Friday, February 1, 2008

Black Belt Librarians

Thanks to OWLS, our library system, and an LSTA grant, we’re having two days of Black Belt Librarian training with Warren Graham, the author and library security consultant. An unsolicited endorsement: he gives a terrific presentation, entertaining, full of common sense wisdom and useful ideas. Feedback from dozens of staff is uniformly enthusiastic.

Graham describes library security in broad contexts: library staff and users are human, with all the inherent strengths and weaknesses. He teaches us to approach problems by understanding ourselves, being self-affirming not self-defeating, and responding than reacting. He teaches good communication techniques and ways to keep improving. He shares good ideas about using our organizational structure to make our organizations and our libraries better places to be. He teaches how to be "all about communication, rather than confrontation".

Listening to Warren talk, I had to think about pros and cons of current practice at our library.

Things we’re doing right:

  • We have a security policy and procedures -- developed with staff input
  • We have communication mechanisms, we document problems
  • We use progressive discipline and ban people from the library when we need to
  • We orient new staff to security concerns, policies & procedures and specifically tell them:
    • There’s nothing more important than the safety of users and staff
    • Anyone on staff is authorized to call the police any time – you won’t be wrong
    • Anyone on staff is authorized to throw people out of the library
    • Every one of us is responsible for maintaining the library environment

Things we might improve:

  • Some of our procedures are a bit black and white. But in a gray world, our rules will never cover every problem, so maybe we should have fewer rules
  • Some staff areas need locking doors, and it’s possible we need to do some construction work to build a doorway or two
  • We need to keep talking about the security gate / book alarm and how we respond. Much of this is driven by our space design and how materials are processed in other libraries before we get them. Nonetheless, more talk is in order.
  • We should talk about visibility and mirrors in out of the way corners.
  • We should have a security review process – we’ve done this with Police and we’ve done it with staff, but we need to plan to keep doing it.
To people not in our area, I strongly recommend getting Warren Graham to do a presentation. This would make a great preconference program for a state association. Or at least read his book

To APL staff, trustees, friends, whether or not you made it to Warren’s program – let me know what you think – comment here or drop me an email. A program like this does not resolve issues – it helps start new conversations.

1 comment:

Elizabeth, Adult Programming Librarian said...

This was one of the best workshops I've ever attended. I was fortunate enough to ask Warren a question about how I handled an incident and he made me see a more effective way. I think his response to bias ("We treat everyone the same") is so simple yet effective.