LIBRARY SECURITY: PROTECTING YOUR PRIZED POSSESSIONS
Libraries have evolved into hubs of learning, shared spaces, where patrons can access rare texts, historical documents and research technologies. However, with open access comes the need for tight security measures to protect much-loved assets for generations.
The thefts of individual paperbacks can soon add up, but more worryingly, the security of rare texts and documentation is at risk. ‘Tomb raiders’, individuals who steal valuable materials to sell to unknowing collectors, are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities to make a profit. In 2005, for example, notorious art thief Forbes Smiley is thought to have stolen a treasured 17th century Samuel de Champlain map of New France from the Boston Public Library, valued at $285,000.
With many educational institutions now offering laptops, tablets and other technology to support their students, libraries risk losing large sums of money should these items go missing.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a useful checklist of all the major considerations your library ought to be taking when evaluating the safety and security of its patrons and stock.
1. Identify all potential security risks
The journey towards creating a safe yet welcoming environment for patrons should always start with an audit, where staff members identify any areas of the library’s operations that leave the door open for theft.
There is likely to be certain areas that are regularly unstaffed. Depending on your opening hours opening hours, staff may not always be available to supervise patrons- particularly if the library is open until the early hours of the morning. This is made even more problematic by the continued effects of the pandemic, which has seen many libraries suffer major staff shortages. Earlier this year, New York struggled to keep open its 207 branches across the city as a result of staff sickness, leaving many of its libraries understaffed and unsupervised.
It’s hardly surprising that unmanned areas of the library containing collections and IT equipment are vulnerable to thieves. Tablets and laptops are best kept in a secure locker when not in use, ideally one that allows patrons to borrow devices without the need for assistance from staff. D-Tech’s computeIT locker is designed to safely store, charge and issue devices to patrons throughout the library’s opening hours, providing a secure solution for keeping expensive devices safe yet accessible. Libraries then don’t have to worry about being short-staffed if illness strikes, and can allow staff members to interact with patrons rather than guarding IT equipment.
2. Alarm routes in and out of the library
The most effective way to deter thieves is to implement a security system on all routes in and out of the library. While this requires external help and some investment, those who have implemented security technology have found the systems to play an integral role in preventing thefts and aiding overall library management.
RFID powered security gates trigger an alarm if they detect an unregistered item on the system leaving the library. Those that use RFID technology, such as D-Tech’s secureIT, ensure perimeter-based protection with 3D detection to prevent patrons from leaving the library with unauthorized material. If a patron has accidentally (or intentionally) bagged an item without scanning it on their library card, the gates will detect its RFID tag and alert staff of the situation. Library staff also get information on the item/s that have alarmed the system, including the title.
Well installed alarm systems that are seamless in design do not impact the customer experience. If anything, they indicate that libraries are proud of their collections and hold a high value to the staff and users of the library.
3. Monitor and record inventory
Preventing valuable items from being stolen is a lot easier when you know what these items are. If your stock lists are outdated and haven’t accounted for newer items, your system is unlikely to flag anything up should these items go missing. This is particularly important for rare and collectable items, which should ideally be cataloged at the end of every working day.
Introducing a schedule where staff members check the library’s inventory often enough to notice when items go missing might seem like a daunting task. Still, sophisticated technologies now allow staff to do so without adding to their workload. findIT, D-Tech’s inventory wand, uses RFID technology to process and collect information from an entire shelf with just one pass with impressive accuracy. Therefore, stock checks can be carried out in a fraction of the time, enabling staff to pick up on any missing stock within seconds.
4. Review Library Design
Keeping your library secure can be as simple as making small changes to its design. Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) is becoming an increasingly popular option for libraries, particularly those with a limited budget. In theory, CPTED aims to reduce the opportunity for crime using tactical design and is a proactive rather than a reactive way of decreasing incidences of theft.
One of the design areas it focuses on is surveillance, asking staff to find ways of increasing the visibility of certain areas in the library. This can be as simple as keeping the building well-lit, particularly in areas with high shelving units, and opening the space between shelves to increase the aisle size. It’s also wise to store valuable items, such as IT equipment and rare materials, in areas of the library with a help desk with a staff member on hand; keeping these items near an entrance or exit is likely to encourage opportunistic theft – particularly during busy periods.
Take a step back from your library’s design to identify areas where visibility can be improved, and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Keeping your library secure without sacrificing accessibility for its patrons is more than achievable, particularly with sophisticated RFID technologies offering libraries a range of user-friendly and reliable solutions. For more information on how technology can improve your library security, get in touch for a free demo.