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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Library adjusts 24-hour security

Published: November 30, 2007
Section: Front Page, News

LTS has implemented changes to increase security, comfort, and relieve stress for the 24/7 session this year in response to overflowing trash, a used condom found in a stairwell, and a group of beer bottles tucked away on Farber Mezzanine during the 24/7 access period in the Brandeis Main Library last semester.

During the final exam period last spring, the Main Library tried to increase the space open to students for quiet study, expanding its traditional 24-hour open space beyond the first floor and mezzanine of Farber to include the entire library. The larger space led to unforeseen problems such as increased trash and the lack of effective supervision for the whole building.

Thom Valicenti, the Public Services and Outreach Coordinator and Lisa Wiecki, Assistant Director for Public Service and Outreach, were only told about the decision to open the entire library two days prior to this alteration last year, so there was little time to prepare and comprehensively train security, explained Valicenti.

LTS, utilizing funds from its budget, and working with Director of Public Safety, Ed Callahan, has hired two security guards to secure the library each night. The guards are from the private security contracting company “Knight Protection” or campus police. The library is also staffed by two graduate students.

On Monday, November 26 the library began its 23 days of 24/7 access, an expansion from the nine day period from last year, in the hopes of giving students increased access and an earlier start on their work. The security guards have had more extensive training this year, explained Wiecki. The security guards were given a “mega-tour” of the library, warned about isolated potential “problem spots” in the library, and given a map of the library and a copy of the University Rights and Responsibilities Handbook. “The key is for the security personnel to be familiar with the building, it is a difficult building to navigate,” said Wiecki.

“We’re confident it will go better this time around,” said Valicenti.

Wiecki cited last year’s experience as an overall success. The “larger issue last year was keeping the place clean,” according to Wiecki. “I would come into work every morning and feel like I was working in a trash heap,” said Wiecki, citing food ground into the carpet, overflowing trash cans, and energy drinks, banana peels and trash strewn across desks.

“I just remember food sitting on desks right next to trash cans and people didn’t even throw it out. That’s really irresponsible for a campus that supposedly values social justice and caring for the community,” LTS student employee Amanda McNeil ’08 said.

To combat the increased trash problems, the library has acquired extra trash cans this year. Further, in response to complaints that cleaning disrupted studying, the time at which each floor is cleaned by facilities is now posted around the library and a silent riding vacuum was purchased.

The condom and beer bottle findings, which Wiecki says were two isolated incidents, marked the lack of supervision of some isolated areas in the library.

“I think the contract security was excellent and very professional, but it’s such a large building and some places aren’t as out in the open,” said Wiecki. This year the library was able to pin-point problem areas and provide more training to library and security personnel, said Wiecki.

Security in the library includes monitoring by closed-circuit television. Due to the upcoming Presidential visit Callahan was unavailable for comment on the breadth of CCTV coverage. Students entering the library after midnight must show Brandeis ID and sign in “to keep the environment comfortable and safe,” explained Valicenti.

Wiecki suggested that the condom, beer bottles, and high amount of energy drinks during library after-hours point to a larger problem. “I think that students are stressed out. It’s a university problem, not a library problem.”

To combat stress the library has placed health center wellness tips around the library and has instituted a new recreational reading collection available to students in the hopes of allowing them to de-stress. The recreational reading collection was created in response to students request during finals to have “fun books” to read. The library chose fiction, self-help, and science-fiction titles based on LTS student employee suggestions from a list of available titles. Some of the items include Heidi Klum’s “Book of Knowledge: 8 Rules of Model Behavior” and Al Franken’s “The Truth.” The new display will be on the first floor and hopefully be ready in time for finals, said Wiecki.

It is unknown at this time if the library will eventually have 24/7 access throughout the school year. “We need to see how it goes and iron out some issues…students need to respect the space,” said Wiecki.

Student response to having earlier 24/7 access to the entire library has been positive. “It seems helpful because there are a lot of projects leading up to finals,” said Suzanne Bernier ’10, who enjoys studying at the library late at night.

“I think it’s a good thing they finally did it – people who needed books at midnight would panic when they couldn’t access the books they needed until the next morning so it’s good they finally have 24/7 access to books,” said Eric Weinberg ’08.

This year and last year there were no incidents of theft during the 24/7 period and students have been very respectful of the books said Wiecki.

During the first night of 24/7 access this year 181 students utilized after-hours. Last year during the final exam period there was an average of 178 people per night, according to Wiecki. “There has not been as much trash as in the past, but it’s early to tell,” said Wiecki.

There have been no incidents thus far and the library has been “pretty clean,” said Knight Protection security guard Ken Moffitt.

“Libraries aren’t just in the book and information business, we also have the role of providing learning spaces that are safe from bad behavior,” said Wiecki. “It’s a shared responsibility.”

Editor’s Note: The writer is an LTS employee not affiliated with the after-hours program.