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Library barricading parking lot from after-school rush

Children waiting for parents at library is creating traffic problem
By: Art Garcia Telegraph Correspondent
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There’s a book drop-off slot outside the county library in El Dorado Hills and, in the minds of some parents, the branch facility also serves as a drive-through to pick up their children after school. The local library has become an unofficial haven for elementary and middle schoolers to hang out after school while waiting for their parents to come by and take them home. And that has become a traffic problem and safety issue, with autos lined in front of the library, causing a jam and blocking parking spaces. There’s often also a jam of youngsters. This school year has seen the largest crowds ever of after-school kids using the library or just hanging out. As mostly pre-teens, they can be a noisy and disruptive bunch, prompting complaints from adult library patrons. “A lot of adults have stopped coming to the library when the kids are here. We do get comments to control the noise. We try, but there are so many kids it’s hard,” said Susan Covington, the library’s branch manager. As many as 40 to 100 young students march into the library between 2:15 and 4 p.m., some to study, others to play computer games or just gab and laugh with friends. On Wednesdays, the horde begins arriving at 1:15 p.m. after classes have ended early. “They aren’t necessarily all here at the same time but there is about an hour and a half- to two-hour period where we have that many children coming and going and hanging out here. Some are inside, a lot are outside visiting and waiting for their rides,” said Covington. “We try to monitor the children outside too. The problem is we don’t have enough staff to monitor that many children every day. Our staff has been cut,” she said. A partial solution has been placing six orange traffic cones on the driveway in front of the library with signs attached reading “No Stopping” and “Use Parking Spaces.” Ironically, the traffic bunch-up at the library partly stems from parents trying to avoid the jam outside their kids’ schools. Inside, restrooms are locked during the crowd’s peak. Those needing to use the facilities must ask a librarian to open them. “We’ve had vandalism,” Covington said. “We’ve had to lock the restrooms for about two hours because we’ve had graffiti, we’ve had toilet seats the kids apparently jumped on and broke in half, they’ve gouged pictures into the walls of the stalls. There’s just no way we can supervise all that.” The largest group of students is from Rolling Hills Middle School; others also walk to the nearby library from Silva Valley and Oak Meadow elementary schools, as well as some high schoolers from Oak Ridge. “But the greatest impact is the middle school,” she confirmed. “The high school kids are not an issue. They’re more mature.” The orange cones have brought some measure of traffic control. “Last year, we had so many problems with lines of cars that would line up, blocking parking spaces,” said Covington. “There were cars in both directions and kids running between them. We had a skateboard partially run over. It’s a miracle we didn’t have any kids run over.” The library has placed notices about its policies in school bulletins and handed out others, some to parents as pick-up cars come by. One policy is that children between the ages of 10 and 14 not accompanied by an adult must have a library card. The card serves as a source of emergency contact information. “The library is a public place and kids are entitled to use it. But we’re not babysitters,” she said. “Still, we want to be here for the kids. Parents need to realize this isn’t necessarily a safe place when we have kids in these numbers. The community needs to know we have had budget cuts, we’ve lost staff, we can’t hire anyone else so we can’t be everybody’s day-care. We just can’t.”