Library Security and Safety Handbook

G. Edward Evans (University Librarian, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 1 March 2000




Evans, G.E. (2000), "Library Security and Safety Handbook", Library Management, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 109-115.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

“May you live in interesting times”, or something like that, is supposed to be an old Chinese curse. For librarians, at least those in the USA, there is a sense that perhaps that curse is affecting them. Certainly having two books appear on the topic of library security in the same year suggests that there are concerns about safety within the library. Just a quick scan of the two tables of contents reveals the range of concerns for both people and things.

Alan Lincoln’s Crime in the Library (R.R. Bowker, 1984) was for years the primary book, if not the only one, on the topic of library security. The journal Library & Archival Security has provided a forum for discussing the various safety concerns of library staff members. What are some of the major concerns? On the people side, concerns range from ergonomics to protection from physical assault. In terms of things, from multilation of books and serials to preparing disaster plans to arson.

Although the two titles deal with the same broad topic, they are in fact complementary rather than competitive in content. Teri Switzer’s work is primarily an annotated bibliography. Each of her seven sections opens with a brief introduction to the topic followed by descriptive annotations. Her work encompasses some areas of concern not covered in the Shuman book – sexual harassment, job stress, ergonomics, and indoor air quality for example. It may seem unlikely but in spite of having 175 pages of annotations the work is not comprehensive. In part, this is because she includes general (non‐library) articles. She probably comes reasonably close for items that are library specific; however, there are some library titles listed in Shuman’s bibliography not found in hers. Her 16‐page “Resources” section will be very useful to those who plan training programs or anyone wishing to keep up to date on workplace security. This section lists videos and sound recordings addressing library specific and general workplace security issues, serials (14 titles), and 32 Internet sites. All of the entries have short descriptive annotations.

Bruce Shuman’s book is a practical how‐to‐do‐it manual. His writing style pulls the reader along even with a topic such as library security. Having served as the editor of Library & Archival Security for six years Shuman is well qualified to prepare this work. He divided the material into six chapters along with an introductory overview and a concluding section about what the future may hold. The main chapters address “Protecting materials in libraries”, “Problem behaviors in libraries”, handling security problems within the library, emergency and disaster planning, legal and ethical aspects, and electronic equipment/software security. There are numerous bulleted checklists, and recommended practices or procedures. All in all a very useful practical guide to most of the issues of library security. As noted, his extensive bibliography (unannotated) does include items not found in the Switzer book just as her work covers some topics not found in Shuman.

In sum, these are two complementary titles that ought to be in every library administrator’s working collection.

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