Thursday, May 28, 2009

432 Patrons Ejected from Seattle Libraries in First Four Months of 2009; Librarians "Assaulted, Threatened and Spit Upon"

Library Conduct Violations Reach All-Time High

by Chris Halsne,
KIRO 7 Eyewitness News
27 May 2009
Emphasis added

The City of Seattle has been cracking down on bad behavior at its libraries, and there doesn't appear to be any shortage of it.

KIRO Team 7 Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne discovered security has already ejected 432 patrons in the first four months this year for offenses like assault, drug dealing, intoxication and lewd conduct.

If that pace continues, it would far exceed any other year.

On Wednesday evening, the library board amended some of its "code of conduct" rules to better identify the most dangerous offenses.

They range from simple alterations -- like redefining the violation for "sleeping" to "appear to be sleeping"-- to more serious matters, like kicking out repeat offenders for two years.

Seattle's library employees just want to help people find books they love, but along the way, put up with being assaulted, threatened and spit upon.

Patrons see plenty of erratic behavior, too.

According to 2008 conduct violations reports obtained exclusively by KIRO Team 7 Investigators, security booted 113 patrons for being disruptive, 42 people for fighting or assault, 75 for making threats, plus 34 more for lewd conduct.

In all, 1,323 conduct violations were substantiated just in 2008, a disproportionate number at the Central Library branch.

Library users like Judy, who brought her granddaughter to story time, are surprised at that number.

“This is a place you bring your children and you don't want them to be exposed to that,” Judy said.

KIRO Team 7 Investigators documented 776 cases in 2008 where someone did something serious enough to lose library privileges. In just the first four months of this year, 432 people have been kicked out in all branches, with 232 of those just from the Central Library downtown.

KIRO-TV hidden cameras found similar problems in 2005. Since then, the library hired more security, which led to an increased number of reported violations.

According to Seattle Library Administrator Marilynn Gardner, nobody has to worry about safety at any branch.

"Anyone can walk into a public library and we certainly welcome people from all kinds of backgrounds and I think they all expect it be a safe, comfortable space when they're trying to do library work," Gardner said.

Our cameras this week found sleeping is still commonplace, even though it's supposed to be banned. Bringing in huge bags -- as our video showed -- is supposedly banned, too. It’s a security issue and a way to keep homeless from camping out inside.

A new library board plan will create a sliding scale of punishment for low-end security issues like sleeping and oversized luggage.

Staff will now give verbal warnings first, then if the person won’t stop repeat offenders may be barred for a short time period.

Flinn Jofrey thinks that's a good plan.

“For the most part it seems pretty decent. I do see homeless people sleeping sometimes. It doesn't bother me as long as they are not bothering me, but I can see why the library wouldn't want that.”

When crimes are committed (like setting a fire or dealing drugs), new rules say patrons could lose privileges for up to two years. That’s up from the maximum one-year ban.

So, the four people recently caught for carrying weapons in the library wouldn't get to come back for a while.

Library users we spoke with think that’s a decent idea.

“I think if they're clarifying the rules, that makes sense, that they want to make things more clear for people, but no, it already feels like a good safe spot.”

Seattle library data indicated the number of trespassing and theft complaints have risen to record numbers so far this year, but cases of lewd conduct and verbal threats have gone down.

Copyright 2009 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. (Republished under Copyright Section 107 Fair Use.)


1 comment:

  1. I just wrote this to the author of the article:

    Excellent report on the library. Now do an investigation on how much of this goes on due to the library's adherence to American Library Association policies instead of local community standards and common sense. For example, from is a common flat out false lie promoted by the ALA that has infected your library: "However, the Library cannot control the information available over the Internet and is not responsible for its content." Look, there's even an admission about illegal material: "Some sources provide information that is inaccurate, incomplete or dated; some sources may be offensive, disturbing, and/or illegal."

    Chris, compare your situation to Minneapolis here: me for me info, if you wish.


    Look at this comment on the page:

    I am a librarian. What we do as professional librarians is strongly influenced by the American Library Association, which happens to be headed by a rather liberal group of librarians (elected by members of the association). We also have a duty to protect freedom of information and this (unfortunately) includes pornographic images on public library computers. [SafeLibraries: NO IT DOES NOT!] Of course, individual libraries are able to issue their own policies so if you don't agree with what happens at your local library, be sure to contact the Library Trustees, who approve policies and who represent the local community. The trustees can do much more for you than the library director. In the Seattle case it appears to me that the library follows policies approved by the local community [SafeLibraries: NO IT DOES NOT. THE WORDING IS STANDARD ALA BOILER PLATE LANGUAGE]; though, regretfully, it may be offensive to many people who choose to remain silent.

    May. 28, 2009 7:26pm PDT | from eostrom


    Look at this comment:

    imjonah--you're not alone in your frustration w/ libraries. several years ago, I was sitting at a library computer on a sunday afternoon-- parents w/ kids were strolling about. a young guy of about 13 sat down at the comp. next to me... and began pulling up full sized/ full screen hard core porn images-- no "privacy screen" on the computer. I didn't yell at him-- I didn't berate him-- I simply leaned over and said "buddy, the library isn't really for looking at that kind of stuff-- there are lots of young kids around." this 13-ish kid got right up and complained about me to library staff... and several other library patrons got up and complained about me "intimidating" the young man, "harassing" him, etc. (all the PC buzz words) the staff snickered at me and told the young guy he could look at anything he wished. furthermore, if I was ***offended*** I should find another computer somewhere else. ("offended"-- they all talk the same; like preprogrammed robots) When, I called the library "top brass" the next day, they were extremely hostile towards me, blaming me for censorship, etc. I sarcastically suggested they stack the periodicals section w/ copies of Penthouse and Hustler magazine. I was told "well, that's different... we don't censor those magazines... we just choose not to carry them" Why not, I pressed on? No answer.

    May. 28, 2009 3:58pm PDT | from slim


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