Main Policy Content
- General Procedures
- Procedures during Business Hours
- Procedures after Business Hours
- Cross References
Penn State University Libraries and the services its employees provide are designed primarily for the students, faculty, and staff of Penn State. We also acknowledge a large secondary group that uses our libraries and services—community members and visitors. All of these groups sometimes bring children to use the libraries and we welcome their supervised presence. Concern for the well-being of children using the Libraries is fundamental to our overall service mission and we seek to maintain a safe and secure environment for all of our users. We must also acknowledge that the Libraries function as public buildings which anyone may enter, therefore the primary care of children using the Libraries resides with parents and designated caregivers. Young children left alone at the library may become restless, bored, frightened, or anxious. It is not the Libraries’ intention to seek out unattended children but rather to have a reasoned response prepared as problems present themselves. The following policy and procedures seek to address these concerns for children in a responsible manner.
An unattended child is any young person below college student age using the Libraries, unaccompanied by a responsible adult in the immediate vicinity. Unattended adolescents between 12 and 17 years old may use the Libraries without supervision as long as the same policies governing library use by students are followed. Children under 12 should not be unattended by a parent or caregiver. Every effort will be made to inform parents bringing children under 12 to the Libraries that the parents (or caregivers) are responsible for supervising those children. Children under 12 without parents or caregivers present will be given a handout explaining the Penn State University Libraries policy, with a request to give the handout to their caregiver or parent.
University Libraries employees are not responsible for the supervision of children and young adults left unattended by their parents or caregivers, but should observe young patrons carefully to insure safety. Disruptive behaviors from individuals in either group—unattended young adults (12 to 17) and unattended children (under 12) will be treated appropriately under the University Libraries Code of Conduct, but special attention may need to be given to the latter group. For example, an unattended child under 12 years of age whose safety or well-being might be endangered if they were sent out of the building or who is exhibiting signs of distress or concern may require special consideration. Examples might include a child being upset and unable to find a parent, a child too young to be on their own during a building evacuation, or a child being left alone outside the facility after closing.
- An unattended child found frightened or crying in the Libraries should be reassured by the staff and every effort should be made to identify and contact the parent or attending adult. Young adults (12 to 17) will be treated as adults unless circumstances dictate otherwise.
- Library faculty or staff who observe or suspect child abuse or neglect must notify the appropriate authorities. See Penn State’s guidelines to help faculty, staff and students in reporting abuse.
Procedures during Business Hours
If a parent is in the building:
- Two staff members should accompany the child through the library to seek the adult.
- Upon locating the parent or caregiver, reunite the child with the adult and explain the library policy regarding unattended children under 12 years.
If a child is alone in the library:
- With the child’s help attain the parent’s/caregiver's name and telephone number.
- Call the parent/caregiver, inform them of the library policy and request that the parent pick up the child. Provide the handout/card to the parent/caregiver upon arrival.
- If Libraries’ staff cannot reach the parent or caregiver, if the responsible adult does not respond, the supervisor on duty may call Childline or the local CYS agency.
Procedures after Business Hours
If a child under 12 years of age is alone at the library at closing time and appears to be anxious or frightened:
- Library staff will attempt to call a parent or caregiver. If staff cannot reach an adult responsible in the first attempt, the supervisor on duty will call campus police.
- When possible, the supervisor on duty and a staff member will remain with the child inside the library until a parent or the campus police arrive. There may be instances, such as weekends or evenings, where only one staff member may be available. In these cases, the staff member should stay with the child until campus police arrive.
- The library policy will be explained, and a copy of the written policy will be given to the parent.
- Under no circumstances will library staff transport or take the child away from the library building.
Effective Date: April 15, 2013
Date Approved: April 15, 2013 (Dean's Library Council)
February 2022 - Revised language.
Last review date: February 2022