Knox County is telling sex offenders public libraries are not the place for them.
By executive order, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and the county's library system are barring sex offenders from using public libraries.
The move comes after a state law change that allows libraries the authority to restrict access to anyone listed on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry.
"The time to shut the barn doors is before the cows get out. After you have an event where there is an abduction or a kid molested in a bathroom, it's too late," Burchett said.
At least one set of parents in North Knoxville say the move is a good one. Donnie Galyon grew up near the North Knoxville Library Branch and Edgewood Park. He believes times and the neighborhood has changed.
"I would stay up in that park until way after dark and I wouldn't dare let him stay out there," Donnie Galyon said. "You've been arrested and convicted of doing that to children, and the library is a place where there is going to be children. You gave up that right when you did that."
North Knoxville's library has the most sex offenders living within a two mile radius of it in Knox County according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation with 74.
Mayor Burchett's office suggests offenders wishing to use the library can access the catalog and other resources from an online computer at home. Per the ordinance, offenders will be allowed to apply for a library card on the telephone. From there, they can have someone else physically visit the library to check-out resources on their behalf.
In other communities, civil rights groups have argued against similar bans. They argue tough restrictions force some sex offenders to go underground, refusing to register with the state. Also, some registered sex offenders may not have been convicted of a crime against children and do not pose a significant threat to children.
"I'm kind of sick of this notion that we have to offer equal access to things, they can still access everything on a computer or have other people check books out," Burchett said.
"Safety, especially for our young patrons is a primary concern," Director of the Knox County Public Library Myretta Black said in the written release. "While we've always taken measures to ensure our patrons' safety, a result of the new state law is heightened security where registered sex offenders are concerned."
Law enforcement leaders in the community praised the library system as part of the county's release.
"I applaud the state of Tennessee for putting tougher regulations on these dirt bags who prey on our children, and I'm pleased that the Knox County Library system has a policy in place that will help protect the public," Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones said.
"We are happy that the Knox County Public Library is taking the lead to ban sex offenders from our libraries," Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said. "This new policy will help ensure the safety of all visitors to our library facilities."
Registered Sex Offenders within 2 miles of Libraries:
Bearden Library: 10
Lawson McGhee Library: 51
Burlington Library: 9
Carter Library: 8
Cedar Bluff: 15
Fountain City: 31
Howard Pinkston: 2
Murphy Branch: 50
North Knoxville: 74
South Knoxville: 24