At the North Carroll branch library, patrons can find the young-adult book "Be Smart About Sex: Facts for Young People" by Jean Fiedler on the same shelf as Barbara DeAngelis' "How To Make Love All the Time." Adult and children's nonfiction books have been shelved together at the library since June.
Carroll Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier wants the practice to stop and plans to tell the county library's board of trustees tonight that she wants the North Carroll branch to separate the two collections.
"Mixing the two sections exposes children to some adult topics and even pictures that we don't really want our children to see," Frazier said. "I'm not trying to censor adult books. I just think it makes good common sense to have the children's books separate from the adult books."
The system, known as interfiling, consolidates the North Carroll library's children's and adult nonfiction books into a collection of 31,581 books in the adult area.
Shelving the books together creates a reading area for children and more room for children's books. The system also makes it easier for library staff to reshelve materials and allows patrons to get information from one place, said library branch manager Lisa Hughes.
It also makes it possible for a child looking for a book called "My First Trip to the Dentist" to encounter books about hot flashes and puberty, said Del. Joseph M. Getty of Manchester, who found such a combination in the Greenmount library's Health section on a recent visit.
"I think there's a problem," said Getty, who with Dels. Nancy R. Stocksdale, Donald B. Elliot and Carmen B. Amedori - all Republicans - wrote the library's board of trustees this summer about the topic after he was approached by a constituent.
"I have kids from age 2 to 7 who use that library on a regular basis. I think it's more beneficial to children to have their own section of the library - a section where they can get excited about books and reading and freely roam the shelves," Getty said.
Getty said he plans to attend tonight's meeting.
The North Carroll branch is the only one in the county library system that uses interfiling. "It's an experiment," said Linda Mielke, director of Carroll County Public Library.
Libraries in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties have used a similar system with little protest for more than a decade, said Mielke, who started interfiling at a library in Clearwater, Fla., when she worked there 10 years ago.
In North Carroll, only children's nonfiction books at and above the fourth-grade reading level are filed with adult nonfiction. Biographies written for children remain in the children's section.
In the half-dozen letters of complaint Mielke and Hughes received, patrons criticized the practice for many reasons.
Some wrote it is unsafe to make children leave the children's area for books and makes it harder for children to find the books they need.
One wrote that having children in the adult area of the library is disruptive. The most common criticism was about children's access to "inappropriate information."
"It's partially a shelving issue, but it's also an information-access issue," Hughes said. "We would like our users to see a complete collection of materials on any given subject."
Parents should be responsible for their child's selection of books, Hughes said.
"At a certain point, children develop a curiosity and will seek out materials on a particular subject," Hughes said. "Whether the books are in one section or another in the library, they are going to be looking for information. The parents' role is to be involved."