Unsafe snacks at the public library


And you know what's worse? I'm the head librarian here at my branch!

So here's the story: Every year, we get a donation from British Petroleum in the form of money to pay half the cost of some high-interest books and videos, and allow our patrons to choose which of those items they would like to donate money for to pay for the rest of the cost. We call it our Wish List. This has been going on for a very long time. Years ago, our Friends of the Library organization would send out goodies to all the libraries to pass out as a kick-off promotion. This stopped for a while, but resumed last year.

This year, the head of our youth services dept is coordinating the cookie platters. I told her I would like to decline the cookies for my branch due to the prevalence and seriousness of food allergies in young children. They were to be handed out at storytime to kids aged 3-5, and I was in no way comfortable with that. I asked if I could be given some non-food items instead, like stickers or pencils. I also gave my supervisor and the library system facility manager a heads-up that I was planning to push the issue.

The head of youth services asked to discuss this with me, and because we would be playing phone tag for days if we tried calling, I sent her an email explaining why I consider food in the library, and particularly baked goods, to be a serious safety hazard and entirely unnecessary. I gave a few statistics, and mentioned that, while I have my doubts that more people will attend storytime in order to get cookies, there are certainly parents who would make a point of not attending due to the cookies.

Apparently, it was discussed at the youth services meeting yesterday, and both the facility manager and the head of YS have forwarded my message to their supervisors. Looks like this may be getting big, and I'm just fine with that. That's what I was hoping for. We are the largest public library system in the state, and we need to make our libraries a safe place for the people we serve.

Just thought I'd share my tale of fighting the good fight!

On Sep 17, 2004

Keep on fighting! Just let us know if we can help in any way.

Brian and Cindy

On Sep 17, 2004

Cindy just made a good point. Why would they bring food into the library, it's strictly prohibited for the public to bring in food. Messy fingers are bad for books.

Brian and Cindy

On Sep 17, 2004

This is interesting to me because twice in the two months our library has served snacks at story time. The first time they actually served peanut butter and jelly ( I read about it in the flier so didnt attend of course). Yesterday they served cocolate chip cookies with m & m's and milk. I just left immediately after story time. I probably would have still attended had I known (it was in the flier I just missed it). I havnt spoken to anybody at the library yet but am planning to do so. She doesnt do snacks every week, just every so often when she thinks it fits in with the story. I guess I just dont feel like they are nessessary.

------------------ Lalow James 2yrs NKA Ben 17 months PA,MA,possible EA, and SA

On Sep 17, 2004

Thank you for your efforts to keep food allergic kids safe! What you're doing is so worth it, we've had some many problems at our own library.

I can't take my DS to story time due to the snack that they serve. We tried once to go and leave before they handed the chips out, but my little guy got some hives. Talking to the library didn't help.

A local company donated peanut nut rolls for the summer reading program. After some education, the library agreed to hand them out only to adults and ask people to eat them outside. (Sort of a partial success...)

I long for the days when no food was part of a library's policy. I dearly love books but sometimes wish the library would have a rat problem - than maybe they'd get rid of the food in the building again.


On Sep 18, 2004

iansmom, excellent stuff! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

I actually can't remember when my children went for story hour if they had snacks involved or not. I do know that I spoke with the young woman that ran the program and told her my son was PA, but I'm wondering if it was because of potential craft situations.

I also disagree with food in the library. The books don't need the mess.

Best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

On Sep 18, 2004

I'm surprised. Story time here doesn't have any food involved. It does involved crafts but it's mainly paper and glue, nothing fancy.

It's only 45 minutes, why would the kids need a snack? I'm always amazed at how people assume kids will need snacks all the time. They can perfectly go without eating for a few hours and don't need to be fed all the time!

On Sep 18, 2004

I dont really understand why they have snacks at any of these kids things. My kids (2 and 1) eat about every 4 hrs during the day and they dont seem to have difficulty with that. Nothing they do (story times, play groups, sunday school etc) last 4 hrs yet they seem to have snacks at them all. And it is rarely something that I want them to eat from a nutritional point of view.

On Sep 19, 2004

I have said it before and I will say it again. Write letters to the library director and the library board. If the library is a city library, copy everything to the city council. If it is county, send everything to the board of supervisors. Library directors run scared (IMHO) and are wary of getting in trouble with their superiors. I worked in a library for nine years. Do not rely on fact to face talks or emails. Cite good references about the prevalence of allergies. Every little bit helps.

On Sep 21, 2004

We seem to be in a holding pattern with this issue at the moment, but I know it's moving up the chain of command from two directions, so we'll see what happens. I need to talk to my boss tomorrow to see if she's heard anything yet.

When I made my case, I made it from a purely safety aspect. If need be, I can bring in the fact that our own policy prohibits patrons from bringing food into the library, and that it invites unwanted pests and can damage materials. But I don't want to water down the safety angle since that is the most urgent and important reason.

I'll keep you posted as things develop.

On Oct 3, 2004

So if the library bans food during all other times and gives food to the children at story time this is setting a bad and confusing example. So you can have cookies at storytime then you may see PBJ sandwiches comming in and the children touching the computers,books,etc. So a thought to be safe haven turns into a death sentence. What is up with the policy. So I am for banning food as kids don't need a snack all the time. Or if a snack is provided why not cut up apples and other fruits?