One of the most impressive shows at PLA this year was given by security consultant, Warren Davis Graham. He is the author of a great book called Black Belt Librarians. As an experienced security chief for a major library group in North Carolina, he has lots to share and some seriously practical advice. I urge you to run, don't walk and get your hands on his book. And make your staff read it too!
I know that the general public often thinks that libraries don't have security issues and perhaps many board members and managers think that way too. In easy to understand, informal language Graham takes the reader through some basic precautions and attitudes that are essential to library service. Since I love practical easy to implement processes that don't require major meetings and paperwork, here it is. (Caveat: please go get the book for deeper knowledge and information. In no way can I be a substitute for reading or attending one of his lectures)
30 - 30 - 30
Every 30 minutes, every staff member, get up walk around and look around for a solid 30 seconds noticing who is doing what, and where people are. Is anything looking odd out of place? This technique should be implemented for 30 days. Graham says that automatically, after about 30 days, everyone's general awareness of library patrons, activities and other comings and goings will be improved.
Document, Document Document
Of course all of us are in patron behavior management and I know almost everyone has an incident report and knows to call the police in an emergency. My issues (as well as many other librarians I have talked to over the years) is dealing with that "in-between" stuff. Maybe things seem to be troublesome or give you a bad feeling. My first instinct is "I don't want to over react". Graham also gives strategies for this in between situation.
First, document (okay just make a tic mark on a sheet) anytime you have to correct someone's behavior. This can be as simple as telling someone that they can't use a cell phone in the library or teens running around. Just make a tic mark on a daily sheet and see if there are any times and trends to keep an eye on.
Second, log any thing that disturbs a staff member, even if it is nothing overtly dangerous. This document should be behavior driven and give enough information that can alert other staff members if necessary. Graham cited an example of a patron that stared at a staff member that made her feel uncomfortable. Another example is a regular group of teens that seem to be heading toward problem behavior. Together with documentation and increased awareness, staff were able to manage a potential problem, as well as assure the security of the staff member.
The third level of this process is, of course, the incident report. This should be regularly considered for updates and changes. All staff should be trained on all of these measures and it should be a regularly discussed issue. These three items can be combined into regular statistical reporting and it actually can give a these "problems" context. Each report can should summarize, statistically, the number of behavior corrections, concerns and finally actual incidents. To only report serious problems without a context of patron behavior can make it difficult for those not involved in day to day patron management to put these types of issues into context.
I love these simple rules and I urge you to think about security in the library before something happens. Proactive awareness might be the best thing for security and ultimately patron service.