The news this week, from El Paso to Dayton, has been shocking and heartbreaking, and unfortunately hearing the term “mass shooting” is becoming all too common in the news. According the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), there have been 255 mass shooting incidents so far this year. As a matter of clarity, the GVA defines the term “mass shooting” as an incident where “four or more (people are) shot and/or killed in a single event, at the same general time and location, not including the shooter.”
Another term, “soft target,” has been part of the story as well. Soft targets are generally locations that attract a large number of people, are easily accessible by the public, and have minimal to limited security measures in place. Think churches, nightclubs, shopping centers, city parks, festivals, and think public libraries.
The doors of the public library welcome the entirety of the community, which presents some significant challenges including the potential for devastating physical violence. Last month, a young man was shot to death in the bathroom of a branch of the Cleveland (Ohio) Public Library. The director of the Fort Meyers Beach (Fla.) Public Library was murdered in front the building in January of this year. In December of 2018, a branch manager was killed in the parking lot of the Sacramento (Cal.) Public Library. These awful events demonstrate the library-world is not immune to violence. Then there is the mass shooting in the Clovis-Carver (NM) Public Library in 2017 – a teenager walked out of a bathroom with two handguns, killed two library employees, and injured four other people.
It is simply naïve to think that such a horrific tragedy cannot or will not happen again.
I propose no answers to the complicated and emotional issues surrounding gun violence in America – I have my opinions but this is not the platform to express them. I believe that we need to keep moving the conversation forward in our communities and actively implore our governmental representatives, at all levels, to work together to find solutions.
Until then, we need to discuss safety measures in the event of terrible situations to keep our employees, coworkers, and patrons of our libraries, as safe as possible. We need to practice safety training and prepare to act and react. I encourage you to look for individuals and organizations in your community who will help you train and share in the responsibility of continuing the conversation to raise awareness. Speak with the City Manager and ask if there is potential to collaborate with different city department for staff training. Introduce yourself to the Chief of Police and let them know you value and prioritize keeping the library safe. Offer library space for training and invite opportunities to raise public awareness. Work with the library board and develop policies that schedule training.
There are resources available to help you in this discussion and to help you better prepare for an unthinkable situation, and here are a few links to get you started:
Surviving an Active Shooter Event Video
-- Eric Norris