Library Council
University of Toronto Central Library System

Committee on Personal Safety and Security Annual Report 1999 February 14, 2000

~ Terms of Reference ~ Membership ~ Activities of Task Force ~ Summary of Recommendations ~ Report ~

Terms of Reference

At the January 21, 1998 meeting of Library Council, Dan D'Agostino, co-chair of the Joint Health and Safety Committee, asked Council to vote on the following proposal:

The members of the Joint Health and Safety Committee are asking Library Council to set up a Task Force to investigate personal safety and security issues in the Central Library system.

This Task Force will consist of no more than six persons, drawn equally from management and union and will meet every other week for a period of three months, reporting back to Library Council at the end of that time.

The Task Force will operate with the following objectives:

  1. To investigate the current personal safety and security situation as it affects all staff and patrons in the Central Library system, including an examination of all related programmes and procedures.
  2. To hear from Campus Police and the Personal Safety Officer for the University on matters relating to the Central Library system.
  3. To recommend to Library Council programmes and procedures to improve the personal safety and security of staff and patrons in the Central Library system. At the end of the three month investigation period, the Task Force will present a written report to Library Council for action.
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Membership

Chair: Bill Godoy -- Administration, Robarts Library
Members: Graham Bradshaw
Collection Development Department, Robarts Library

Dan D'Agostino
Gerstein Science Information Centre

Ilka De Diego
Technical Services Department, Robarts

Ruth Dibranou
OISE

Peter Gurney
Earth Sciences Library

Margery Pearson
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

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Activities of Task Force

In order to complete its investigations, the Task Force found it necessary to meet on a weekly basis beginning in early February with the final meeting on June 9th. Minutes of these meetings were distributed to Task Force members by e-mail. Several methods, outlined below, were used to compile data and to help guide Task Force members in their discussions. In addition, various campus groups were invited to attend the meetings or to make written submissions, although none responded to our invitation.

Meeting with Personal Safety Officer and Campus Police Officer

On February 17th, Len Paris, the Personal Safety Officer for the University, and Corporal Gord Reid of Campus Police met with the members of the Task Force. The minutes of this meeting are attached as Appendix 1.

Staff Questionnaire
In March, a brief questionnaire designed to elicit information on personal safety concerns was sent to all staff (senior staff excepted). Of the 688 questionnaires distributed, 130 were returned. The questionnaire, along with the compilation of results, is attached as Appendix 2.

Department Heads' Questionnaire
Questionnaires were sent, via e-mail, to all department heads in the Central Library system. The questionnaire, along with the compilation of results, is attached as Appendix 3.

Staff Focus Group Discussion


On April 22nd, a one-hour Focus Group was held with twelve staff members from all areas of the Central Library system. The minutes of this meeting are attached as Appendix 4.

Supplementary Meeting with Corporal Reid


On April 9th, the Task Force met once again with Corporal Reid of Campus Police. At that meeting he outlined his proposal for the establishment of a Library Watch programme within Robarts Library and the rest of the Central Library system. His proposal, which was adopted as a recommendation of the Task Force, is attached as Appendix 5.
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Summary of Recommendations

  1. Establish a personal safety and security committee for the Central Library system reporting directly to Library Council.
  2. Conduct regular safety audits in all departments and libraries.
  3. Establish a system-wide Library Watch programme.
  4. Examine procedures for handling cash at public service points.
  5. Increase complement of Building Patrol staff for all libraries.
  6. Re-establish a building security/campus police station in Robarts Library.
  7. Lobby for more University of Toronto police officers.
  8. Offer more staff training in personal safety for all library staff, and where appropriate, make this training mandatory.
  9. Provide ID badges to all Library staff.
  10. Use higher security level locking mechanisms to separate public and staff areas.
  11. Provide lockable desks or lockers for all Library staff.
  12. Schedule more than one staff member to close a Library.
  13. Review current Library policy on appropriate use of public computer terminals and procedures for "non-compliance".
  14. Publicize Library incident reports.
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Report

1. Establish a personal safety and security committee.

Given the importance of personal safety issues in the various libraries, issues like the increasing number of thefts, the incidents of verbal abuse and physical threat, and the growing anxiety of staff, the task force recommends the establishment of a personal safety and security committee. This committee would provide leadership and direction in areas of personal safety, be responsible for the implementation of the task force's recommendations, and ensure that all personal safety issues are taken seriously and properly addressed.

RECOMMENDATION:
The Task Force recommends that a separate personal safety and security committee be established within the framework of Library Council, one that draws its membership from the various constituencies (management, librarians, union) and reports annually to Library Council. This committee would deal with all aspects of personal safety and security.

2. Conduct regular safety audits in all central libraries.

As part of an ongoing library safety strategy, it is recommended that regular safety audits be conducted. This idea comes from a plan already in place at O.I.S.E. (see Appendix 6), one that mirrors the Health and Safety audit with which most staff are familiar. In cooperation with campus police, the members of the Personal Safety and Security Committee would undertake annual inspections of the workplace to examine personal safety standards and to assess the overall strengths and weaknesses of the libraries. To guide the assessment, a detailed checklist would be designed to indicate the areas of concern and the steps needed to improve workplace safety. The example in the appendix is for illustrative purposes only, but it gives some idea of the form that should be developed for library purposes.

RECOMMENDATION:
Members of the Personal Safety and Security Committee will conduct regular safety audits in cooperation with campus police, using a detailed checklist.

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3. Establish a system-wide Library Watch programme.

A Library Watch pilot project was conducted several years ago at the Sigmund Samuel/Science and Medicine Libraries. The programme is based on the community policing model which draws on staff to assist campus police in creating a safe work environment (see Appendix 5). The theory is that "work areas are better protected when those who work there are involved in protecting themselves and not solely dependent on someone else to provide for their security." This does not mean that staff are expected to intervene in potentially dangerous situations; rather, the programme establishes a mechanism to assist staff in understanding their responsibilities in emergencies and provides a clear reporting structure to avoid confusion. The new Personal Safety and Security Committee will be responsible for implementing the Library Watch programme.

RECOMMENDATION:
The task force recommends that all central libraries establish a Library Watch programme under the guidance of the Personal Safety and Security Committee. Employees at all levels should feel greater confidence because the programme indicates whom to contact and under what circumstances. It should also hasten campus police response and improve directing that response to the appropriate area.

4. Examine procedures for handling cash at public service points.

Concerns were raised regarding the way cash is handled at the libraries' public service points. Many staff feel that these places are particularly vulnerable and easy targets for would-be thieves. Effective policies need to be established which will discourage crime and reassure staff. Campus police have indicated their willingness to arrange sessions with Metro Police who can provide advice and training in the handling of cash.

RECOMMENDATION:
The Task Force recommends that the libraries evaluate, in consultation with the Personal Safety and Security Committee, the procedures for dealing with money, how it is handled and under what circumstances, where it is kept and who is responsible for it with a view to ensuring the safety of staff and reducing the risk of theft.

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5. Increase complement of Building Patrol staff in all libraries.

The Task Force recommends an increase in the number of staff hired for building patrol, as well as more training for the staff assigned to building patrol duties. There should be two building patrol staff stationed in Robarts Library during all the hours the library is open. Similarly, Gerstein, O.I.S.E., Engineering, Earth Sciences and Pharmacy libraries should have two building patrol staff patrolling this group of buildings during all opening hours.

The building patrol staff present a uniformed visible presence in the Central Library that would act as a deterrent to criminal activity. It is suggested that the building patrol can play a proactive role in helping to enforce the Library Code of Conduct Policy, in providing assistance to staff during library closing, and generally in monitoring patron ID cards at computer terminals. It is very important for building security staff to have the proper tools, such as pagers, telephones and walkie-talkies readily available in order to be within easy access when a staff member from any area needs them. These devices should always be checked for any defects that might prevent the Security staff member from the proper discharge of his or her duties.

Communication between building patrols and regular staff is of the utmost importance. There should be a central gathering place where security patrol staff is immediately visible. Also, security patrol staff should make it a point to stay in touch with the regular staff who are on duty during their shift, and keep open a close line of communication with the evening supervisor at Robarts Library.

Finally, it is essential that building patrol staff be given special training in conflict resolution, and the handling of difficult patrons. Training should also ensure a thorough knowledge of the Library Code of Conduct. It is also imperative for them to possess the proper knowledge of the layout of the entire building they patrol so that they can carry out the assigned duties as efficiently as possible and in a timely manner.

The University of Toronto Library is the biggest library in Canada. With the rise in thefts and criminal activity within the university community, the role of the building patrol (especially a uniformed and visible presence), plays a great part in establishing order and stability in the Library. They also provide a sense of safety, security and well-being for patrons, visitors and staff who come to do research in the Library and expect to do their work in comfort and safety, in an amenable environment, rather than one fraught with perceived threats and improper behaviour.

RECOMMENDATION:
The complement of building patrol staff should be increased to a total of four with two stationed staff in Robarts Library and two patrolling the Earth Sciences, Engineering, Gerstein, Pharmacy and OISE libraries, during all opening hours. Building patrol staff should receive more training in conflict resolution, communication with other Library staff, and knowledge of the Library Code of Conduct.

6. Re-establish a building security/campus police station in Robarts Library.

A few years ago a building security/campus police station was set up on the first floor of the Robarts Library. This was an excellent initiative because it was located in a high traffic area, which heightened public awareness of the library security arrangements. It was also a focal point for security activities. Unfortunately, the decision was made not to continue with this useful arrangement.

RECOMMENDATION:
The task force recommends that consideration be given to re-establishing a building security/campus police station in a highly visible location in the Robarts Library. We also recommend that the station be staffed by members of the campus police and the library's own building patrol. The station could act as the nerve centre for all central library security and personal safety activities and would reinforce the good working relations we have with campus police.

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7. Lobby for more University of Toronto police officers

A representative from the University of Toronto police attended some meetings of the task force to discuss the police role on campus and to provide an overview of the present situation. As with other areas of the university, the campus police have been hard hit by staff cutbacks which have resulted in increased pressures on their limited resources. There are 22 patrol of ficers, 4 sergeants and one manager (at one time there were over 50 officers) who are responsible for approximately 110 buildings on campus. During a normal shift of 12 hours, only 3 officers are available (prior to the cuts there were 8 officers per shift) to respond to calls. This makes it impossible for them to conduct regular patrols of buildings, including the libraries. It was pointed out during our discussions with the campus police officer that Robarts Library and the Gerstein Science Information Centre have among the highest number of incidents of all the buildings on the U of T campus.

RECOMMENDATION:
The task force recommends that the library should encourage the university administration to make personal safety issues a priority and to lobby for more campus police officers. This will make it possible for campus police to have a higher profile and to undertake regular patrols in the libraries. It may also make it possible for them to have a permanent presence in Robarts Library.

8. Offer more staff training in personal safety for all library staff.

A consistent theme throughout the deliberations of the task force was the need for more staff training in matters of personal safety. This was confirmed by the responses in the questionnaire distributed to staff and in comments made during the focus group session. Many staff members believe that the present training arrangements are inadequate and are not made available on a consistent basis. There was also widespread agreement that follow up training is essential.

RECOMMENDATION:
The task force recommends that mandatory conflict resolution training and education programmes in personal safety and security be set up for all staff. These sessions should be followed by regularly scheduled "refresher" courses, perhaps every three to five years, to reinforce already-learned skills and to teach new methods or techniques. It is also extremely important that all sessional staff be given this training as a part of their library orientation.

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9. Provide ID badges to all Library staff.

Another way to deter the theft of property in staff areas is for library staff to wear ID badges. Badges identifying the wearer as a Library employee encourage staff to challenge those in staff areas without an ID badge. As well, since library staff could be easily identified within the Library, patrons would find it easier to report suspicious incidents to library staff.

The proposal to wear staff ID badges was discussed in the Focus Group. Participants unanimously agreed that the wearing of staff ID badges would be a good idea. Furthermore, all said that with a badge they would not hesitate to challenge unknown people seen in staff areas without ID badges.

However, it also became clear during the focus group discussion that what was actually on the ID badge was important in determining whether or not staff would cooperate in wearing them. That is, any personal information such as name or photo would make staff feel uncomfortable enough not to want to wear them. Accordingly, the badges should simply state "University of Toronto Library". It would also be appropriate to have an individualized staff ID number to allow the staff member to be identified by other staff members. But this number should not have significance beyond the Library (that is, it should not be the personnel number, phone number etc).

RECOMMENDATION:
All Library Staff should be issued with staff ID badges. These badges should state "University of Toronto Library Staff" and should be worn at all times. An identification number known only within the Library would also appear on the badges. All staff should be encouraged to challenge unknown people seen in staff areas without ID badges.

10. Use higher level locking mechanisms to separate public from staff areas.

Another way to deter thieves from entering staff areas is to have secure locks on all doors leading from public areas to staff areas. These locks would be most effective if they employed the latest technology, one that allows the organization to "programme" or "deprogramme" the locks or keys. An "electronic key card" system is an example of this technology. An electronic combination lock door is another, but this requires the periodic changing of the combination.

Of immediate concern to the Task Force is the current situation in the Fisher Library. The Task Force heard from several staff working in Fisher that the door connecting Fisher to Robarts is often left unlocked or jammed open. This allows unauthorized people easy access to both the staff work area in Fisher, and the rare book collection. It would be possible for someone to remove books from the Fisher collection, take them out the door connecting the building to Robarts, and leave the building through the loading dock. The Task Force strongly urges that the Director of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library evaluate the policy allowing staff to leave the Fisher through this exit. If it is decided that the current practice is acceptable, then the Library Health & Safety/Fire & Security Coordinator should make the placement of a new locking system on this door his highest priority.

RECOMMENDATION:
The Library Health & Safety/Fire & Security Coordinator should investigate a new locking system for all doors leading from public areas to staff areas. Such a system should use the new technologies to deny unauthorized people entry to staff areas. In particular, the Task Force recommends that the Director of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library evaluate the policy allowing Fisher staff to use the "back door" connecting them to Robarts Library on the first floor.

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11. Provide lockable desks and lockers for all Library staff.

Of the 130 respondents to the staff questionnaire, 43 replied positively to the question: "Has there been any theft or damage to personal or library property in your area in the last 6 months?" Of these, many mentioned actual instances of theft of property in staff areas including:

- break-ins of locked offices
- theft of staff belongings from behind public service desk
- equipment stolen from library, including video cameras and cash

Similar reports were also made by staff attending the focus group session. In both the questionnaire and the focus group, mention was made of a lack of secure places where staff can keep their personal belongings since not all departments provide a locked desk or lockers for their staff. Not having a safe place to store personal belongings encourages employees to leave purses and wallets in drawers and cupboards in staff areas, making them easy targets for thieves. Further, the fact that thieves have found a certain amount of success encourages them to continue coming into staff areas and searching for money. One way for the Library to discourage this is to provide lockers and/or locked desks for all staff in which to deposit their personal belongings. This would be particularly beneficial for ALTs, whose needs are often overlooked.

RECOMMENDATION:
The Task Force recommends that the Library provide lockers and/or locked desks for all its employees, including ALTs. The provision of such should be a section within the Safety Audit, to be conducted in every department each year.

12. Schedule more than one staff member to close a Library.

During its investigations, the Task Force heard that some departments were scheduling staff to work alone during the evenings and on weekends. This policy is of particular concern when staff are left alone to close the library on Friday evenings. Some staff find it difficult to deal with patrons who refuse to leave the library on time, while also having to complete other closing procedures. Since the Campus Police are often slow in responding to calls, since staff do not have training in how to persuade reluctant users to leave the Library, and since many departments have no procedures on what to do if users refuse to leave at closing time, many staff feel unsupported, and find the situation a source of stress. It is also surprising that in many instances, the staff are ALTs.

RECOMMENDATION:
No staff member should be scheduled to be the only staff working in a building or a library on evenings and weekends, particularly at closing time. All departments should have a policy on what staff should do at closing with patrons who refuse to leave. All staff should receive training on how to implement this policy.

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13. Review current policy on appropriate use of public computer terminals and procedures for "non-compliance".

The Task Force heard from Campus Police that the number of incidents of theft and harassment has increased in all libraries in recent years. There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that this increase is due entirely to the Library's policy of allowing the public use of its computers to connect to the World Wide Web. This has brought more members of the public into the Library, including thieves. The recent success that thieves have enjoyed in the Library has increasingly helped to target library users and staff for thefts.

The Task Force has also heard from staff concerning their feelings of discomfort in working in areas where members of the public are viewing pornography on library computers. There is a real possibility that the availability of Library computers for the viewing of pornography will attract people with a history of sexual assault. Given the age of many students using the Library, the isolated areas that exist within many library stack areas, and the use of computers by members of the public for viewing pornography, the possibility exists that sexual assaults or harassment will occur within the Library.

Task Force members believe that the most effective way to deter this from happening is not to censor what is viewed on library computers, but to restrict those who can use them. Restricting use of library computers to those with a valid UTL card (or valid research card) will at least eliminate from the Library one group of potential problems: members of the public with a history of sexual assault.

RECOMMENDATION:
The Library Health & Safety/Fire & Security Coordinator should continue to investigate a new Library policy designed to discourage members of the public using the Library's computers to view pornography. It is hoped that removing these people will act as a deterrent to thieves, and will also deter the potential for sexual assaults to occur within the Library.

A new Library-wide policy on public use of library computers should be reviewed within six months of its implementation by the newly proposed Personal Safety and Security Committee. Of particular concern should be the effectiveness of sanctions for non-compliance, as well as the training staff receive to implement this policy.

14. Publicize library incident reports.

The University of Toronto Police issue a document entitled "Daily Summary of Incidents" which highlights the incidents in which they have been involved. Many staff members ignore these reports or do not know where they are kept.

RECOMMENDATION:
To increase awareness of such occurrences in the central libraries, the task force recommends that these reports be made more widely available to staff. It is suggested that the Library Health & Safety/Fire & Security Coordinator extract from the daily summaries those incidents which have taken place in libraries and disseminate this to staff, perhaps on a weekly basis, via e-mail accounts. This will publicize the nature of the incidents and will hopefully make staff more conscious of the problems in their work areas.

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