Thursday, November 20, 2008

Library Security: Everyone's Resposibility

In our library, we're currently reviewing our disaster plan. Library security is a component of disaster planning, so with that in mind, I signed up for this preconference session led by Jeremy Johnson, Hennepin County Library security officer and computer forensics specialist, and Ben Trapskin, HCL senior librarian. Others have already blogged on this session, such as the posts from SELCO, and Kasson Public Library, and those posts provide a nice overview of the session. But, some takeaways that I noted for our library are:
  • Establish a procedure for handing criminal computer use
    While we're an academic institution with different issues in some cases than a public library, we still get our fair share of community users and certainly there may at some point be some student activity that is problemmatic. We would do ourselves a favor by having a process to follow than being reactive after the fact.

  • Design the library spaces with security in mind
    Much of that was done when this building was opened about 7 years ago, but we can continue to think that way. For example, we purposefully are adding additional computer stations in a cluster, to encourage self and peer-policing, but separated from the existing computer stations, to avoid "over-concentration" of people.

  • Secure our staff areas
    We started leaving the doors into our staff areas, such as access to the area behind our circulation desk, unlocked because of all the in and out with carts, etc. Our library faculty offices are in this secure area, and it is not uncommon to have students walk back into this secure area unannounced to visit a faculty member. However, with recent thefts of items from offices on campus, and thinking of what was addressed in this session, we may want to rethink that strategy.

  • Develop emergency closing procedures
    We've had two recent bomb threats on our campus which have necessitated building evacuations. In the most recent one, there was some confusion over a misplaced library check-out laptop computer. Making sure we have emergency closing procedures in place possibly could have addressed this problem.

  • Use programming to improve the library environment and security
    A couple of weeks ago, our library staff had Becky Nordin and Lisa Mohr from our campus Judicial Affairs office talk at a staff meeting about working with students to communicate expectations for library behavior. We talked about making a video to demonstrate okay and not okay behavior, and having an open house and other events to give us opportunities to get campus students "on our side."

  • Create a student advisory group
    Again, thinking along the lines in the above note, how can we get more students to be "on our side" with enforcing and modeling desirable library behavior, like not bringing food in and not talking on cell phones, etc. Maybe we want to work with a focus group of students to talk about our services and environment, and how we can compromise on some of these issues. We may want that group to be an advisory group, or just meet for a fixed period.

  • Create our own HCL "Welcome to the Library" signage
    HCL has signage that has a "friendly" or "yes" side: be respectful, use a quiet voice, etc.; and a "stern" or "no" side: no illegal computer use, no violence, etc. Maybe we want something like that posted at our entrance.
Ben and Jeremy had participants break into small groups and use a couple of "How Do You Manage" columns from Library Journal to discuss choices and security issues. I was in a group that used The Lesser of Evils. Other groups used Insecurity. I wish I had been in the group that discussed Insecurity, as that related to an academic institution, but it was interesting hearing the public library folks in my group talk about our situation.

For additional information and discussion, Ben Trapskin created a website/blog for library security called, uniquely enough, "Library Security" ( I'll definitely be using that in my Intro to Tech Services course when we talk about disaster planning.