Corvallis OR April 16 2017 The city of Corvallis has taken action in an effort to keep Corvallis-Benton County Public Library patrons and staffers safe.
The city is in the process of hiring two “security attendants” who will work 18 hours per week. The goal, city officials said, is to enable library staffers to work with customers while the security attendants deal with code of conduct offenses.
Andrew Cherbas, deputy director of the library, said discussions about the possibility of a security component have been held “for a few years now,” but interest in the idea ratcheted up after a violent incident Jan. 7 in which a man use a baseball bat to injure two people.
“We found that the amount of time spent by library staff enforcing code of conduct issues was really having an impact on their ability to focus on their core work of serving library patrons,” Cherbas said.
Cherbas said that infractions range from smoking near building entrances to “more disruptive issues that might interfere with other patrons’ use of the library.
“This seemed like the right time to add this type of service.”
After the baseball bat incident six “panic buttons” were installed at the library. The buttons went live in March, but Cherbas said they have not yet been used. The buttons trigger a response from the Corvallis Police Department.
The city’s Library Advisory Board discussed security issues at its January and February meetings, with the minutes noting that the baseball bat incident was the most severe in recent memory and that the number of daily incidents that staff have to deal with has risen.
Cherbas also noted that morale among library staff has been affected by the conduct issue.
The security attendants will not be armed, nor will they carry weapons, although Cherbas said they will wear some sort of identification. No timetable has been set for the hiring and debut of the security employees.
“We’re planning a ‘soft launch’ of the security attendants and will do a more substantive announcement after the attendants have been on the job for a couple of months and we have some data to share on the impact of the positions,” Cherbas said. “We will use the soft launch period to evaluate the positions and if necessary make some adjustments to the duties.”
Library Advisory Board member Jacque Schreck suggested at the Feb. 1 meeting that the library should look for ways to make sure the new employees are viewed as supportive and not intimidating.
“I am in favor of this action,” Schreck told the Gazette-Times. She called it “an unfortunate sign of the times, not just here but nationally and internationally. I am quite satisfied with what is planned for Corvallis. I envision that patrons and staff will be positively impacted.”
The two positions will cost the city approximately $31,000 per year, said City Manager Mark Shepard. They will be paid in the 2016-17 fiscal year with library budget savings that accrued because the director position has been open since Nov. 1 when Carolyn Rawles retired.
Money for the security positions in the 2017-18 cycle will be part of the spending plan Shepard presents to the Budget Commission on May 2.
The city has hired Ashlee Chavez, most recently with the San Antonio library system, to replace Rawles. Cherbas and fellow deputy director Felicia Uhden have been running the library and its branches in the interim. Chavez starts work in May.