Book Review - Library Security

Physical Security
Book Review: Library Security
Publisher: ALA Editions; alastore.ala.org; 184 pages; $57.

Various books and white papers discuss library security, but Steve Albrecht’s book provides an in-depth approach to library security, with an emphasis on dealing with patron issues as opposed to physical security. Albrecht briefly touches on the good old days of library protocol and how it has evolved over the years. He offers expressive and critical reasoning as to why some libraries embrace the open environment—allowing talking, phones, and the homeless population who now gather at many libraries seeking shelter. He makes it clear that if an individual’s conduct is hurting a business, it must be addressed. 

In today’s society, security professionals are becoming increasingly aware of cultural institutions’ need for physical security requirements and for implementing strategies to deal with the behavior of patrons and staff. Most times we do not view the library staff as the enforcers of security rules and regulations, but that is, in fact, what they are. Albrecht does an excellent job addressing the difficulty of dealing with patron behaviors.

He delves into topics such as workplace violence, safety, and conflict resolution to name a few. The book offers insight into how to assist the library staff in dealing with challenges and communicating with patrons in a professional manner.

Throughout the book, Albrecht supports his writings with staff development recommendations to ensure that strategies are developed to provide employees with practical tools and procedures to deal with crises, as well as difficult patrons. His writing style is straightforward and he keeps the reader interested throughout the various chapters. 

In the chapter “Understanding Threats and Getting Help,” Albrecht writes, “There are two important reasons to call the police for assistance with problematic patron situations: To get the cops to help you enforce consequences for the situations, and for them to be able to do what they do best, which is to preserve the peace and lower the emotional temperature.” This statement can be used in any institution when police assistance is needed; however, in a library setting this advice is clear, concise, and practical.

The examples he uses are timely and correspond to the book’s purpose. He also includes five appendices that assist the reader in conducting surveys, handling training exercises, reducing stress, and finding resources. This book is aimed towards security and library professionals. The book covers various internal and external issues that library personnel must deal with, and it offers solutions to situations that library staff deal with on a daily basis. 

Reviewer: Kevin Cassidy is director of public safety and risk management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and is also a professor in the Security, Fire, and Emergency Management Department at John Jay College.