Dayton area libraries have increased security in response to a growing number of people who are committing crimes there instead of reading and relaxing.
An I-Team review of public records from police and the Dayton Metro Library show 279 people were removed from the main library at 215 E. Third St. in 2017. Another 35 people were charged with trespassing.
“When they are trespassed out, they cannot come back in,” said Tim Kambitsch, the Dayton Metro Library executive director. “If they do come back, then we will call the police and they will end up getting arrested.”
The crimes committed by those who are removed range from indecent exposure to drug abuse. In January 2017, a 25-year-old man overdosed at a computer terminal and it took seven doses of Narcan administered by Dayton Fire Department medics to revive him.
In May 2016, a 36-year-old man threatened to shoot a staff member after he got into a confrontation and was asked to leave. He was charged with criminal trespassing and banned from returning.
While the number of people removed from the downtown library has gone up recently, Kambitsch said that is due to the dramatic increase in patrons since the new main library building opened last year. While the library was being renovated, temporary quarters were set up at 120 S. Patterson Blvd.
Patrons interviewed for this story said they appreciate the increased security.
“I think it is very important,” said Steven Foster 0f Carlisle, who said he visits the Dayton downtown library once a week. Of the security guards, he said, “I see them all over the place.”
Kambitsch said the new building was designed with security in mind.
“We wanted to make certain our service desks and where our guards are positioned can visually cover larger spaces,” he said, adding that the glass walls and windows create quiet spaces but also allow visibility into the rooms for security purposes.
The Clark County Public Library in Springfield has also ramped up its security measures. Last April, a 28-year-old woman was arrested — and banned — after she was found on the floor of the women’s restroom with a syringe in her leg.
Jeff Smith, Clark County Public Library security coordinator, said most people banned from the library obey the order, but some return “to see if they can sneak in and sneak out.”
“We are pretty much on top of it,” he said. “Staff knows who is not supposed to be in here.”
Violence, too, is a concern too for library managers, though the violent episodes that have occurred elsewhere have not happened here. Last June, an argument between two library patrons in Columbus led to a shooting in the main library downtown. The gunman was caught and the victim survived, but it prompted library systems around the state to re-examine their security procedures.
Last August, a 16-year-old gunman walked into a library in Clovis, N.M., and opened fire, killing two staff members.
“I do not think it had anything to do with the library,” Dr. Steve Albrecht, a library security consultant, said of the New Mexico shooting. “He just came in, went to the front reception circulation counter and shot two individuals.”
Albrecht, who worked as a police officer in San Diego for 15 years, said many library systems struggle to deal with homeless people, especially those with mental health issues.
Allison Peck, Clark County Public Library public relations manager, said library staff there will soon undergo additional training to deal with violent situations.
”Thankfully we have not had that occur, but that is not to say we can ignore the issue either,” Peck said.
Library managers have a difficult task: providing a public space, allowing patrons to move about, and also ensuring that everyone is safe, said Craig Hoschouer, president of PLE Group, a Kettering firm that provides a range of security services to businesses and schools.
A major concern, he said, are restrooms, which for privacy reasons have no security cameras.
He advises parents to be especially vigilant when their children use the restrooms.” You are responsible for your child,” he said. “That includes at a library. I don’t care if they’re 6, 8, 10 or 12. If they are minors, you should be with your child.”
The opioid crisis has prompted a national debate over whether library security guards should be trained to administer Narcan, the drug that counteracts the effects of heroin in case of an overdose. Both Dayton and Springfield cite concerns about liability issues. In both cities, the current procedure is to call for an emergency medical crew to respond to any overdose cases.
Kambitsch said guards patrol every area of the library, including the restrooms and childrens’ areas. Family restrooms, which are locked and accessible only by asking a staff member for a key, are also available, he said.
The goal is to make the library a safe place — for everyone.
“We want to make certain whether it is downtown here or at any of our branches that parents feel safe that kids can come to the library on their own,” Kambitsch said.