An autistic boy on holiday with his parents got locked in Horncastle library and had to be rescued by his frantic family who thought he had gone missing.
Rewi White, from New Zealand was visiting relatives in the town with his mum Samantha when they went to the library because the 11-year-old is an avid reader with a love for books.
Samantha said that staff at the library told them they would close at 4pm and Rewi was due to visit his uncle, who lives nearby, afterward. When he failed to show up, the family panicked and set about searching for him across town.
Samantha said: “We’d had a discussion with library staff about the closing time so I didn’t think he would be there because it had been closed for over an hour. Someone must have known he was there or they just didn’t check if the library was empty when they locked up.
“Rewi loves reading and had sat in the teen section completely engrossed in a book.
“He hadn’t noticed that it had gone dark and the lights had gone out.
“Meanwhile we were searching high and low in Horncastle. I knew he wasn’t the sort of boy to go wandering off so when he didn’t turn up at his uncle’s, and wasn’t found in the search, we knew we’d have to phone the police to report him as missing.
“However, before we did that, I thought I’d just check to make sure he wasn’t at the library and when we arrived and knocked on the window, he saw us and stood up.
“He was on the other side of the glass.
“This then set the alarm off and so police arrived and then set about trying to find a key holder who could let him out.”
Apparently, the key holder details had not been updated and were five months out of date.
Horncastle councillor Bill Aron arrived and was able to direct Rewi to a key he knew was kept inside the library so the 11-year-old could let himself out.
Samantha said: “Rewi was very happy to be stuck in there with 200 books to read. He is on the autistic spectrum so having the books around him helped to keep him calm when he realised he couldn’t get out.”
The family have now returned to New Zealand after their visit home but called on the county council to review its procedures.
Samantha added: “I really hope LCC review their locking up procedure and their key holder records as this was a completely unacceptable solution, we had an hour of worry because staff left without doing a complete check of the building”
Jonathan Platt, County Libraries and Heritage Manager, said: “Staff gave a verbal warning asking people to leave before putting the lights out and closing the library at 4pm, although there was then a member of staff on site until 5pm.
“We’re currently investigating why the child wasn’t noticed during this time and why the alarm company didn’t use the most up-to-date contact list with which they had been provided.
“We’re also looking at whether there are other any steps we can take to prevent this happening again. Thankfully, this type of incident is very rare.”