The Pocahontas County Free Libraries strive to provide a warm, welcoming and safe environment for people of all ages, but especially for our young patrons. This policy is designed to protect each child that comes to use the library.
The safety of children left alone in the library is a serious concern for library staff. Staff members have many responsibilities and duties to perform in order to serve all our patrons. They cannot act as surrogate parents or caregivers to children left alone in the library, nor can they fully monitor the behavior and safety of every child. The responsibility for the safety and proper behavior of children in the library rests with the parent/caregiver, not library staff.
Children under the age of 8 must be supervised by a parent/caregiver at all times. A caregiver is defined as someone 14 years of age or older who has the physical and mental capacity to care for the child should an emergency arise.
Children between the ages of 8 and 14 may use the library on their own for a reasonable amount of time provided they are able to maintain proper library behavior as outlined in the PCFL policy on patron behavior. Parents are still responsible for the actions of their children. Children must also have a phone number of a parent or caregiver that may be contacted in the case of an emergency.
Young people age 14-17 are treated as adult users and subject to the library’s patron behavior policy, but they are still legally the responsibility of their parents.
If no ride has arrived within 15 minutes after closing time, library staff will call local law enforcement. Staff will wait with the child until s/he can be given into the custody of a police officer. Library staff cannot give rides to any child.
In the event that a child under the age of 8 is left unattended in the library, the staff will attempt to contact a parent, guardian or other caregiver. If a parent, guardian or caregiver cannot be located within 30 minutes, local law enforcement will be called and the child will be given into their custody.
The West Virginia Legislature passed Senate Bill 161, which states in part, that employees or volunteers of an entity that provides organized activities for children must report cases or suspicions of child abuse or child sexual abuse within 48 hours to the Department of Health and Human Resources and/or the State Police or law enforcement personnel. The reporting person must also report the event to the director of the library, who may supplement the report already made or file an additional report.
All PCFL staff and volunteers shall be given copies of three booklets from the TEAM for West Virginia Children organization outlining how to identify child abuse:
--In a Child’s Best Interest: a guide for West Virginia school personnel in recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect
--It Shouldn’t Hurt to be a Child: a guide for early childhood providers in recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect
--One Child at a Time: a guide for professionals in recognizing and reporting the abuse and neglect of children with disabilities.