Security and Crime Prevention for Public Libraries

Introduction

Generally speaking public libraries are viewed as safe places. However, this is not necessarily the case. As with any public space, problems that occur outside in the public sphere are likely to spill over inside (Bangs, 1998); furthermore, by its very nature, the public library strives to be welcoming to everyone, and offers services for a wide variety of people therefore these problems can be compounded within the library environment.

Crime in the library can take several different forms. First there are crimes against the library collection, such as theft of books and materials or vandalism of the collection. Secondly, there are crimes against the physical structure of the library; this can include vandalism of the building, vandalism of library equipment or arson. Thirdly, and perhaps most seriously, there can be crimes against the people inside the library, including threats or violence against both staff and patrons. A final category of crime includes things that are typically referred to as "victimless crimes", such as drug use and prostitution (Arndt, 2002, p. 22), which may happen on library property but occur on a more incidental basis and are not limited to occurring in a library setting.

Just as crime in libraries falls into different categories, prevention strategies regarding library crime are also multifold. For the most effective crime prevention libraries must adopt physical security measures, comprehensive administrative planning and adequate staff training. In order to meet these objectives it is first necessary to develop an accurate picture of library crime.