Evanston Library Board hears questions on security issues
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:14AM
EVANSTON — After Evanston Public Library officials closed off the fourth floor administrative offices to the public last year following the shootings in Newtown, Conn., some employees asked officials to put safety measures in place in other parts of the building.
At Wednesday night’s board meeting, an Evanston resident who asked not to be identified, said his wife was one of several employees who wrote an e-mail to administrators asking that more security personnel be added during daytime hours to the other three floors of the building, at 1703 Orrington Ave.
The man said he decided to go to the board on his own and that his wife might not approve; however, he felt compelled to go public when “there was no response to this serious problem,” he said.
Library Board President Ben Schapiro apologized if the man’s wife and other employees felt “left out” by the decision to close the 4th floor off to public visits.
Schapiro said the area was closed after officials received an email from a man in another city that contained threats against a library administrator.
The move was made after consultations with police and security, “because that was where the target (of the e-mail) was,” and was purposefully done low key to avoid unnecessary alarm, Shapiro said.
Both Schapiro and Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons spoke of the need to balance security concerns with access to library services “so as not to suggest some kind of chilling effect,” said Schapiro.
The man said employees often are called to deal directly with difficult patrons, and they have had to break up verbal altercations and intervene when some computer users have their audio too loud.
He spoke approvingly of a provision in the board’s strategic plan to hire a psychologist or social worker to deal with some of the library’s patrons is a good one. With a large homeless population among the library’s users, “this is a perfect opportunity to meet those people where their needs are,” he said.
Lyons said the library employs part-time security guards during evening hours up to closing, and that the security is based on incident and behavior pattern data, with data indicating evenings and weekends are the time “when we can use the extra assistance.”
Director for less than a year, Lyons said administrative team members also are looking “at ways how staff at all levels can express their concerns and be part of problem solving.”