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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a librarian in a medium-sized public library, and I'm losing my patience about one particular issue.

Parents who wouldn't dream of dropping off their 5- and 7-year-olds at the mall or grocery store bring their youngsters to the library and let them roam freely throughout the building with no supervision, or drop them off to fend for themselves while Mom and Dad go shopping or run errands.

To those negligent parents, I want to yell: The public library is not a "safe place" to leave your child unattended! Libraries are public buildings; anyone off the street can enter. I know of at least one convicted child molester who is a regular user of this branch, and there are probably more that we don't know about.

Public libraries are a popular choice for child molesters and "peepers" to frequent and search for victims. Parents, please do not leave your little ones alone at the library. We librarians have jobs to do, and although we care deeply about the safety of your children, we are not baby sitters.

Thank you for helping me get the message out, Abby. -- CONCERNED LIBRARIAN, ANYTOWN, U.S.A.

DEAR LIBRARIAN: You're welcome. It's hard to imagine a parent who is so irresponsible as to take a small child to a public place and leave him or her unsupervised. That said, if I were the concerned librarian, I would contact the local police and notify them that a child has been abandoned on the premises.

DEAR ABBY: We are Mothers of the Military. Our sons and daughters are the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Reserves and National Guard going into Afghanistan to protect our freedom. They are fighter pilots who drop bombs on the Taliban and protect the skies here at home, Navy cooks on the ships, infantry here and abroad, and the Coast Guard protecting our shores. They have many jobs, from private or seaman to general or admiral. All branches and all ranks are equally important; they are our sons and daughters.

During this time of uncertainty, we support each other in person and on the Internet. We laugh and cry together and know that there is always someone who shares our fears and joys. If you have never sent a child to war, it is hard to imagine either the cold terror that you feel or the joy at seeing them come home.

Our slogan is, "As one we are weak, together we are STRONG." We help anyone who has family in the military by networking them with others in their areas or finding someone for them to write to. There is almost always someone online on the Internet site, and we have chat rooms nightly. We would like to invite any who wish to join us -- and that includes fathers, siblings, grandparents, anyone!

Thank you, Abby, for sharing our cause with others. -- ETTA LOVE, MOTHERS OF THE MILITARY

DEAR ETTA AND OTHER MOTHERS OF THE MILITARY: I wish you success in your support effort. Although I have never sent a child off to war, I empathize with the stress all family members feel when they send someone they love into danger -- regardless of how noble the cause.

Readers, Mothers of the Military (MOM) can be reached via the Internet at www.mothersofthemilitary.com or e-mailed at mothersofthemil@aol.com. Those who do not have computers can write the organization at P.O. Box 65015, Lubbock, Texas 79464.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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