Fordham Law librarian Jennifer A. Dixon wrote a piece in Library Journal about the implementation of stricter security in public libraries to prevent gun violence.
Run. Hide. Fight. The video walking viewers through these steps for reacting to an active shooter in a public place has received 6.5 million YouTube views since 2012 and forms a key part of a new generation of safety training for libraries. Gun violence has recently impacted public spaces such as concerts, schools, and churches and hit particularly close to home for many library professionals and patrons when a 16-year-old killed two public library employees in New Mexico in 2017. In this environment, many library leaders are taking new steps to keep their staff and patrons safe.
For some libraries, this means organizing “active shooter” trainings that prepare staff to react to dangerous situations. In 2016, the Clifton Park–Halfmoon Public Library (CPHPL) in upstate New York committed to providing such training and worked with the local Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office to offer a 45-minute presentation to staff. In addition to learning about the “run, hide, fight” protocol, staff took a walk through the library to consider how those steps would apply in their own building.
Academic campuses, including their libraries, are no stranger to gun violence. In 2010, a student at the University of Texas, Austin, started shooting with an AK-47 outdoors before running into a campus library and taking his own life. In 2014, three students were shot when a former student opened fire in the midst of the crowded Strozier Library at Florida State University (FSU), Tallahassee. Both incidents demonstrated the vulnerability of academic libraries.
In advance of the FSU shooting, the campus had already prioritized library security, with a security force of full-time staff, as well as student workers and public safety officers from the university, monitoring visitors in the library lobby. The library required all patrons and visitors to swipe through turnstiles before entering the main space. According to a report released by FSU in the aftermath of the shooting, security footage showed the gunman entering the lobby shortly after midnight during the busy exam period and staring at the turnstiles, “perplexed,” before exiting and opening fire on the library steps. Julia Zimmerman, dean of university libraries at FSU, notes that “[the shooter]could easily have jumped over, but it’s a psychological barrier. Had he actually breached the turnstiles and gone into the library,” where hundreds of students were studying for exams, “it could have been a disaster.”