Saturday, March 7, 2009

Being a librarian is a very multi-faceted job. Along with the usual duties of collection development and answering reference questions, we also have to be computer technicians, babysitters, teacher's aides, confessors, and now, apparently, security guards...

(click to read.)(This is a public document but I blacked out the name of the library anyway. Also, by the way? Last I heard, our "security" cameras are never turned on. So unless they're emitting some sort of invisible weapons-proof force field I'm unaware of, they're not doing much.)

Now, anyone who has been reading my blog for any length of time knows that I love my job. I love the people I work with and I love (most of) the patrons I help. I love finding someone the right answer to their question or helping them discover just the perfect book for their needs. For example, I get great personal satisfaction when a child is delighted by non-fiction, when I help an elderly man find an old war buddy with a simple internet search or when someone comes back and tells me they loved the book I suggested. They will genuinely smile at me and say, "Oh, thank you! Thanks so much!" and I admit I feel something akin to the purely selfish joy one derives from gift-giving.

I will also admit that I never feel safe at work, mostly because I am fully aware that I am not. *

The library is a public space so anyone can walk in off the street. I've learned over the years that despite the occasional troublesome patron, people are essentially okay. They come in wanting help, something to read, perhaps a few pleasantries and then they're out the door again and into the rest of their day. Mostly polite, they say "please" and "thank you" to which I happily reply "of course" and "you're welcome."

Despite these examples of everyday suburban charm, I know that there is always the potential for someone with evil intentions to walk up to my desk. I know this because a man was murdered by a gunman in the school right next door to the library where I work. I know this because I know that feeling safe is not the same thing at all as being safe.

So while I carry a little pocket knife and may be able to scare off the homeless man masturbating at the public computers by threatening to call the police, I doubt that in the event of real violence I will be able to do anything but run away with the rest of the sheep. An unarmed person should never be called or expected to act as "security."

* as evidenced by a number of past posts, including "why did I bother?" (re: director as gungrabber, who would have guessed?), "Tell me again why I can't carry to work"(re: attack on a local librarian), and "ding. ding. ding." (re: listen to your gut)


dr mac said...

Just nothing like a recording of being raped and killed to make you feel secure.

Pass the peas, please.

Next item ?

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Understand your views completely.

Will they at least allow you to carry pepper-spray and a prayer-book?

Joseph said...

The document shown here actually doesn't address even a single issue of security; A camera system only records events, it doesn't prevent them. Not to mention I doubt your staff members (besides yourself) have any security training beyond "Pick up the phone and dial 911".

KG said...

O/T, I just put up a post with a link to your blog on C. Rabbit.
It's good to see women promoting gun ownership!

Oswald Bastable said...

I followed the above link here.

Great blog & my wife has a S&W .357!

Smokey Behr said...

We've got cameras installed at the Central Library, and at 4 of the branches, but they are outside only. At Central, we had a stabbing right outside the front door about 6 months ago. The elevator at Central gets tagged with graffiti on a daily basis, and has to be spot painted at least once a week.

We have all sorts of unsavory characters floating around at all hours of the day and night. One morning I came in to find someone sleeping on the loading dock. I had to call security and wait for them before I would get out of my truck, as I can't carry inside.

Haji said...

My place of employment has been cased several times. Between the cameras and armed (and well trained) employees, they've left in a hurry and we're about the only local business that hasn't been robbed. I doubt that'd still be true if we didn't carry.

fast richard said...

Most managers are either clueless about security, or in such deep denial that they can't think clearly about the issues involved. The links were very interesting as I have been reading your blog for less than a year.

I have been reminded several times by events in my life that you can't predict when or where a dangerous situation will occur.

Christina LMT said...

I feel a vague sense of security at our local library because there are armed security guards. BUT, I've often seen them walking around outside, talking on cell phones instead of actually paying attention to what's going on around them!

TJP said...

Once upon a time there was a lowly system operator who was tasked with the physically impossible duty of monitoring every user of his digital domain, all day, every day. His peers at work demanded a sentient computer system to make judgements of nuanced human behavior, and prevent or punish undesirable misuse of electronic communication.

Lowly sysop explained in the most diplomatic terms that his job description does not include sorcery. He instead suggested a system which operates within the bounds of technology already in place. All it required was a staff member to review the recorded material on a daily basis.

Lowly sysop ended up doing the job himself, and he thoroughly hates spying on people.

The end.

The above is only one example. The whole story also includes security cameras, property theft and tracking visitors in the buildings.

If cameras created security, every police officer would be carrying a Canon in a holster. This is another example of government overproduction resulting from voters demanding things for which they do not directly pay. Installing cameras is "doing something"; unfortunately, that "something" happens to be "wasting money". No one wants to wade through thousands of hours of video produced by dozens of cameras. Trust me, I've done it, only to find the incident for which I am searching to be occurring mostly outside the FOV of the electronic eye. My coworkers don't even know or care when the camera system is broken.

That's why the early birds in the surveillance state are now adding recognition technology. Because, you know, if the foundation is bad, the best way to fix it is to build a house on top of it.

Anonymous said...

For 25 years my employer has relied on me as unarmed security andswering the door to anyone who is there for inquiries to provided services. No weapons policy in place. no phone anywhere near entry the response to threats is to call security as policy. Real life is I am it. Always unarmed of course. 2 years ago it was decided this was an unsafe practice and we no longer answer the door after hours.
The rest of the story: The front door frequently malfunctions an the electronic lock does not always work.
Yes there are those who expect unarmed persons to intervene they will call one a fool after the fact but thats for litigation purposes.

Gwenynen said...

I work at an academic library in the UK. I also study martial arts, though of course being the UK we are not allowed to do anything gun-y. Our boss got someone in from the university security services in to talk to us about safety at work. He got off on the wrong foot with me at least by using the immortal line "now ladies, don't worry, we won't need the model of the car, you can just tell us the colour and the number plate."
The next gem was about being assaulted at work, and basically boiled down to "after you've been raped, call the police." Gee, thanks.
It's bog all substitute for having a proper weapon, but I have learned how to do some damage with a biro. (honestly, but still.. *hollow laugh*)

Anonymous said...

There are many grammatical mistakes in the library memo.

If librarians fail at English, they will fail at security.

agg79 said...

That is a sad statement but altogehter true. Many places have security cameras that are there more of a visual deterrent rather than serious security. I think that instead of preventing any crimes, they are more of a tool to determine what happened later. How many times have we seen footage of someone getting attacked or kidnapped on a video survellance system only to bemoan on how they should have been protected? In spite of the assurances of management/government, everyone is responsible for their own security. At least you know the true situation. Take care and take no chances.

kaveman said...

My work place has a very strict policy about weapons on site that applies to everyone but the CEO.

We also have outside armed security come in and stock/service the ATM's.

Ya see, guns are meant to protect "important" people and money, not the proles.

Timmeehh said...

When you arrive at work every day, what kind of search does your employer subject you to? Is it a full cavity search or just a quick pat down? Do they use metal detectors? Ya see, I'm just trying to figure out why you don't carry a deep concealment pistol. Maybe attaching a holster to your prosthetic leg would confuse a metal detector.

Now I realize that you risk termination if you are discovered carrying in a library, but ask your husband, does he prefer an unemployed wife or a dead one.

Mike said...

Timmeehh, she doesn't just risk termination; she risks imprisonment. In the State of Ohio, libraries are classified by law as no carry zones just like schools, police stations, and court houses. Carrying a gun there isn't just a firing offense, it's a felony.

Therefore, the calculation is to accept the risk of not being adequately armed at work, to ensure the ability to be so in the dark grocery store parking lot by virtue of not being a convicted felon.

Most people I know who carry, do not consider their firearm a magic talisman which protects them from evil, but a tool to alter the threat/risk/reward balance that comes along with being in the world we live in. You might want to think about it in those terms rather than just blithely suggesting someone commit a felony without regard to the consequences.

Timmeehh said...

The terms I would consider would be, does an unarmed 5 foot nothing woman with a prosthetic leg stand a better chance against an armed attacker or does a petite librarian stand a better chance in court.

ASM826 said...

Concealed means concealed. Unless you are going through a metal detector on the way in...

And if nothing ever happens, no one ever knows.

Anonymous said...

If the flit does ever hit the shan and one used something she carried concealed into that library, I cannot see any county prosecutor obtaining a true bill in your county, nor a conviction if it ever got to trial. That is not a guarantee, of course, and that risk is one that each person has to weigh for themselves.

But I can't see "woman attacked in X county" and then successfully prosecuted. Knowing the prosecutor in your county. And the judges. That would not fly. Problems if you flashed it and there was no need, certainly. In a deadly force situation, not unless there's a sea change in that county.