The mother of a schoolgirl left “traumatised” after being locked in a dark library after hours has called on businesses to revise their security processes to prevent the incident happening again.
Jemah Burley, 14, fell asleep reading in a chair at the Frankston Library, south of Melbourne, and woke up in the dark – locked inside and “very frightened”, her mother said.
The teenager, who did not have a mobile phone, had been waiting for her mum to pick her up outside the library at closing time, but she fell asleep.
Her mother Maxine Burley told Yahoo7 she waited outside for Jemah last month as arranged, but became worried when the usually responsible girl did not show up.
The Carrum Downs woman described Jemah failing to turn up at their designated meeting place as “out of character”, so she waited and watched staff leave before calling police.
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“She wouldn’t go somewhere else,” the concerned mother said.
Despite the cleaner coming in and switching on the lights for about 10 minutes, the exhausted teenager did not wake up and went unnoticed in the back corner.
After driving around Frankston searching for Jemah, Ms Burley returned to the library and noticed a hand banging on the door about 7.10pm – more than an hour after the library closed.
“She was hysterical. She sat down and was crying. She didn’t know what to do,” she said.
Mobile phone footage shows the distressed youngster crying as she sat on the other side of the window in the dark as her family attempts to calm her down.
They can be heard telling Jemah to look for a green button somewhere near the door, which she eventually finds to get out of the building.
“She was worried about setting alarms off, the police coming and getting in trouble,” Ms Burley said.
“It was very traumatic. She is very anxious now. She won’t go to bed without the door opened.”
The woman hoped sharing her daughter’s story might put pressure on the library and other public establishments like hotels, clubs and shopping centres to do proper security checks before they close up, and implement policies to prevent others from being locked in.
“What if it was a little old lady stuck there? She could have had a heart attack,” Ms Burley said.
“We just hope something like this doesn’t happen again.”
Frankston City Council told Yahoo7 its libraries had “extensive procedures” in place to prevent people being left behind – including three announcements made 10 minutes apart – prior to the library closing, and staff physically look over the library before closing.
“We are undertaking an internal investigation including talking to all staff present and reviewing CCTV footage and processes to identify where improvements may be made,” Frankston City CEO Dennis Hovenden said in a statement.
“I’ll make contact with the family and invite them to come in to meet with myself, to assist us with our investigation.
“This is a truly unfortunate incident, which as a father I can relate to.
“From conversations our staff had with the family last week, we were happy to hear that the young lady is doing well and we look forward to welcoming her back to the library whenever she is ready.”