janitor for the building and responsible for cleaning up after everyone else in the kitchen and bathrooms and dragging out the garbage in your dress and heels (that the dress code prefers you to wear) to the dumpster. Yep…….

    1. feministbookworm*

      There’s a big difference between immediate response in the aftermath of a hurricane and being indefinitely (likely for months) detailed to childcare duty, though as you note both are problematic. As a medium/long-term childcare solution, all of the procedures people have asked questions about are all that much more important, because the likelihood of those kinds of situations coming up (kids wandering off, pickup issues, injuries, etc) increase dramatically.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Yes. This was framed as something the library will be doing indefinitely into the future, so it’s not necessarily something isolated to a short-term change in duties. The longer it goes on, the more we’re at risk for something bad happening.

    2. Anon librarian for this one*

      Also a librarian in Florida. I don’t work for your employer but suspect you are down the road from me.

      The librarians at the employer near me staff the hurricane shelters with no training. Librarians are not stupid but when you get sent to a building you don’t know and have to set up places to sleep, manage food, and safety (both hurricane related, during overnight hours, and all the medicine, allergy, safety issues brought up here re childcare) without any resources or information, the disaster is predictable.

  52. Trek*

    Reach out to every local news station and provide them with as much information as can without outing yourself if possible. Explain that your concern is how to handle 300 kids with no training, no medical support, and no guidelines such as those that a public school has in place. The questions regarding what happens if someone gets hurt or what if there is an emergency? Can you evacuate 300+ people timely and safely and where do you go? Where do the parents pick up their children? Tell the reporters that your jobs are being threatened so you cannot go on the record. Once they have enough reporters asking questions and exposing this plan it will die in committee and possible the person who threatened you will lose their job.

  53. employment lawyah*

    Most obviously: The laws don’t always work as they seem like they would. In fact, it’s common for court cases to be at least as important, as the cases interpret the meaning of the laws, often in surprising ways. A change from library staffing to childcare may well lead to constructive dismissal. You should talk to an employment attorney; don’t make this analysis on your own.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Thank you, I will see about doing that. I just don’t have a lot of economic resources available to me (I am paid just at the line of what I would consider a livable wage and live paycheck to paycheck) so I will try to at least find someone who will offer an initial consultation for free. (Forgive me if any of this response sounds ignorant – I’m unfamiliar with lawyers and the legal world.)

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        If you do decide to consult a lawyer, The North Carolina Bar Association has a lawyer referral service. If you go through that service, your initial 30-min consultation is a flat fee of $50. It’s not free, but it could be a good way to find out legal options. I’ve used this matching service with good success, as have others I know.

      2. employment lawyah*

        You may find it worthwhile to find a group and look into this together, since the same question will probably affect multiple people. Good luck.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Free legal help if qualified:

        legalaidnc dot org

        From their website:

        We help our clients gain and retain safe employment, and secure the wages and benefits they are entitled to

        Unemployment: We help our clients receive the unemployment compensation they deserve.
        Wage Theft: We help our clients collect the wages that are owed to them.
        Other: We help clients fight the denial or loss of occupational licenses.”

        Toll free number: 1-866-219-LANC

        I have no idea if they can help you. But I would advise you not to decide, either. Rather call them and talk it over.

  54. LibraryLady*

    Hello! Fellow librarian here and I feel your pain. I was a former children’s librarian in AR (now I’m in another state and department) and there were so many regulations about supervising kids, but those seem to go out the window if it becomes more convenient to re-evaluate the “other duties as assigned” part of our job descriptions. Although I don’t have any specific advice, I love to recommend this article to every librarian I run across. It made me feel so validated about the crazy things they ask us to do outside of our regular job description. It also helped me set personal boundaries and better evaluate where to draw the line professionally. Good luck!


    1. Letter Writer*

      Oh yeah, I read that article a year or so ago and it opened my eyes to how librarians and library staff can be manipulated by vocational awe and a sense of martyrdom. I recommend it to anyone who works in a field often regarded as virtuous.

      This situation is one in which I plan to draw the line for what I am willing to do professionally. And thank you!

      1. Solitary Daughter*

        Also a librarian here. I am so very very sorry about this. I can’t imagine how demoralized and helpless your staff feel right now. I think focusing on: this is not safe, this is not legal, and this is a ticking timebomb is the way to go. Whether that’s an anonymous report to somebody (like DCFS) or the whole staff speaking up about it: this is an incredible danger. Whatever real help from the library looks like, whether that’s space or resources, this is NOT it. I’m really sorry. What a crapshow.

        1. Solitary Daughter*

          Also: yes to the conversation with the employment lawyer! I think that’s a great idea.

  55. Career HR person*

    In my state, this would be so absolutely illegal. Call the NC state agency that regulates Childcare facilities. they will put a stop to this.

  56. Eve*

    I completely agree with the above questions on adult/kid ratio, liability issues, etc but I will say also as a tax payer I would be upset that my taxes were going to county worker daycare costs. I don’t have that free option.

    I’m all for socialized services and day care should be one but this isn’t the way to do it.

    1. UrbanChic*

      Just a note that your tax dollars may already be going to that. at the start of the pandemic, all county essential workers were offered 3mos of free child care through a local baby sitting service in our location. In normal times county and city workers are offered discounts at certain daycares. This is pretty common in my experience.

  57. Carolyn*

    I’m so sorry OP! Fellow librarian here and I’d recommend reaching out to your professional organizations. Does your state have any policy letters or recommendations you can fall back on? For example ALA has some kinda wishy washy guidelines for reopening: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/reopeningguidelines

    Likewise, you might not be unionized by county government never appreciates bad media attention. Have you sent this info to #protectlibraryworkers? (https://libraryworkers.net/) They can help organize letter writing / twitter campaigns on your library system’s behalf.

    Finally, does your state have a health office or childcare licensing office you can complain to?

  58. Webby Vanderquack*

    I am a public librarian in a different state and I just want to say WTF to this plan. Good luck and document everything! I would ask about toileting and who is going to monitor that as well.

  59. Former public librarian*

    Suggestions for other resources to help your cause: Does your library have legal counsel? Do you have a library board/ Friends group that would back you up? How about contacting the ALA/ your state’s library association to see if they can help?

  60. Anon-mama*

    WTAF. Library staff worker here. Nope. We are lucky and in a union. This would never fly. We were able to “fulfill the obligations to the taxpayer” when working from home, as well as staff only in the building, because there’s so much we can do virtually, as all as within the building. I think you need to go to the media. I cannot believe they had county legal approve this. Would that webinar be considered communications subject to any kind of public records sunshine laws? I know if there’s cause, our internal emails, memos, etc. are. What the media will hopefully do is get state leadership involved. And surely camps have regulations that you do not meet; they can’t seriously think that changing the word childcare to camp waives their responsibility to meet care standards. It’s one thing if the county said: we’re using the big computer room at X library where FULLY QUALIFIED people (teachers, subs, camp counselor, etc.) who’ve chosen to do this (it schooling/childcare was in their remit), and it will be completely separate from library functions. What they’re doing is wrong, and if the media doesn’t pick it up or it doesn’t change, I’d be talking to a shark of an employment lawyer and considering quitting or following whatever legal advice they give me should I remain to limit my personal liability.

    1. AuroraLight37*

      Our union is also very vocal and has fought back a number of attempted changes, for which I am very grateful.

  61. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    “I cannot imagine our patrons being happy about this when the news gets out.”
    I hope it does. The children will be physically IN the library. they won’t be in school. They will be IN THE LIBRARY on their computers doing virtual learning with their teachers.
    But I can’t go into the library to use a computer for taxes, job hunting, or professional work.
    Because the county decided to conscript my library for free day care for its employees’ children.
    And in turn conscript my library staff into unpaid childcare givers.
    Yeah, that’s obscene.

    Hey, if the kids just need to sit in a room and work on a computer, put them in conference rooms in their parents’ offices. They will be wearing masks. They don’t need teachers. What’s the problem?

    1. another Hero*

      Yeah, it’s not what the OP should focus on, but as a public librarian I’m inordinately mad about how this is going to make library staff into private childcare at the expense of (since it’ll take so much time) providing service to the public!!

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Agreed. I think it would be fair for OP to alert the public that this is in the works. A working parent finds out that the government workers are getting “free” (tax dollar funded) child care, I’d be pretty pissed.

  62. Anne of Green Gables*

    Letter Writer, does your county have a Risk Management dept or officer? I am in your state and worked in public libraries for a decade. One of the counties I worked for had a Risk Management officer. From a programming perspective, it was often funny what he would object to–I wrote up a full-page policy on using low temp hot glue guns in teen programming–to use them we had to have a minimum age and teens had to wear safety goggles (and I think gloves but I could be mis-remembering) to use a *low temp hot glue gun*. There is absolutely NO WAY the county-employed risk manager would have let something like what you describe happen.

    If your county does have such a person, perhaps you could contact them with a list of questions about how to handle certain aspects of the proposal–the idea being that you are following your normal procedures of clearing what you do in your space with this position. So it would be an honest email written trying to figure out compliance with the risk management dept. If, as I suspect, such a person previously had no idea this was happening, it would give them the heads up, and seems less likely to have retaliation that would directly fall on you. Even better if whoever reaches out to them regularly does so when planning library programs–I know that I reached out to ours pretty regularly for the adult and teen programming I did, and our children’s staff did as well, though they probably less so because they just knew what he wouldn’t approve and didn’t plan those activities.

    As others have suggested, I think that using staff in other county departments who would have objections to this in terms of their jobs to protect the county is a potentially good route to at least alert others to the issue. Risk Management, legal, etc.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Thank you, I will try to find out who I can contact in Risk Management and see what they have to say. Plus, then I will have some sort of a paper trail – the county has currently not delivered any of this information to us in writing.

    2. Lorax*

      Yes, I posted something similar above, but just wanted to weigh in here to support this idea. Also, if the OP is going to continue working for the library system, and the country goes forward with this, I’d want the OP to check on what legal protections there are for employees in this scenario, such as indemnification and legal language in waivers/liability release forms. I’m no lawyer, and I imagine there’s only so far you can indemnify/waive liability in this case — particularly around harms to children — but it’s worth bringing up to make sure it’s on the county’s radar. If they go forward with this, they need to do their damnedest to make sure individual employees aren’t put at risk of having to pay thousands out of pocket in legal fees and damages if they’re personally named in a lawsuit.

  63. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

    So this is batshit crazy.

    County Commissioners have to get elected/re-elected and endangering children is not a good way to do that. Take a beat and consider what political resources you have, or people you know have. Town politics feeds into county politics (the state system tends to be different), do you know people who know people within the party in power? What’s the county newspaper, is it well read/important to the community. Letters to the editor, phone calls from reporters about the endangering of children can make a significant impact.

    I don’t mean to gloss over that library staff may get laid off, but I will say, cutting librarians is also not good for getting re-elected. Even if the party in power is always the party in power, older people like libraries and it is not a good re-election look.

    1. pcake*

      A lot of places have many more parents worried about getting free childcare…er, I mean getting their kids back to school than anything else. They’d be thrilled to vote for anyone who can make that happen.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Yeah. We had a guy write into the local newspaper a month or so ago demanding for the library to open fully or for us to all be fired, so I’m not too sure the political angle will fly super well where I am.

  64. AcadLibrarian*

    Holy shit. I’m a librarian that once worked in a public library. This is a terrible idea.
    And just to the unionization issue – I’m also in an at-will state in the South and our teachers aren’t even unionized, so unionizing the public library would be a tall order. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any govt agencies that have unionized employees in my state.
    Honestly, I would contact a local reporter anonymously if I were you. Also, if there is a reporting line for DEFACS or CPS or whatever you call it in your state. And whatever agency licenses daycares.
    And I know not everyone can, but if there is anyone who is in the position that they can quit, I would encourage them to do so.

  65. Rockin Takin*

    Beyond the thousand reasons why this is a terrible idea, how are they going to have that many children on the Library’s wifi? The programs kids are using for their virtual learning eat up a lot of bandwidth, wouldn’t all the kids struggle with the internet?

    If you aren’t able to get them to listen just from the safety standpoint (because clearly they already DGAF about people’s safety), maybe the practicality of it would persuade them?

    1. Anon for this*

      Libraries are set up for a lot of computing and bandwidth. A lot of ones in LW’s state are being used as school hot spots anyway. From my kid’s remote school, they’re only doing full video one-way (teacher to kids), with occasional video back (to check attention), except for band, and no one’s inside using the library computers, so the bandwidth’s not a problem.

      1. Rockin Takin*

        Ah dang.
        I was thinking that going from maybe 50 people using it to like 300 at once could slow it down.

        I work for a giant company and my building went from having like 50-100 employees to double that. They didn’t update the network and for a while it was terribly slow and caused issues.

        1. another Hero*

          At my library, even scaled down to the size of my branch, this absolutely wouldn’t work with our wifi.

      2. Mockingjay*

        My library has decent wifi for occasional patron browsing – maybe 10 – 30 people, and dedicated hardwired stations. I know my local branch’s IT setup could not handle 50 – 300 users at once without a significant server capacity upgrade that my county doesn’t have funds for. I wouldn’t assume that all libraries in the LW’s state have sufficient internet capacity. I’m in the state next door and we’ve been screaming for funds for 25 years. (Seriously. Since 1995. And I live in one of the wealthier counties.)

    2. Esmeralda*

      In NC, that would depend on the county and how well the libraries are funded in that county.

  66. Anon for this*

    I’m from NC, though probably not from this county. I don’t want to dismiss the gender view possibility, nor do I think ‘student pods at libraries’ is a good plan, but: I bet one of the driving factors in this is that libraries have computer labs, and people who may be trained to support computer use.

    2/3s of NC students will be ‘remote’ this year. I suspect that the assumption is the kids will be in the library on the library computers taking remote classes at their school. Does that help with the ‘teacher guidance’ concern at all?

    The liability aspect seems like the best way to push back, but if you can’t get them to back all the way down, try to talk them into partial days and decent support (ie, maybe they could hire licensed professionals from closed care centers to ensure safety), reducing other workload, and check on the learning expectations.

    I feel ya, LW. SO frustrating how little was done to plan for this over the summer, though I know the state didn’t have the budget for it (stupid balanced budget requirement!) and the feds didn’t help enough to make a dent in all that needed to be done. The late decisions about ‘remote v not’ sure hasn’t helped. But the plans they make need to be better than this one sounds.

    Would really like an update.

    1. Anon for this*

      Also – you can try leaking it, but… NC… I suspect the public reaction will be more of a ‘meh’ or ‘at least they got those gummit workers working!’. The liability angle seems like the best option for leverage to change what’s happening.

      oh, another possibility to push for: vouchers to licensed care sites. Vouchers usually go over well in NC.

      1. Anon for this*

        If I heard about it, I wouldn’t even do my usual ‘public money going to private religious orgs!’ if I knew the option was unlicensed unsafe care…

  67. Paris Geller*

    Ugh, another librarian here and I’m sorry. OP, not sure if you were the same person who posted something like this on one of the library subreddits on Reddit a few days ago, which I saw, but I almost hope you are so there’s not TWO libraries out there doing this.

    I think this is worth pushing back, and pushing back hard. I wish you the best of luck.

    1. Letter Writer*

      I posted one in r/Libraries, but someone else from my system also posted there a couple of days ago. We confirmed we both work for the same system. Thank you. I need all the luck I can get at this point.

      That said, our county has justified this proposal by saying another county (that is rural; ours is not) has done this same thing. So it’s apparently being done in various public library systems.

      1. Paris Geller*

        I have nothing to say to the fact that apparently there ARE multiple systems doing this except that I am endlessly screaming in my head!!

    2. Yet Another Librarian*

      Aha! THAT was where I read about this situation before. It was driving me crazy (I looked back on Twitter, the open thread post, etc.). THANK YOU.

  68. Governmint Condition*

    I would want to ask a local lawyer if there could be any personal liability. In some states, there are circumstances under which a public employer cannot cover legal liability if an employee “knowingly” does something wrong (even if directed to by supervision). Acting as an unlicensed childcare provider may fall into that category.

  69. Alex*

    I get that people are desperate for childcare, but I’m amazed at all these “workaround” solutions to the schools being closed that forget WHY THE SCHOOLS ARE CLOSED. It’s not like the school had a flood or the roof collapsed or it caught on fire. The reason that schools are closed applies to all groups of people together in a space! No solution is a solution if it also calls for all the kids to be together in a space. That’s the whole point!

    1. Gruntled but Sometimes Disgruntled*

      Absolutely! And in many cases, library buildings are smaller than schools or have HVAC issues that make it unsafe. It’s just shifting the burden from one place to another.

    2. pcake*

      They don’t forget. Keep in mind how many people don’t believe in the virus or believe it’s no worse than a cold. And how many just don’t care. There’s a reason we keep reading about schools, weddings and other places where people go becoming hot spots or super spreader events – because people are still happy to go to them.

    3. emmelemm*

      Exactly! At least if they had all the kids go to school in person, the Covid risks would be high, but the school knows how to deal with medications and food allergies and after-school pickups and…

      This is just school (large public gathering) without any of the experience or infrastructure of dealing with actual children.

    4. knead me seymour*

      Yes, as terrible as this situation is for the librarians, I imagine the angle that will get most traction is the child endangerment/liability side. Even for those who don’t take the pandemic risks seriously, there are so, so many opportunities for children to get harmed in such a poorly thought-out system.

  70. nope*

    nope nope nope nope nope nopety nope.

    as a library worker this raised my blood pressure just reading the first paragraph.

    absolutely not. unionizing is great and important and my library did so fairly recently, but that can’t happen nearly fast enough to get this thing shut down. find some lawyers ASAP.

  71. saby*

    Anonymously call out the county on the LIS Grievances bot & rally Libraryland Twitter to action?

    This is ridiculous, OP. I hope you can get another job soon, because even if this plan doesn’t go ahead it’s clear that your county doesn’t value you & yoru colleagues enough.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Yeah, this situation has shown me what the county thinks of the public library system: very little. I don’t want to work for an organization that doesn’t value my contributions.

  72. Jill*

    Are you then responsible for their grades? Like what happens if Timmy starts failing math, is it your fault he decided to watch movies all day? Depending on the ages you could also contact the Division of Child Development and Early Education, there’s all kinds of specific facility requirements for childcare that I don’t think a library would meet.

  73. Bex*

    IANAL. That said …

    1. Contact your county’s legal office. They have one, I guarantee you. Ask them about this plan, have they signed off on it from a liability standpoint, etc. (Almost positive the answer will be “what? WHAT?!”)

    2. Contact your local news – print and broadcast. Request to remain anonymous and give them anything and everything you have about this. It is not right and the public should be made aware.

    3. Contact state governing/licensing boards for child care, etc. This does not feel right and it feels like someone is trying to skirt the law, majorly.

    4. Get your resume in order and be prepared to jump ship.

    Also. This really feels like county employees using county resources for their own private benefit and gain. After all, will this program be extended to children of non-county workers? Doubtful – seems like its exclusive to county employees. So they’re diverting funds and resources meant for the general public to instead benefit just employees. This feels wrong on so many levels.

    I’m sorry to hear about this. Please keep us updated.

    1. Letter Writer*

      To answer your question (which is one library staff also asked of the county manager): no, we will not be extending this service to non-county workers. Which seems…suspect, to put it lightly.

      1. Bex*

        Yeah, that seems highly suspect. Definitely feels like the county is redirecting resources to benefit its own workers to the detriment of the public.

        I mean, I get it. This is an unusual situation and everyone is scrambling to come up with workable for now solutions. But this feels like something that could just explode as soon as the general public finds out.

        I’m sorry. You’re in a tough spot and it sucks.

      2. Anon for this*

        Nah, this does *not* surprise me at all. The person who thought this up is a manager who’s responsible for making sure their services are delivered, thinks that libraries are closed, and that means there’s all this space and resources (labor, computers) not being used. They’re thinking completely in terms of labor / skills being interchangeable, not realizing that child care is an actual skilled job, with licensing and degrees and all.

        Probably not someone who has been involved in finding childcare for a preschool kid…

  74. Quinalla*

    This is a liability nightmare. Can they not partner with the local YMCA or local daycares to do something like this instead? I know they don’t want to pay for that, but unfortunately that is what they are going to have to do.

    1. Jennifer in FL*

      If it’s anything like the YMCAs in my town, they are already maxed out. Same with day cares.

  75. Summer Anon*

    All of the concerns. Our local YMCA is doing something similar but they are already a licensed child care facility.

    This seems like a logistical nightmare. Paperwork, medical forms, contact information, etc.
    My child has special needs, and while not evident by looking at him, he can be quite the handful. I would never dump him on someone who was not able to handle his needs. That is not fair to anyone. And unfortunately, I’m sure you are going to get parents who are stuck and will be dropping off children with special needs. Depending on those needs, you may not be equipped to handle them. I doubt you will be able to legally dispense medications if needed. I know that is state dependent. I see liability written all over this.

  76. Gruntled but Sometimes Disgruntled*

    This unfortunately isn’t a new trend. Since the start of the pandemic, many library workers across the country have been forced into jobs they aren’t trained for in order to “justify” people staying home, as if preventing the library from being a disease vector and infecting staff and patrons alike isn’t enough. Some workers have been forced into contact tracing, work in homeless shelters, etc. Not that those aren’t helpful jobs to engage in, but if it’s that or unemployment, it’s not a real choice and it rarely takes into account other factors in the library worker’s life.

    There is a lot of work that library folks can do from home, but some directors are against it. There are libraries that have enough funding and are facing layoffs anyway because library workers aren’t “doing enough.” [e.g. Woburn, MA, Mulnomah County, etc.] There are libraries open during the fires in CA. Library workers can do tons of things remotely, like virtual storytimes, book recommendations and reading lists, career help, ESL, calling elderly patrons, professional development, etc. Library workers can organize craft closets and weed their collections in a physically distanced way from one another. Library workers can do curbside check-in/out without opening to the public and getting coughed on or spat on.

    While it’s true an employer can change the work that they ask you to do in a non-union environment, going from library work to child care is a world of difference. Sure, there’s skill overlap, but it’s not the same. It brings up liability issues as well — how do we know the right person is getting the right child at the right time? What if there’s a medical issue? What if there’s a facilities issue?

    I recommend reaching out to library associations and posting anonymously on ALATT on Facebook. I’d also check Twitter to see what other libraries are doing to organize. Also know that you are not alone in having childcare thrust upon you. NYC libraries are also trying to navigate officials wanting to make library spaces into child care and remote schooling locations.

  77. Being human*

    What circle of hell is this? My sympathies. As a former childcare worker, you are right. Is it just school aged kids, or babies and preschoolers too? There are tons of potential violations here, the CPR training just one. Laws in your state shouldn’t be too hard to find. There’s just a ton of laws about health and safety your employers have no idea about. Food safety, diaper changing and bathroom access (and cleanliness of those areas), nap time materials and proper spacing, even the furniture in the room and where it is placed is an issue for inspectors (can it be climbed upon? Is it secured to the wall?). Will there be any kids with special needs? How will you dispense medications? Ever used and EpiPen on someone before? Witnessed a child have seizure? Checked someone’s blood sugar? Called Emergency services for a child, then have to call the parents and let them know? Not to mention child protection laws. As a child care (or whatever) provider you automatically become mandated reporters of child abuse. This is a lot more complicated and has a lot more liability than your employer realizes!

  78. PPaula*

    This is so… I don’t even have words for it. It’s awful for everyone – the library staff, the kids, the parents who will be forced to use this… “virtual-non-childcare-that-is-definitely-childcare”.
    My question is… what is the plan for meals? How are you supposed to handle lunchtime? I’m guessing there’s also legal requirements around that (not USA-based, so I don’t really know).
    I also strongly advise to go to the media with this. And maybe consult with a lawyer to find out how you can protect yourself from any liability.
    Best of luck!

  79. Sarra N. Dipity*

    Another question to add to your “list of procedural questions” letter:

    How will library staff be expected to handle special needs kids? Kids on an IEP/504 plan? If they’re sending kids who need supervision to you, I’m willing to bet that there will be a lot of special needs kids in the older age range that get dumped on you folks. Autistic kids, kids with ADHD, kids with social/emotional challenges, kids who need assistive technology – basically older kids that parents can’t leave at home unsupervised (a lot of [neurotypical/non-special needs] middle school kids are able to stay home and get their work done).

    I can’t imagine being in this situation. I hope you can push back enough to stop this crazy plan.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Federal law says that students are allowed to stay in the educational system until they are age 21, which includes a lot of special needs young adults, too.

      They could end up caring for students as young as 5 (kindergarten) and as old as 20 (special education young adults in bridge programs.)

  80. Nicky*

    Has your library considered reopening to the public, if that’s legally an option in your state? I work in a library in Texas and we reopened at 50% capacity two months ago and so far things are going well. We’ve removed all seating and don’t offer any in person programming. Computers are by appointment only and they’re scheduled to allow for cleaning in between sessions. Also, we’ve reduced our hours so that we can still offer curbside service and quarantine the books for 4 days. We’ve also had additional safety equipment installed so overall, I feel safe.

    If my choices were offering daycare to the children of employees, being laid off, or being open in a limited capacity to prove my “usefulness”, I’d choose being open. If you have a library board or friend’s group perhaps they could help or push it out to the media.

    1. I work there too*

      Unfortunately, the decision to reopen is solidly in the hands of the County Manager.

  81. Lady Heather*

    I’m wondering about whether this qualifies as – I don’t know what to call it. I think corruption might be too strong a word (or it might not be, I don’t know), but “using public resources for private gain” with a twist of “government employees aren’t supposed to ask for or accept favours from the public on the basis that they are a government employee”.

    On the other hand, if childcare (but.. not childcare) is covered as part of secondary terms of employment – that would be reasonable.

    So I think that the litmus things of whether this qualifies as “corruption” or not depends on whether this went through the normal democratic process. Did your elected local government vote on this proposal? Given that it means 1) an increase in the compensation of county employees, 2) a shutdown of a public service, and 3) deviating from the budget that said “this much for library” and “this much for salaries of [a; b; c; d; e] branch of the county” – this should definitely have gone through those channels.

    If you live in the county your library is placed at, you can also go the “concerned citizen” route of this isn’t how we democratically agreed to spend our county taxes and maybe contact whoever deals with this in your county council (or whatever your county’s ‘legislative branch’ is called) – or the chairperson.

  82. irritable vowel*

    It’s this kind of thing that prompted me to leave librarianship – just the absolute disregard for the profession by people who have decision-making capability. I’m sure the library was thought of as the perfect place for this to be situated because a) it’s not like the library staff are doing much, they just sit around and read all day, right?, b) children’s librarians in particular are just glorified babysitters, and c) the library staff should be grateful that this lets them keep their jobs!

    1. Delta Delta*

      That’s so not the case, and I wish people understood that! The librarians I know are always one eyelash away from starting a revolution. Librarians are awesomely smart people.

    2. Letter Writer*

      I think this is the straw that’s breaking the camel’s back for me. I don’t have an MLIS and am thus not an official Librarian yet, and now I don’t think I want to pursue that, either. I’ll find a different way to help my community.

      1. Idril Celebrindal*

        LW, I feel you so hard right now. I’m a career cataloger, I don’t have an MLIS but I have been doing the work of a librarian for over a decade, just without the title or respect. I love cataloging and electronic resources, and I had been looking to move to working in public libraries. Now, not only have I stopped looking at public librarianship, I am actively working to move into data management and out of library work entirely. It’s been such a disappointment.

  83. Esmeralda*

    go to:

    ncchildcare DOT ncdhhs DOT gov

    Then click the “How do I” tab

    Then select “FIle a child care program complaint” from the drop down

  84. Delta Delta*

    There are times when I think, “gee, have we read all the bad ideas there are to read?” and then I come to this wonderful resource and it turns out no, no we most definitely have not seen all the bad ideas out there.

    Librarians are awesome. I’m friends with 3 different amazing, brilliant, mildly subversive librarians. I love them. I can’t imagine any of them standing for this nonsense on so many levels.

    1. Letter Writer*

      There’s certainly no end in sight for all the bad ideas out there, especially in 2020.

  85. YoungTen*

    Just proof that most leaders in local government dont have good solutions yet take home massive paychecks.

  86. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    My home state enacted “Emergency Childcare” rules for providers to “essential” workers. So all the certifications required for the typical daycare provider are not necessary. I have child care providers in my life who are livid and have had to protest this enactment since it’s also funded by the government. So I’m not hopeful that will help you here but I sure hope you’re in a state that hasn’t fudged it’s safety protocol for childcare to make this legally possible. Given it’s for government workers though, I really don’t hold out that much hope at all.

    I’m so sorry this is happening.

    1. Brett*

      Yep, North Carolina has an emergency order waiving childcare licensing for remote learning facilities. I bet that’s what the county is using to do this.
      (I posted details in a separate post down below, but it has an http link)

      1. Letter Writer*

        Oh gosh, thank you for this information. Very important to know going into any sort of pushback.

        1. Brett*

          If they are using the remote learning facilities order, they have to have a signed contract with the school district(s). It is not very clear if they could have students from multiple school districts without multiple signed contracts. The way the order is phrased, it is probably okay for them to limit only to the children of county employees. (I think the order is purposely designed so that an employer could provide remote learning facilities for their employees, which is exactly what the county is doing.)

          Note that you _must_ follow the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) Interim Guidance in order to do this. This makes me double down on my guidance in the other post that the county emergency management office should be providing you with resources to run the learning facility, as well as the school district(s).

          Here is the emergency order:
          And the interim guidance:

  87. Jess*

    As a youth services librarian, chances are good that you’re a mandated reporter. You are ethically obligated already to report this unlicensed childcare program that your town is suggesting, and you might also be legally obligated. Absolutely share licensing regs with your supervisor, and mention that this is a reportable situation where you are required to notify the state. This isn’t safe, isn’t what public library funds are for, and isn’t legal. Report to the media, report to child protective services, and whatever you do, NEVER be in a room alone with a group of children. This is a huge liability nightmare for your town.

    In the library, you should also have unattended child policies that should prevent this in your space. Allowing any exceptions to that policy opens a huge bucket of worms of legal liability. Higher ups need to understand that if anything happens to a child or to any of you as staff, they can be sued for criminal negligence. This is absolutely not appropriate and should not happen. I’m so sorry.

    1. Jess*

      I also wanted to add that you should notify your state library association and the American Library Association and ask for assistance. Both organizations should help you advocate for yourself, even in right to work states like mine.

    1. YoungTen*

      What you missed is that not everyone whats to put their head on the chopping block, but rather draw attention to the issue insted. This isnt the same as an a quick tweet to “cancel” someone who cannot retaliate perononaly.

    2. Letter Writer*

      I fear retaliation. Believe me, I would love for the county leadership to be criticized for this.

        1. Metadata minion*

          Depending on how big the county is, there may not be all that many library staff total and writing style can be very distinctive. In this sort of situation I wouldn’t depend on posting anonymously to protect my job.

  88. Frustrated*

    I too find this an outrage, but I wonder what everyone expected to happen when schools were closed. All these people that commenters are suggesting be used to push back–newspapers and tv sources, risk managers, library board members, lawyers, county attorney offices, licensing boards–a LOT of these people either have kids themselves and can’t do their own jobs with kids at home, or work with or manage those folks.

    Hard to push back when all the tools for pushing back are themselves incapacitated. So many people seem to expect that everybody else’s departments should be doing their job 100% when many of those departments have been cut off at the knees like everyone else. I know all the outraged responses will come, but the money and energy would be better spent on the plexiglass and PPE and tents and cleaning protocols and training and whatever else is necessary to make schools acceptably safe for most kids.

    1. Colette*

      Honestly? With infection levels where they are in the US, I don’t think there’s a way to make schools safe for kids.

      1. Frustrated*

        I respectfully disagree, and I meant to add safe for teachers, too. (I have lots of teachers in my family.) We all go by the medical people we know personally and medical sources we trust, and I don’t expect to persuade you. Nobody is budging either way on this point from any internet commenter.

        But reducing class sizes and increasing teacher pay–call it hazard pay if you want–are things that have needed to happen for a long time in this country anyway. Now they are imperative. They can work. The money wasted on ghastly unsafe things like OP’s situation that could be going toward smaller classes and more space makes me weep.

        1. Anon for this*

          I am with you on the class size / pay. Not sure they will work to make schools safe – I’m watching Duke carefully to see if their plan works (and I’m an UNC-CH grad; this will tell NCians how much I care about all this…), because it’s the best proxy we’ve got for k12 schools. Not sure how the recent info about kid’s viral loads is going to play into this too – there’s still a *lot* we don’t know about this virus.

          Any effort in NC would take significant financial commitment at the federal level. NC’s not allowed to borrow due to the balanced budget clause in the state constitution and we’re going to have a shortfall due to the shutdown, so there’s no state money for effective mitigation.

          And there’s no consensus at the federal level to give money to the states to make schools safe. Money that we’d have needed 3 months ago to make schools safe for Aug / Sep. Here and now, we’re scrambling still.

  89. Sandan Librarian*

    I’m afraid I haven’t any new insights to put forth, but I’d like to add my voice to those saying to contact regulatory agencies and to encourage your higher-ups to closely consider the logical and legal ramifications of pursuing this absurd policy.

    I am so terribly sorry and infuriated that you and your coworkers have been put in this position.

  90. Matilda*

    I just …. can’t. As a public librarian and parent with kids in daycare there are a ridiculous amount of legal, logistical, and liability issues here (forget educational).

    Assuming this means your library is fully open to the public how is this going to impact everyone else’s experience? And on that note: it’s a public library ANYONE can come in (rightfully so), are parents comfortable leaving their kids alone that being the case?

    Also, ratios of library staff to kids! Daycares, in most states have strict child to caregiver ratios based on ages. To cover all hours and programming how many staff people can be there at one time?

    Food. I’m a proponent of being able to eat in the library. But lunchtime will be a shitshow.

    Not to mention: attendance (is the library in charge of keeping track? what happens when someone doesn’t show up?), regular head counts, setting up distancing, mask adherence, and how to deal with behavior issues (there is no principal to send them to, what is the escalation of consequences going to be). And will you be providing time for them to move/run/play, kids can’t be expected to just sit calmly all day (especially young kids, but the older ones too)? And probably a myriad of other logistical issues that I’m not aware of because I am not a teacher.

    I’m hoping that since you mentioned a survey was sent out and this meeting was pretty soon after the results were in that just means the county didn’t have enough time to run this by their lawyer and it will then of course be shut down.

    I’m so sorry. I hope the county comes to its senses before this goes through.

  91. Rita Book*

    In some states, Public Libraries are regulated by the Department of Education. The Dept of Education could potentially intervene if they consider this to be an unregulated school. The same goes for a childcare center… opening one without prior licensing, inspections, etc. could land the library admin and staff in some serious hotwater.

  92. Green Door*

    Your library director should consult the county’s legal counsel. Point out the potential legal concerns – lack of proper staff-to-child ratio, lack of appropriate child safety training, etc. And how are these kids going to be fed? What happens if there’s a medical emergency. I bet this was never vetted by the county attorney’s office.

    Also, go to the media. We had a public school district in my area recently offer child camps – at the public schools – when school is opening virtually. Parents were up in arms at the idea that the schools could somehow open and staff a day camp, but could not open actual schools for in-person learning. Definately go to the media if this is a free service to county employees only – taxpayers who miss having full library access will surely be angry that their library is being used as a free daycare for county employees only instead.

  93. Nacho*

    I agree with everybody that this sounds awful for you, but I also agree with Alison that there might not be any other choice. My local libraries are all closed, and I’m sure there’s pressure to cut costs in light of the recession. The choice might be temporarily become child care or temporarily become unemployed.

  94. Aisling*

    I’m a public librarian, and I have a friend in Norway who is also a public librarian. Her county also reassigned library employees to other areas in the county while the library was closed to the public, and she worked as a teacher’s aide in a local school (during last school year). She could also have been assigned as a school janitor and a few other options, like hospital janitor. The difference is that she was sent to a different site and was not in charge of anything; she was there to help. It lasted about a month and she is now back at her regular library job. It was done because the county was also trying to keep library staff employed. So I get where this county is coming from, but asking library staff to run an illegal daycare operation is NOT the way to keep library staff employed.

    1. Letter Writer*

      I would be fine if they reassigned us to other departments and provided enough training and guidance to do those jobs properly. I have already been working some shifts at another department to answer phone calls related to COVID-19 testing availability and scheduling in my county.

      Instead, they’ve taken this route, unfortunately.

      1. Aisling*

        I’m so sorry. I hope some of the other avenues that have been suggested (media, legal council, regulatory bodies) help put a stop to this. And it’s also very, very strange that your director hasn’t talked to you all about it at all.

  95. Case of the Mondays*

    I don’t have time to read all the comments but I want to point out a few things in case no one else has. In many states, as part of the COVID state of emergency, states are allowing waivers to childcare licensing to provide emergency childcare services to essential workers. I volunteer with a health care center that was approved to allocate a couple conference room to the medical staff’s kids and have college kids that were sent home from school supervise it. This wouldn’t be legal any other time.

    Are the people that need this childcare essential where the govt has an interest in keeping them working? Police, fire, ambulance? Car registration? Building inspection? If so, they probably are getting some kind of waiver and approval to re-allocate resources for this. The idea isn’t supposed to be its good childcare, it’s simply adequate. Keep the kids from killing themselves or each other while the parents do their essential jobs.

    I’m not saying it is fair or right but it may very well not be illegal in your state and it may actually be encouraged for these kinds of situations.

    1. Mark*

      Exactly. For everyone that believes this is as simple as “the county doesn’t know it’s illegal, shutting it down will be easy”, I doubt the county administration is that stupid. They’ve probably got a license waiver already. The OP would be better off gathering an enormous list of specific questions about information/resources/training that would be needed before opening the library as a childcare center. That will either scare the county or make the impending situation more tolerable.

    2. Lawerly*

      A healthcare center. Minor children. With college students supervising multiple children *across* multiple rooms (the college students’ virtual learning is hopefully at least supposed to be done outside this temporary job).

      That’s not adequate, that’s rolling the dice every day on a child dying from insufficient supervision or the entire department and the people it serves being infected by an asymptomatic/presymptomatic covid case.

      As a taxpayer, knowing about a situation like this would make me support emergency measures that I normally oppose, like government funded vouchers for private childcare. Please, please consider contacting the media, even anonymously.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It’s a virus heaven. It’ll spread very quickly in that kind of environment.

        Maybe the people organising this don’t believe the virus is that serious or deadly….and I’ve got no idea how to convince twits like that.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          They took the virus very seriously. Regular childcare was shutdown in my state. The number of employees that needed emergency leave to watch their children meant that we would have shut our healthcare facility down. That doesn’t help the community that needs medical care in a pandemic.

  96. I’m terrified*

    I’m a parent, and I’ve used up my ten weeks of 2/3rds paid leave to care for children. I absolutely can not work from home, and schools not opening is a desperate situation for me. Like, we could lose our home serious. So having any hope of childcare, even a camp style virtual learning program at a library, would make me fall to my knees and weep with relief.

    I get it’s hard, but you would still have a job, and all those parents would still have a job. Say no, and now maybe you’re out of work and so are they. There are no good options, but if schools don’t reopen the best options we have are ones that keep kids as safe as possible while keeping everyone employed.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      It doesn’t have to be either childcare provided by librarians or no childcare at all. If the county truly needs daycare more than it needs librarians (and I can see this being true in These Troubled Times), they could furlough or lay off the librarians and hire appropriate daycare providers. The librarians who chose not to become daycare providers would qualify for unemployment. The essential workers would have daycare. Some currently-unemployed daycare providers would have jobs. It wouldn’t be a best-case scenario for anybody involved, but it would be better than this house of cards they’re currently trying to build.

    2. Former public librarian*

      I think this is an important view of the other side of the situation. Forcing library staff to provide child care is decidedly not the right course of action, but there is a need for child care for these county workers. Perhaps the county could contract or partner with a daycare provider, a provider of temporary daycare staff, and/or the after- or before-school care groups within local school districts to offer a legitimate care option.

    3. ExcelJedi*

      Desperate or not, this is a bad idea.

      Do you want to send your children to an unlicensed childcare facility, where workers may or may not know CPR, or how to handle allergies, or what to do if a child is injured? Do you want to send them somewhere where the staff have never been trained on how to handle child drop off/pick-up, and who may inadvertently release a child to someone who the child knows but should not have access to them? Do you want to send them somewhere where the staff is engaged in other duties, and there may be one or fewer engaged adults for a whole classroom of children?

      I don’t even have or want children, and this is the stuff of nightmares. COVID aside, children will not be well taken care of in this chaos.

      1. AnonKid*

        Having an unlicensed family member/neighbor watch kids has been the reality of many parents for a very long time. I was never sent home with a stranger but all the other “nightmare” caveats you mentioned are fair trade offs for free childcare for so many parents.

        It’s euphemistically still called a “support network” and women have always done the unpaid bulk of it.

        1. Batgirl*

          That would be much safer (and more pleasant for the kids) actually. If 300 kids go “eff this, I’m off” it’s a lot harder to contain them than it would be as a babysitter of a few kids.

      2. Nita*

        Desperate is desperate. I’ve heard some crazy stories. Toddlers being left home alone, for example, tied to something so they don’t wander into the street or get themselves hurt. An unlicensed day care whose owner routinely left the sleeping kids alone to run errands (this came to light when a fire started in her absence…) A five-year-old watching a three-year-old. I don’t know how many people are reaching this level of desperation, but this is something to think of too.

        1. Batgirl*

          It is. Like the fact that TPTB do not give a fuck about childcare provision because it’s a job for plebs and foreigners and women. Not something for important leaders to consider.

        2. Batgirl*

          This is the terribly dangerous stuff that happened at a start up school I used to work at, where they tried to corral the kids in one space for the day, with no timetable or thought for their education/experience.
          There were activities! One activity! Make soap. All the livelong day (apparently the core staff had stuff to do. Start up stuff). The soap makers were visiting business people with no childcare experience. (Who later made their displeasure known). They had myself and another trainee teacher ‘supervising’ but at the start of the day we had no idea what the activity even was, so really we were just marginal players not directing the day at all. “Oh, you’ll just be supervising” fills me with terror to this day. So it was two totally uninformed newbie teachers vs 100 kids. Yeah.
          So it was ok for like, what… an hour. The kids heard the visitors out, bless ’em. They tried their hand at soap making and making marketing plans for some pretty awful soap attempts. Then they realised that this was going to be it; all day. That the soap people were droning on and on with their adult style training. That no bathroom breaks had been organised. That one hall gets pretty hot when you’re stuck there with a bunch of people and no doors or windows.
          We sent an SOS up to the senior teachers by text. 1) Room too hot 2) Send reserves to relieve us or someone to staff the bathrooms or corridors 3) Kids starting to dangerously play with soap stuff, send someone to carry out discipline removals. For 1) the building manager opened the fire doors to air the room. The kids who were hot, bored and justly insulted by the whole thing, decided to make a break for it with a whoop and a holler. Gone. Nobody blamed them, but that was a fun conversation about missing children to have with parents. Personally, I applauded the rebellion. Kids are not burdens to be stuck in a room with no more than a paltry attempt at busy work. The school at least had the grace to be embarrassed in hindsight.

        3. AnonKid*

          Yup. I see so much hand wringing from middle class parents deciding between options they’ve consciously or unconsciously shamed lower income populations for.

          None of this is new to latchkey kids, who in my experience/peer group have more often than not happily opted out of parenthood altogether having seen this lack of support in society from a young age. Especially women.

    4. CatsAway*

      The thing is is that the number of COVID cases that end up going through this ‘daycare’ situation will reflect the number of COVID cases in your community. Many school districts (nationally and internationally) that re-opened have ended up moving online or quarantining many students and teachers. One Georgia school district required around 1200 students and teachers to quarantine themselves.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        The Georgia district that had 1200 staff and students in quarantine is bright red Cherokee County, where many parents believe that “it’s just the flu” and the district started school with no distancing, no masks.

        A district or program that does their best to follow safety protocols, is likely to have a very different outcome from one that willfully refuses to do so.

    5. Anon for this*

      I’m a preschool teacher/child care provider. This attitude is incredibly insulting to me and the work I do. I am not exchangeable with a warm body stuck in a room with hundreds of kids, hoping for the best, even if that warm body IS an educated and skilled librarian. You might as well put up an ad on Craigslist and hope for the best.

      I swear I’m not unsympathetic to your situation, but good grief.

      1. AuroraLight37*

        As an educated and skilled librarian, I agree with you. I’m good at what I do, but I am not someone who is actually trained to work with children on a daily basis. Honestly, I would pretty much be a warm body, especially when the kids have homework questions I’m not qualified for. I can’t teach them math or sciences, and while I’ve tutored in ESL, I’m still no substitute for for a teacher.
        Then there’s all the other problems people have brought up, and some they haven’t. Where do we feed the kids? Right now my library can’t use the meeting rooms because that’s where all the returned books are that have to be held for 96 hours before checking them in. The study rooms can’t be used because you’d have to have a mask on and they’re too small to feed kids in anyway. Are we going to have janitorial staff to take care of cleaning all the bathrooms the kids mess up? Right now we have cleaners, but they only come once a day after hours. What happens when the bathrooms are wrecked by noon?
        It’s just a mess.
        Just- no.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It’s incredibly incorrect and insulting when a trained expert in a field is told that anybody can do their job right off the street. I can’t imagine how annoying this must be for you :(

    6. Nita*

      I’m really sorry. I hope you can find a solution. (Sheesh, why are we left to find a solution when we supposedly have a government and pay taxes?!)

    7. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Given all that, there’s still no good argument for this being done in the library, rather than in a school building that is actually set up to have lots of children around.

      Your child is no safer surrounded by 200 or so other children in a library than they would be with 20 or 30 students in a classroom. That’s true whether they’re being watched by a librarian, a schoolteacher, or the school bus driver.

    8. Keymaster of Gozer*

      ‘Be thankful you have a job’ isn’t helpful or kind at all.

      We’re supposed to be protecting ourselves from a deadly virus. Shoving kids into untrained, unlicensed enclosed environments where they can’t practise good health protocols is just guaranteeing that this pandemic will burn even longer.

      I get it’s hard. I’m unemployed, a lot of my friends and family have lost their jobs, my sister can’t get any care for her son (who is disabled and school age)…but we’re all doing everything we can to keep away from the virus.

      I even had to explain to a neighbour yesterday why she can’t drop her kids off with me all day. I get that I’m unemployed and free all day, but I really cannot do what she’s asking.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Yeah, I didn’t even know what to say in response to that. There’s also the implication that I should feel guilty if I quit, because then I won’t be able to provide childcare to a child or children like hers. I’m sorry, but no. This is a systemic issue, not one that I personally can solve by staying at a job I feel unsafe at.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I resigned my last job, walking into unemployment, because they were doing immoral, potentially illegal things and my stress levels were catastrophic as a result. I couldn’t deal with it.

          I’m the absolute last person you’d want watching your kids at home! I have no experience with children nor any desire to spend time with them.

    9. Niktike*

      It sounds like a better solution than dropping your kid off with a warm body and hoping for the best is to advocate for more/better unemployment. Have you tried writing your senators?

      It sounds like pie in the sky, but as a group, parents should really be pushing on the people who actually have power to give us a real workable solution, instead of pushing on other people stuck in similarly hard places.

  97. AuroraLight37*

    Speaking as a public librarian, I can say with certainty that I cannot do my regular job and also educate a bunch of school-aged children at the same time. My branch is the biggest in our system, and we’re severely understaffed. Our senior managers both have to telework due to health issues, we’ve got 4 people out on FMLA, and the branch ran on a day to day basis with multiple substitutes required just to keep it at minimum staff levels before COVID. We have no substitute budget now, nor do we have pages. Both of those have been cut for this fiscal year. Right now the librarians are doing a lot of shelving and sorting books, because our circulation staff is also understaffed.

    Add in that we also have to do curbside pickup with multiple slots for each fifteen-minute time interval, run virtual programs, and answer call center for the public, there are barely enough hours in the day for what we’re doing now with our branch closed to the public. Expecting us to turn into a child-care center/school for is simply impossible, especially when you add in the fact that we we’d be expected to provide fifteen hours of school-age programming a week on top of our regular work. When are we supposed to do the planning and preparation for that? What on earth can we do with them for three hours a day? Regular programs only run once a week at most, and while my current programs are pretty easy for me, they’re also adult programs. I haven’t done children’s programming in 20 years and can’t remember much about when I did.

    This is not manageable.

    1. WellRed*

      Right? Our library is still closed to public. It takes nearly three weeks to reserve a book and make an appt to pick it up curbside. I can’t imagine how that would work if they were also wrangling a daycare. And as a taxpayer, I’m not happy about this daycare scenario at all.

    2. Paris Geller*

      This is part of what gets me about this too, and so many other situations libraries are finding themselves in because the powers that be think they’re not doing anything. As a public children’s librarian, I honestly feel busier than ever. I’m doing virtual programming, answering the phone a thousand times the day, filling in at the circ desk because we’re down one circulation assistant (we’re open for extremely limited services), sitting in more virtual meetings than I can count about What Happens Next. . . there’s no way I could do my job and supervise children, and like you mentioned, programs take TIME. It takes me 1-2 hours to prepare for a 15-20 minute virtual program if I want it to actually go smoothly.

      1. AuroraLight37*

        Oh, lord, the meetings. Staff meetings, committee meetings, management meetings, county meetings- and of course they’re all over Zoom so you feel pressured to attend them.
        And programs! Exactly, you can’t just dash off a three-hour program that’s aimed at children ages 6-13 (which is a problem in itself because the stuff that would possibly interest that kind of age range is stuff we can’t do because quarantine, like bringing in exotic animals and such). Also, three hours of programming at a time is going to have children bored out of their collective gourds. Multiply that times five, and it’s a disaster waiting to happen. There’s a reason programs for kids only run an hour or so at most.

  98. Just A Zebra*

    I had to read this story twice to make sure I didn’t imagine it.
    It was worse the second time.

    As a parent, if someone asked me to drop my kid at the library with people who were not trained in child care or education, I’d be more than a little wary. What happens when kids push a bookshelf over, and someone gets hurt? Will there be medical personnel on site for when kids get cuts/ scrapes/ a sprained wrist/ cramps? How are you meant to manage 100+ kids and all their “stuff” – coats, bags, books, schools supplies? What means will be used to mitigate theft of library property? What kind of security will be utilized to prevent a child from leaving with a stranger? Who will be responsible for organizing all of the children’s emergency contact info?

    If you’re concerned about retaliation, maybe email EVERYONE who you think might have some input with some questions like this. Use language like “After thinking further upon the proposal to turn the library into a virtual learning center, I have some logistical questions regarding its implementation.” Then list them. Bullet them so they take up an entire page. Maybe presenting it as “I’m on board, but want answers to a few small questions” will make them see the gaping holes in this plan. It will also get everything in writing.

    Good luck, OP. I wish this wasn’t happening to you.

  99. Frustrated*

    That’s awful, whoever made this decision is a complete jackass. You didn’t apply for a job as a childcare provider. You’re a librarian. Big difference.
    This reminds me of when I was a substitute teacher in my 20s. the special education subject never got fulfilled because school districts would put almost anything from kids who just needed a little more help in math and reading to kids that were in a vegetative state and needed more of a nursing home situation than a school. I taught high school level classes and I’m not a nurse. I’m not qualified to change a feeding tube or change a diaper for someone who is a year older than me.

  100. Rainy*

    I think the thing I find most upsetting about this is that I don’t see any way this goes forward without at least one kid being harmed. I know what staffing levels look like at my local library, and there are not enough people there to watch 300 kids from the ages of 4-13 in such a way that everyone is adequately supervised.

    1. Colette*

      Agreed. You’d need around 60 staff, as well as a plan for the likely issues (allergies, custody issues, existing health issues, COVID, parent late for pickup, teenagers just deciding to leave, etc.)

      1. Rainy*

        Not to mention that the library as a whole is not intended for free-roaming small children, and not really possible to childproof!

        Even if parents feel like rolling the dice that their child won’t be the one who aspirates a baby carrot or pulls a set of encyclopedias on their own head, I think it’s pretty cruel to ask librarians to be the responsible adult in a situation that will 100% end in harm or injury to children.

        1. Frustrated*

          This is crazy if it’s only for kids 13 and under. You signed on to work in a library not a daycare. I can understand having students only hours to help with resources kids can only get in a library and a school. With parental supervision for kids 13 and under. But They’re asking you to do a job you’re not qualified for or interested in doing.
          As a parent I’d be pissed to have librarians who were strong armed into watching my kid in addition to their work responsibilities. I want the people who watch my son to be 100% focused on watching children, and to want to do it.

  101. I don’t post often*

    Clearly whomever made this decision does not teach of manage children. I question whether that person is even a parent. I wonder how the teaches for whom you will be providing childcare for feel about this.

    Get the local press involved. Point out the issues. Make this political. But be ready to lose your job UNLESS (and possibly even if) you can provoke that this will negatively impact library patrons.

    Unless of course, you are being paid without actually performing your job. The problem is this isn’t a tough sell. I needed the services of the library today and they could not send faxes because they aren’t letting anyone in the building. If an article came out saying 1/2 the library staff is being laid off, I would t find that at all questionable as they aren’t open and can only perform jobs at 25-50%.

    1. Frustrated*

      This is why I never went into education. Too many people who have no experience in a classroom trying to call the shots.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Thank you. I would love to name the county but already fear reprisal for giving out so many details that can be used to identify me.

  102. Duvie*

    This has the potential to blow up big time; someone needs to get Legal involved so that an accurate assessment of the risks can be done. Where I live, persons working with children in any capacity require a police clearance. Has someone determined if this is neccessary where you are? How many children will likely be served by your facility? Are there sufficient washrooms to handle the additional requirements? Who will handle the little ones when they need assistance zipping, unzipping, wiping, and handwashing? How will you handle lunches and snacks? Who cleans up after these children? What if one wallops another with a limited edition? Who bandages the ouchies and puts the culprits in times out? Who ensures that everyone remains in the building; what happens when several sixth graders stage a jailbreak and disappear out the back door? Who is liable if someone is injured? What happens when the eighth graders start entertaining themselves in the stacks? Children in classrooms get constant supervision. How can you provide this, keep up with your usual workload, and still prevent your own little Animal Farm?

  103. Former public librarian*

    Another late-day thought: there are probably school districts within this county that in normal times run before- and after-school childcare programs. If the schools are now virtual, these childcare workers are likely furloughed — can the county contact the school districts and try to partner with them and these workers to provide some form of licensed, credentialed, experienced care?

  104. Brett*

    I’m almost certain that this is designed to be a “Remote Learning Facility” under the emergency order issued in North Carolina two weeks ago. The language used in the webinar fits far too well for it not to be.

    That places all liability on the local school district, and also waives all childcare licensing.

    Assuming this is legal, one thing the library should consider is reaching out to the county emergency management agency. They can help provide resources for PPE, safety, sanitizing, bandwidth related issues, and any other resources the library might not have readily available.
    (On top of that, they should have emergency response funding that can pay for those types of resources right now.)

    When I worked emergency management, we provided for medium term childcare a few times. We can find a surprising amount of resources (including medical resources including nurses). If the library staff are going to be forced to handle this type of work load, might as well make sure the county is covering all the resource costs.

    1. Nita*

      Ugh. You mean this is legal?! It still should not be happening. IMO, the simplest and most rational solution is to let the kids back into their regular child care centers, and possibly schools. We had child care centers running in NYC through the worst of the pandemic, and they don’t seem to have been a source of new outbreaks. I don’t know what precautions everyone took, but the two centers in my neighborhood did pretty basic things – masks for the adults, no parents allowed inside, more cleaning and hand washing, and that’s it. Schools get more iffy, and it actually makes a kind of sense to use libraries to reduce classroom crowding. But it makes no sense to throw librarians off the deep end and expect everyone to swim. Maybe it would make some kind of sense to have experienced school administrators, teachers, and maybe even camp counselors run the show, with willing librarians as trainees, to help spread the kids out in school and libraries.

      1. blackcat*

        Ugh, even if it *is* legal, I think getting a bunch of folks who are willing to speak to the media about their safety concerns will likely get some traction.

    2. NotYourRobot*

      I’m an NC public librarian (whose library is not doing this – thank God!) It’s absolutely insane that they’re expected to do this AND to continue offering curbside service and programming on top of it! It’s been exhausting just learning all the new skills and ironing out the logistics of creating curbside service and figuring out how to move programming online. I will say, though, I don’t think people get how much forming a union is not a realistic option in NC. It’s an at-will employment state. They will fire and blackball anyone involved in union activity. No one will care and there will be no legal recourse for these library workers.

    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I note that even under that regulation, they have to comply with fire safety and building codes. It wouldn’t even be malicious compliance to get in touch with the fire department and ask them to check you out for fire safety for the proposed use.

  105. Ladycrim*

    I agree with Alison about Getting help from a union. As an employee of a union who represents County workers, including those at the libraries, I can guarantee we’d be up in arms over this. I don’t know what state you’re in, and I know some of them have torn unions asunder, but one that represents public sector workers in your area (SEIU and AFSCME are likely) would be a good place to start. Even better if you can find one that represents these County employees; surely they don’t want their children being shuffled to this unsafe environment so they can be forced into their workplace every day!

    1. AuroraLight37*

      And kids with allergies, and the mess left after 50-100 kids eat, and the potential for all sorts of creepy crawlies which are part of the reason we ban food to begin with…

  106. Frustrated (the one from 1:36, not 3:54)*

    Not only the OP’s nightmare but every single one of the proposed childcare alternatives in the comments is MORE risky and dangerous–from coronavirus and all kinds of other dangers–than IMPROVING SCHOOL SAFETY AND OPENING THEM ALREADY.

    All this cost in staff overhead and effort in objecting and calling the media and filing complaints and churning around to make some horrible dangerous makeshift daycamp sliiiightly less unsafe, when we HAVE buildings–with professionals! trained! in childcare! and also nurses in them!–that are set up for kids and could be made safer!

    Putting pressure on local and federal governments to give the teachers and staff hazard pay and PPE and open the schools doesn’t solve OP’s immediate problem, but if we don’t do it, we’re going to see more dangerous pseudo camps, more virus transmissions, more kids injured in accidents, more people like “I’m terrified” above, losing their homes.

    Granted, the virus and our government have put us in a state of Zugzwang, where every move is bad. But complaining about bad stopgap measures does nothing if you’re not putting the pressure on local and federal government to get schools the funding they desperately, desperately need.

    People have to get other people to take care of their children if they are to feed them. They will put them in groups, no matter how much people wish they won’t. The “abstinence” idea of everybody keeping their kids isolated at home and somehow getting their jobs done ain’t gonna happen. Schools are like cheap-quality condoms. They don’t solve all the problems, and they break sometimes, but if you don’t give them to people, parents are going to find their own much riskier methods to get the job done or just not worry about safety at all.

    1. Nita*

      Ahh, common sense. It’s too bad common sense is forbidden “up there” where the decision makers are.

    2. Lizy*

      so. much. this.

      Yes, schools shouldn’t be used for childcare, but the reality is that they ARE caring for the child during the day. Parents have to work, and the kids have to go SOMEWHERE. Schools being closed just means they don’t congregate at schools – they congregate somewhere else.

  107. #nonprofitlife*

    I’m literally in a similar sitatuion right now and I’m probably going to have to leave over it because my disablity pretty much makes it impossible to do my “new” job.

  108. Friendly Canadian*

    While I 1000% sympathize with OP and think he/she shouldn’t have to do this at all I would be super nervous that pushing back (even as a group) would lead to both the end of this program and my job. Govenrments are going to be strapped for cash for a long time and looking to cut services wherever possible

  109. Not So NewReader*

    OP, when you feel comfortable doing so, please let us know how this all lands for you.

  110. chicgeek*

    And not every library employee is a librarian with a master’s degree. Our system tries to have as much part time help as possible, so they don’t have to pay benefits. There are a lot of library assistants, and library clerks. A bachelor’s degree, or no degree at all.
    Yes, saying ‘get the librarians to do it!’ is wrong and not equivalent to being a trained teacher, but we aren’t even all master’s degree holding librarians.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Yep. I haven’t even finished by bachelor’s degree yet. I am one of those paraprofessional library workers.

    2. Candace*

      Oh, and my master’s degree did NOT prepare me one bit for childcare! I deliberately did NOT even become a children’s librarian.

      1. Another Librarian at the same system*

        I love working with children, but as a librarian, not a daycare employee. Working at a daycare sounds like a nightmare. I enjoy reader’s advisory, reference and collection development in Children’s–not being a nanny.

  111. Batgirl*

    This is the terribly dangerous stuff that happened at a start up school I used to work at, where they tried to corral the kids in one space for the day, with no timetable or thought for their education/experience.
    There were activities! One activity! Make soap. All the livelong day (apparently the core staff had stuff to do. Start up stuff). The soap makers were visiting business people with no childcare experience. (Who later made their displeasure known). They had myself and another trainee teacher ‘supervising’ but at the start of the day we had no idea what the activity even was, so really we were just marginal players not directing the day at all. “Oh, you’ll just be supervising” fills me with terror to this day. So it was two totally uninformed newbie teachers vs 100 kids. Yeah.
    So it was ok for like, what… an hour. The kids heard the visitors out, bless ’em. They tried their hand at soap making and making marketing plans for some pretty awful soap attempts. Then they realised that this was going to be it; all day. That the soap people were droning on and on with their adult style training. That no bathroom breaks had been organised. That one hall gets pretty hot when you’re stuck there with a bunch of people and no doors or windows.
    We sent an SOS up to the senior teachers by text. 1) Room too hot 2) Send reserves to relieve us or someone to staff the bathrooms or corridors 3) Kids starting to dangerously play with soap stuff, send someone to carry out discipline removals. For 1) the building manager opened the fire doors to air the room. The kids who were hot, bored and justly insulted by the whole thing, decided to make a break for it with a whoop and a holler. Gone. Nobody blamed them, but that was a fun conversation about missing children to have with parents. Personally, I applauded the rebellion. Kids are not burdens to be stuck in a room with no more than a paltry attempt at busy work. The school at least had the grace to be embarrassed in hindsight.

  112. NewYork*

    What is absurd is that the County realizes that their own employees are struggling with no school, but do not care about private sector employees, who pay taxes. The solution is get schools back.

  113. Call me Al*

    Public librarian here! To anyone who thinks this is ridiculous, it’s just another example of how library staff and institutions set themselves up for failure by trying to be everything to everyone, and by not having unions, which is the case where I work.

    Listen, I love my community and the children in it. But I’m not trained or equipped to be a babysitter, which is what this is – everyone knows it and can see right through it.

    What infuriates me is that, if teachers are not expected to teach in a classroom because it’s not safe, why am I as a librarian any safer in an enclosed space with almost as many children in my care? I’ll tell you how the county sees this: teachers have unions that push back on this BS; libraries in many cases do not. They KNOW librarians have no other recourse but to do everything asked of them or be unemployed.

    It’s exploitation at its finest and it’s so insulting.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Yes, I agree. Every day that passes I resent more and more that we’re not allowed to unionize or take collective bargaining action in the state I live. It gives us little to no recourse in situations like this and encourages gross mistreatment of workers.

    2. Anon25*

      This is absolutely true. In our city, teachers unions threatened to strike if remote learning was not required when the positivity rate was 3%. now they are threatening to not online teach unless the city closes the private schools that are re-opening in person. And they are opposed to the online learning plan because teachers have kids and need time at home with their kids if schools are closed. Unions are powerful.

    3. Another public librarian*

      “To anyone who thinks this is ridiculous, it’s just another example of how library staff and institutions set themselves up for failure by trying to be everything to everyone, and by not having unions, which is the case where I work.”

      Yes. As a profession, we are past-time for a reckoning on this. I get we need funding, advocacy, etc., but we also need to be able to define what we are, which is partially done by setting boundaries and defining what we aren’t.

      My mother was a social worker, which is how I learned at a young age I didn’t want to be a social worker. Yet I am now regularly told to coach my staff on “the social worker” parts of the job. No one benefits from untrained social workers (or nurses, or teachers, or daycare providers, or anything else we are supposed to somehow be).

      LW, all over the country there are public libraries and staff, MLIS and not, having these conversations. If you decide to stay in the profession, I hope you’ll take heart in knowing that these struggles are seen and discussed. (And that forums like this exist and educate non-library folk about what our work lives really entail!)

  114. Jaw Drop*

    Nevermind a union. You guys are drowning. Y’all need a lawyer, and we need a follow up. This is awful. Worst thing I’ve read on here all year. And it’s been a wild year.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Yeah, it does feel a lot like drowning. I feel so lost and overwhelmed, and many of my coworkers seem resigned to the situation. I had a lot of unwanted stress-cry sessions after work last night. The amount of support in this comments has been very helpful and validating, though.

      I’ll try to write back to Alison in the coming weeks, whether it’s to say I got a different job and got out, or that something stopped this plan from being implemented. We’ll see.