Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The hiatus ends

It is hard to believe that so much time has passed since my last post. In fact, I find the lack of further entries hard to explain. The most plausible explanation is lack of time. It certainly is not for lack of subject matter. One of the topics preoccupying me during this hiatus is security. This is not a topic peculiar to the library, indeed it is a subject long associated with the down town area generally. However, what occurs at the library is a manifestation of larger community concerns, and exemplify the types of issues requiring resolution on a community wide basis.

It has been clear for some time that the library is too large to be adequately monitored by staff alone. There are too many corners, obscured and unobserved areas in the library, not counting the special challenges presented by the entry way and exterior. There are also the quantifiable incidents of untoward behavior which frustrate both patrons and staff and detract from our role as a community resource. It is not that one particularly egregious incident provoked a strong response, rather it is the slow grind of often minor events. These will eventually overwhelm even those of the most equable disposition. Perhaps in a less inspiring environment some of this could be rationalized as reflective of the surroundings, but in a new and dynamic building with wonderful amenities for public use the lack of consideration and proper use become intolerable.

Therefore the library has embarked on a program resulting in new, visible and we judge effective measures. A closed circuit camera system is now being installed expressly to monitor the most problematic areas internally and externally. Security staff are being added to the library and will be a visible presence during the days and evenings. Other salient measures cover the window sills and rest rooms.

In conjunction with these enhancements, we are holding regular dialogs with city officials and departments. The mayor's office, city manager, police department and department of human services are all contributing to these communications. The response from Norwich city government is encouraging, and the willingness of city departments to advocate for improvements in housing, policing, and other services validate their commitment to a renascent down town area.

I am pleased to report that the atmosphere at the library has improved markedly. We are an urban library, and the events in and around the library are those facing other urban communities. The environment may never be idyllic, but with the cooperative spirit evinced to date, both the community and the library will benefit.