Library Security 101

American Libraries Live is a fantastic streaming video series, presented by ALA and American Libraries magazine. Each live broadcast focuses on a different timely library-related topic, with experts in the field serving as moderators and panelists. I had the chance to tune in for the session for the month of May, which focused on library security. There was a great deal of great information, and I thought I’d share the main points I was able to take away from the session.

  1. Security is everyone’s job. Whether you work in a large enough library to have dedicated security staff, or you are a solo librarian in a rural library, it is everyone’s job to ensure the safety and security of library patrons and the library building. We as library staff should take the time to walk around and take stock of what’s going on the building, check the dark corners, and just generally be observant of who’s in the building, what they’re doing. There isn’t always going to be a “good citizen” who will come and report to you that something is going on. We need to be the collective eyes and ears to make sure the library environment is safe for everyone within it.
  2. Post the library’s code of conduct in plain view. It’s tough to enforce rules that people don’t know about. Plus, just knowing the rules helps modify people’s behavior before they ever venture into unacceptable behavior territory.
  3. Write an incident report every time staff has to deal with a security issue in the building. It’s beneficial to have a record of what took place, who was involved, and how the issue was resolved. Having all the information helps library administration to have the back of the staff, and helps the staff as a whole debrief after the incident, to review what happened and how staff responded.
  4. We need to rethink the idea of the “difficult patron.” We all have patrons we think of as difficult for one reason or another, those patrons who interfere with the ability of others to enjoy the library. One of the panelists suggested thinking about these patrons not as “difficult,” but rather as “challenging.” Everyone has the right to enjoy the library within the parameters of the code of conduct, and it can certainly be difficult to deal with those people who choose not to operate within those parameters. The panelist expressed the thought that using the word challenging instead of difficult reframes this in a more positive light. We can work with challenging people to bring them into the fold of those who use the library without interfering with the library use of others.

American Libraries Live is a really great resource for library staff in all types of libraries. You can view the webcasts live, or watch the archive of the presentations any time, all at no charge. Check out the archive and view the schedule for future webcasts at http://americanlibrarieslive.org/blog.

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