A high school principal who went to bat for his students has persuaded the Claremont Colleges to back down from a policy that kept most Claremont high-schoolers out of the private colleges' libraries.
Lonnie McConnell, principal of Claremont High School, got the colleges to agree that all Claremont High students who go through a 30-minute library tour and buy a $2 card can use the colleges' libraries. McConnell got involved soon after the Claremont Colleges libraries in September restricted their use by high school students.
The four libraries at the private Claremont Colleges have become more important than ever to Claremont High students since budget cuts severely restricted hours and limited supplies at the county's public libraries. Claremont High School has its own library, but students say it lacks in-depth research materials found at nearby public libraries.
The Claremont Colleges libraries decided in September to grant access only to Claremont High students in advanced placement classes, or who have a written referral from the school principal. High school students at the private Webb School in Claremont also will be given library privileges. The libraries affected by the change were the Sprague Library at Harvey Mudd College, Denison Library at Scripps College, the Pomona College Science Library and the Honnold/Mudd Library, which serves all six colleges.
Bonnie Clemens, director of the libraries, said the policy was adopted after college students and professors complained that boisterous high school students disrupted the quiet at the Honnold/Mudd Library.
She added that the policy--as now revised--will be reviewed in the spring. If college students continue to complain about Claremont High School students in the libraries, staff librarians may restrict the number of teen-agers allowed, she said.
"We're not going to hassle them if they're studying, if we don't get complaints," Clemens said. "But we're not a study hall. Some have been using it as a place to meet their friends."
The initial restrictions stand for high school students from outside Claremont, a stance that angers some other area educators.
"Here's a library that restricts kids and worries about damages. . . . It's a very sad state of affairs," said Paul G. Breit, principal of Garey High School in neighboring Pomona.
"I am really bothered by any library being closed to students who need to use it," Breit said. "If they've got kids causing trouble, remove them. But don't penalize 90% to 80% of the kids."
Last spring, the libraries' staff monitored the entrances and found that 30% to 40% of all users came from outside the colleges, Clemens said. Half of those users were high school students, many of whom came from as far away as Fontana, El Monte and Corona, she said.
The increase in outside users also prompted the Claremont Colleges' libraries to raise annual card fees to the general public and allow cards to be issued only to residents of Claremont, La Verne, Montclair, Pomona and Upland. A library card for Claremont residents jumped from an annual fee of $35 to $50. For residents of neighboring cities, the fee is now $100 a year. And people who do not live in nearby cities can no longer enter the libraries.
"I understand the libraries' first priority is to their students, faculty and staff," Claremont High Principal McConnell said. "But at the same time I don't like seeing restrictions on my kids.
"I've lived in California all my life, and it was never a problem getting to a library. I appreciated that--all students do. But unfortunately, in these economic times, cities have had to cut back."
In September, McConnell met with librarians of the Claremont Colleges to negotiate a compromise. That led to the agreement allowing all Claremont High School students to use the facilities, provided they attend a half-hour library tour.
Sixteen-year-old Avid Hatam, a student at Claremont High School, said it is true that many high school students would go to the library just to gossip with friends, and others would yell and run through corridors.
But not everyone acts irresponsibly, she said. "I like it here. It's real studious and serious."