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Loitering a growing concern at base library

By Airman 1st Class Katie Hickerson | Wingspread staff writer | Dec. 18, 2007

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — After-school hangout "hot spots" have become an issue for one Randolph Air Force Base facility. 

Children, more specifically "tweeners" from families who live off base, are using the open field and facility of the Randolph Library for their recreation and social gathering spot after school hours and they have started to get "out of hand." 

"Having those same children come to and use the library for reading, homework or research would not be a problem," Randy Harris, 12th Services Division combat support flight chief, said. "But unfortunately, quite a few children are releasing their pent-up energy at the library and disturbing regular patrons." 

The majority of the problem has come from children whose parents work on Randolph, but who actually live off base, he said. Some families have chosen not to pay for or use the existing after-school programs set up for such a situation and have instead instructed their children to gather at the library to be picked up after their parents leave work each afternoon. 

"We certainly understand after a long day in school, children want to be able to run and play," Mr. Harris said. "The library, however, is not the appropriate location for such an activity." 

This issue has made its way up the chain of command and changes have been approved by Col. Richard Clark, 12th Flying Training Wing commander. 

Although children may continue going to the library after school, each child will be required to show their ID card and sign in with the library staff. The new policy includes all children in the entranceway, outside and in the coffee shop. 

"If any of the children who are there choose to act up, my staff will simply turn their names in to the 12th Mission Support Group commander, and will notify their parents for further action," he said. 

Those not interested in signing in at the library can sign up for after-school programs at the youth center. 

The youth center, run by the 12th Services Squadron, has programs for all children ages 12 and under for as little as $16-$34 per week. 

Parents of children ages 9 through 12 can allow their children to sign themselves out of "accountable" care at 4:30 p.m. and wait in the open recreation room until they are picked up, Mr. Harris said. Many parents are pleased with this option. 

For $36 per year, the youth center's teen room allows children ages 13 and up to watch TV, play computer games, do homework or join a variety of clubs where they may learn new skills or be involved in community service. 

"The youth center offers a safe environment for your teenagers and we encourage you to use it," Mr. Harris said. 

Although base officials encourage students and the inquisitive to visit the library often and take advantages of the free books, music, Internet and movies, it is not a place to loiter. 

"The library provides a great place for individuals and families to study, check out books and do research," Colonel Clark said. "We want everyone to have an enjoyable experience at the Randolph Library."