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Creating safe community spaces at the Lisle Library

“That happens in a library?” is a phrase I have heard frequently through my career as a library professional.  

Many people still have a traditional image of libraries as quiet, reserved places. On the contrary, the Lisle Library, like most libraries today, is a busy community space. 

An average of 13,000 patrons of all ages come through our doors each month. As with other public buildings, children get lost, people occasionally have accidents and our staff often must respond to medical issues.

We also must manage those with mental issues, and the variety of assumptions about what is acceptable behavior in a public place. 

These challenging dynamics require ongoing staff training and practice. One of my first actions when I became director of the Lisle Library was to develop a committee for Safety and Operational Security (SOS) to begin strengthening our safety procedures.

In the past year, we have collaborated with our fire and police departments and a risk consultant to revamp our plans and responses. Staff have been better-trained to manage situations that require a knowledge of library laws and consistent calm. Planning for a robbery and how to clean up blood-borne pathogens or manage chemicals are a few of the things the public doesn’t realize that we must know, but that are essential to maintaining a safe space for our community.   

We recently bought necessary equipment that our building lacked, such as emergency backpacks, fire-evacuation tools and walkie-talkies.

Our Staff Development Day on May 17 included safety training on managing conflict situations. We have provided staff with first aid training and will plan CPR training and adding AED units to our facility in the coming year. 

The many recent national tragedies in public spaces heighten our resolve to make the Lisle Library a place where our community feels that we are prepared for a variety of emergency situations.

Whatever happens at the Lisle Library, we are working to be prepared.

Shannon Halikias is director of the Lisle Public Library.

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