Boulder Public Library officials are walking back a policy change that would have barred children under the age of 12 from the city's libraries unless they were with a parent.

The rule change was put in place out of concern that young children sometimes were left alone in the children's sections and got scared or acted up. Also, the children's section at the main branch downtown is near the front entrance, raising the potential for a child to wander off, library officials said.

However, parents of older children who had been using the libraries on their own for years objected. They pointed out that their children can ride their bikes around Boulder unattended and even take the bus to Denver.

On Tuesday night, the Boulder Library Commission voted unanimously to replace the new rule about unattended children with language used by the Poudre River Public Library District in Fort Collins, where the policy says that children in need of supervision must be accompanied by a parent.

The policy also states that the library will not act "in loco parentis," or in place of the parents, and if a child has a significant problem in the library and a parent cannot be located, the child can be placed in the custody of the police.

Commission member Donna O'Brien was absent, but the other four commission members approved the change in language.

Commission member Anne Sawyer suggested using Poudre River's language, at least as an interim policy while library officials look at the issue in more depth, because it lets parents determine whether their child is mature enough to be alone in the library. However, it also makes it clear that library employees aren't responsible for children left unattended.

"We heard from a lot of the public that 12 years old was too old and these kids are often in middle school and get themselves to and from school and have a lot of liberty," said Sawyer, recalling that she often went to the library by herself as a child. "It's a great transitional place where children can learn to be on their own."

However, the new rule won't go into effect right away.

Library spokeswoman Jennifer Bray said the new policy has to go through the same process that the original rule change did, with review by the City Attorney's Office, a public comment period and another vote by the Library Commission.

Bray said the public comment period will be announced in the library newsletter and with a legal notice in the Daily Camera.

People who wish to comment on the rule can write Bray at brayj@bouldercolorado.gov.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or meltzere@dailycamera.com.