Monday, December 15, 2014

Focus on Campus Library Security Post-FSU Shooting

In the wake of last month's shooting inside Strozier Library at Florida State University, discussion has increased about security at on-campus libraries.
 
Strozier Library at Florida State University.
Image via www.trendytron.com

When I first started working in academic libraries as an undergraduate student, there was little security on campus, let alone inside the university's libraries. Anyone from off-campus could enter, without having to stop at a checkpoint or even show ID, and countless did on a daily basis. At least once a week, it was my responsibility to close the library, and on many occasions I was the only one there at the end of the night. I was informed that if trouble arose, a security guard was nearby, although I don't remember ever seeing him. Thankfully, trouble never did occur, and as far as I know, my fellow library workers and those who used the library never encountered danger while at the library. But this was a number of years ago. I would hope that since then, the university has put security measures in place at its libraries.

In sharp contrast to the lack of security at my undergraduate library many years ago, security at the graduate library at the school where I just earned my MLIS was anything but lax. Before you even cast a shadow on the steps of the library, you would have passed through campus gates that were constantly under the watchful eye of unformed security personnel who were stationed at booths just inside the entrance...at every entrance. Once through the gates and en route to the library, you would see at least one vehicle with security guards inside, and typically they would drive on the sidewalks, forcing students to stand off to the side. Upon entering the library itself, you had to take out an ID issued by the college before gaining access to the stacks. With ID in hand, you approached turnstiles above which you had to wave your ID in order to gain entrance. And always positioned next to the turnstiles was a bored-looking security guard. Once through the turnstiles, you faced the circulation desk, which was always manned by at least two workers. And library workers were on every floor of the building. As a result, I never felt like I was ever in any danger as a library patron at my graduate school.

The security measures in place at my graduate school's library are now commonplace at on-campus libraries at colleges and universities across the country. Indeed, at Florida State University, such measures, including "a front desk ID check," "a turnstile entry system activated by FSU ID cards," and "a security desk where visitors are required to sign in and register for a guest card," were already present at the time of the November 20 shooting, according to Library Journal. In addition, "Strozier employs a full-time security staff, as well as student workers manning the front desk," reported Library Journal. Despite these measures, the shooting still occurred and students and library staff were injured. (It turned out that the shooter was an alumnus of the university; amid the altercation, he was shot and killed by FSU police.) Thankfully, none of the injuries were fatal, although one of the students who was shot is now paralyzed as a result. The aftermath could have been a lot worse if Strozier Library workers hadn't been trained on what to do in the case of emergencies. As a matter of fact, it was Strozier Library worker Nathan Scott, who was at the library's front desk at the time of the shooting, who warned the students inside after he himself was wounded by the gunman. Scott, who was shot in the leg, is making a full recovery.

Speaking to Library Journal, Julia Zimmerman, dean of libraries at FSU, said, "We were thankfully well-prepared for this." As evidence, Library Journal cited "Strozier Library's security system and staff, recent emergency drills, a responsive police force, and a quick-thinking front desk employee" that, collectively, saved many lives that November night.

For more on library security at FSU after the November shooting, see the Library Journal article "FSU Shooting Highlights Need for Library Security" at THIS LINK. For more dialogue on security at on-campus libraries, especially those in Florida since the FSU shooting, see THIS LINK.

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