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Strategies for Safety and Security

(Excerpts from, "LIBRARIES IN CRISIS: SAFETY AND SECURITY IN TODAY'S LIBRARY, Or: I've Seen Fire and I've Seen Rain, "by Patricia Davis, special services consultant for the Texas State Library)

  • Acknowledge the presence of library users. As well as being friendly, welcoming and a means of promoting goodwill, this is also a way of saying, "Hey, I know you're here. I will remember you. You have been seen. Don't steal anything. Don't cause any problems."

  • Be aware and be prepared:
  1. Take note of how many people are in the library or on the floor where you are working, what they and library staff are doing, and where they are located.

  2. Know what is happening in the library. If you are alone, keep your duties down to as few as possible and concentrate on the people in the library.

  3. Be calm, firm, and polite. When you first approach a person causing problems, be nice, then change to authoritative if it becomes necessary.

  4. Inform an individual that they are breaking a rule, ask them to comply, and then thank them for doing so. When discussing a problem situation, keep your palms up, never point, make "I" statements, and never turn your back.

  5. Call for help any time you feel uncomfortable or threatened by a situation or by an individual.

  • Use phrases such as the following when asking a person to leave, to change their behavior, to follow a rule, or when a person is disturbing other library users or staff: "I'm here to help you."; "We're going to work this out."; "I hear you."; "I understand."; "If I can't help you, I'll get someone who can."
  • If you cannot calm an irate person, motion to someone on your staff to come to your aid. Often a situation is diffused simply by having a third person step up and take over. If you are alone or feel threatened, distance yourself from the individual and call for help.
  • Document every security problem, rule violation, and potential problem that occurs in the library. Keep an ongoing log with the date and time of the incidents, the library staff involved, a description of the problem, and the person or persons instigating the problem. When you have the name of those causing the problem, add the names to the log. If you do not know names, make one up that will help you and your staff remember the incident and the person. Do keep in mind that the name you choose may be seen by law enforcement officials or a judge, so be diplomatic.
  • Review your security manual and rules regularly. Review what is working, what is not working. Keep emergency numbers up to date. Have new employees read the manual. Make certain emergency exits remain accessible and evacuation procedures are still applicable. Know where the emergency flashlights are and if they are working. Maintain a good working relationship with your security officers.

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Updated September 15, 2005 . Please send comments to Ludwig Possie Web Administrator.
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