Welcome to The Safe Library: Dr. Albrecht's Library 2.0 Service, Safety, and Security Resources

Our Library 2.0 "Safe Library" training programs for library staffers and leaders cover service, security, safety, supervision, and even a little stress management. Our goal is to help to keep all library employees physically and psychologically safe, making it easier for them to serve all patrons in their facilities.

Dr. Albrecht's podcast recordings and feed are to the right, and following immediately below that is a full list of his blog posts. A full list of paid webinars is to the left.


July 25, 2024

August 1, 2024


Dr. Albrecht's blog posts are below. One of the features of his blog is "ASK DR. STEVE," where readers submit questions and he answers them. To submit a question for Dr. Steve, please email askdrsteve@library20.com.

By Dr. Steve Albrecht

When I started my library security training journey back in 2000, my knowledge of what went on in libraries as an operation was limited, and my understanding of what happened in libraries regarding crime, violence, and patron behavioral issues wasn’t much more. I was grateful that my first primary training client sent me on a field trip of sorts, starting out at libraries in Northern California, into the Bay Area, and finishing in Southern California, Los Angeles, and ending in my then-home city, San Diego.

I talked to library staff, library directors, managers, supervisors, PICs, Friends of the Library bookstore volunteers, security guards, library board members, and when possible, the local cops. Each of these gave me my first education as to the challenges library leaders and employees faced.

I taught my security workshops in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Diego. I presented at city and county libraries and law libraries, in downtown, urban, and suburban locations.

I have lived in the Midwest for seven years now, but I keep in close touch with my parents in San Diego and still have a lot of friends there too. Library security news follows me everywhere and I see the same stories that perhaps you do: crime and violence problems at the main branch of the Oakland library; fentanyl drug overdoses around the San Francisco Civic Center library; the temporary closure of the Long Beach main library due to harassment of staff; the one-day closure of the Antioch (CA) Library due to staff fears about on-going crimes, vandalism, and violence; security issues at Los Angeles city and county libraries; a homicide shooting in front of the San Diego downtown library.

It’s hard to look at this list of issues in our most populous state in the county and conclude California is at the forefront of library safety and security, for its staff, facilities, and patrons. The safety of library staff is now a significant issue with the employee unions

Here are five primary reasons for this growing trend of crime and behavior problems in and around California libraries:

1). Most homeless people in the United States are in California.

The number seems to be around 150,000 people. The weather makes life on the streets somewhat easier (if that’s even possible) in January in Los Angeles when compared to Chicago.

Some cities, with San Francisco as the most visible example, pay some homeless people a stipend of $500 to $750 per month.

Libraries have always attracted homeless patrons, most of whom want to be there and don’t cause problems. The small number who are chronically mentally ill and drug/alcohol addicted create the most incidents and that makes many occasional patrons feel like “the homeless ruin the library experience for me,” even though that is not the real truth.

2). The explosion of fentanyl.

This drug makes the prevalence of crack cocaine back in the 80s and 90s look like breakfast cereal. It’s cheap to make, easy to smuggle into the US from China and Mexico, and cheap to buy -- unfortunately making it very profitable. Fentanyl is so prevalent it is now laced into marijuana joints, cocaine, opiate pills, Ecstasy/Molly/MDMA pills, and even street-sold Ritalin or Adderall pills. Almost every street drug used today is contaminated with fentanyl. Drug overdoses kill over 100,000 people each year and are now the leading cause of death for 18 to 45-year-olds.

Back twenty years ago, it would be quite unusual to find the overdose recovery drug Narcan in a library, let alone have staff trained to use it. Now, you can get Narcan over the corner at a pharmacy and some libraries have used it to save lives before paramedics could get there.

3). The passage of California Proposition 47 in 2014.

Over the last ten years, there have been significant changes in how crimes are classified, arrested for, and prosecuted in the Golden State. This ballot issue was designed to ease jail and prison overcrowding, “put more cops on the street fighting real crime,” and ease the burdens on our criminal court system. What it did was de-criminalize a lot of crimes that used to be arrestable offenses, like retail store petty theft, drug possession, and even physical assaults.

As one example, possession of illegal drugs used to be a felony, and being under the influence of illegal drugs was a misdemeanor. Now drug possession is a misdemeanor and being under the influence is an infraction, the equivalent of a speeding ticket.

Grand theft in California used to be a felony crime. It’s now considered to be a misdemeanor, even for the stealing of most items over the previous dollar amount of $950.

Jail and prison overcrowding was influenced by “three strikes” laws. Many of those have been reduced and California has even closed some state prisons. This means more previously violent people who were in prison than are not now.

All this means less enforcement by police overall, including either no response or an hours or even days-late response for low-level crimes that happen in or near the library.

4). Not enough police or security officers to cover crimes and threatening behavior problems in libraries.

To safeguard its 72 branches, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Security Services Division (SECSD) provides uniformed police officers, unarmed security officers who are city employees, and contract private security officers. (The LA Public Library pays LAPD $4.5 million for their security services.)

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office provides uniformed deputies to provide security to LA County’s 86 library branches. (I was told there 8 to 10 deputies, who must cover 3,024 square miles. I’m not a math whiz, but this is not a great ratio.)

There are not enough police officers and sheriff’s deputies in this country to respond even to emergency calls, let alone minor behavior-based crimes. In California, police staffing is way down, for a variety of reasons, including the high cost of housing in the largest cities (the median house price in my former home-city San Diego is $970,000). Also, not many people want to apply to do that job anymore, because: it’s dangerous (a cop is shot in the US every 27 hours); not very popular (if you want to be admired, become a firefighter); and not always well-paid.

5). Apathy about library safety and security by political leaders.

It’s not that many elected or appointed officials in California don’t care about libraries or library employees, it’s just that they don’t care as much about what happens in or around the library unless there is a significant negative event. Just like they don’t always pay attention to what happens at the local Parks and Recreation facility unless there is a problem. Politicians are driven by events, by bad optics that reflect poorly on themselves and their governing bodies, by what gets expanded and continuing media attention, and by what triggers a lot of voters to call their offices and complain.

What does all this mean, if you work in a library in California or any other state?

  • Keep on doing your job, focusing on your personal and collective safety every day as you do.
  • Use Security Incident Reports as leverage to get better police responses, policy changes, and equipment improvements.
  • Keep the library involved as much as possible in discussions with electeds.
  • Use your Library Boards and employee unions/associations to educate the politicians as to what is really happening in your branches.
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  • Prop 47, I didn't vote for that!

    LA librarian here

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Dr. Steve Albrecht

Since 2000, Dr. Steve Albrecht has trained thousands of library employees in 28+ states, live and online, in service, safety, and security. His programs are fast, entertaining, and provide tools that can be put to use immediately in the library workspace with all types of patrons.

In 2015, the ALA published his book, Library Security: Better Communication, Safer Facilities. His new book, The Safe Library: Keeping Users, Staff, and Collections Secure, was just published by Rowman & Littlefield.

Steve holds a doctoral degree in Business Administration (D.B.A.), an M.A. in Security Management, a B.A. in English, and a B.S. in Psychology. He is board-certified in HR, security management, employee coaching, and threat assessment.

He has written 25 books on business, security, and leadership topics. He lives in Springfield, Missouri, with six dogs and two cats.

More on The Safe Library at thesafelibrary.com. Follow on X (Twitter) at @thesafelibrary and on YouTube @thesafelibrary. Dr. Albrecht's professional website is drstevealbrecht.com.

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Praise for Dr. Albrecht

"Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for presenting at our staff development day. Our staff has expressed their appreciation for the information and tools you provided. We know the lessons learned will be useful in our day-to-day work. It was a pleasure to have you with us -- even if it was only virtually." - Athens, GA Library

"I wanted to thank you for the session. My husband was listening from the other room and said, 'Wow, that was great!' This was the best library workshop I've been to, and I've been to a lot! The staff was saying the same in emails." - Emily from MI

"Your suggestions of what to say to challenging patrons will really help me once we allow patrons back into the library. Thanks!" - Lori from IL

"Not only have I learned incredibly valuable skills to use in my career as a public librarian, those lessons will have a ripple effect as I teach a course on Social Crisis Management... I always give Dr. Albrecht the credit in the portions of my lecture and presentation.  And have first hand experiences using these lessons to support his approach. Thanks again for lending your expertise to ensure that as librarians we can remain safe, keep our customers safe and still deliver on our mission and the meaningful work we do each day." - Jen 

"You helped to keep my brain from turning into mush during this long time off. Thank you!" - C. from MO

"I was able to view Library Safety and Security and Interacting with the Homeless. I learned so much and appreciate the education you offered.  I became aware of changes, large and small that I can make in my life to enhance how I interact with all people. I do hope our library offers your classes in the future because I did not view all the webinars that I wanted to and I am sure my coworkers feel the same. Thank you again." - Vicki from VA

"I wanted to send you a note of thanks for your webinars... I watched 5 of them and found them to be incredibly informative. Currently I am working with my library's director to put together a situation response manual for safety and security matters that apply to our own library... What you have shared has been very useful to help set up some guidelines and decide a good direction for training within our organization. Thank you so much for sharing your insights." - Jennifer from IN

"Thank you for the great content. I appreciate it." - Carmen from MT

"[I] found [your webinars] extremely helpful and informative. Thanks again and stay safe!" - Christine from PA

"I remember when you came to our Annual Employee Training Session and presented a terrific class. I was able to view all of your webinars during this time and I learned so much. Your generosity of spirit during this pandemic is truly appreciated and your kindness will be remembered. Thanks again and Cheers." - Bernadette from CA

"We have watched a couple of [your webinars] in the past and they always provide a great approach to issues that are becoming more and more common in public libraries." - Rod from TX

"Your webinars were educational and inspiring." - Karen from GA

"I have recently watched all your webinars... (this begins to sound like a groupie saying, "I have all your records!") and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from them. They were probably the best work at home professional development material I encountered in the two months my library has been closed. I've worked in public libraries since 1988 and everything you said makes sense in my experience. I look forward to putting what I learned from your webinars to use when we eventually reopen to the people the library exists for. Many thanks!" - Barbara from BC Canada

"I've learned a lot from your diverse offerings as I knew that I would. I listened to 4 of your webinars at this run. I also attended your talk last year at one of our branch libraries. I hope that your presentations remain in my mind and that your practical, philosophical and respectful methods of engagement can be brought forth in times of need." - Deborah from CA

"We don't always take the time to do online courses or participate in webinars because of time and money restraints. We have been lucky to have the time now to take advantage of these opportunities. Your webinars really pack a lot of info in the time allotted. Your observations and surveys conducted with staff across the country made this applicable and the reality. Many of the situations described sound like our day to day interactions with patrons. Again thank you so much for these valuable webinars. I hope we will be open soon and able to put your tips into practice." - Kathy from MD

"I’ve really enjoyed all of your webinars, especially the ones about security and challenging patrons, and I’ve gained some useful knowledge that I can utilize at my library. I hope you have a wonderful day! Thanks again!" - Deborah from OH

"You're the best of the best." - Nick from CA

"I have found your webinars especially helpful during this time of stay-at-home orders and the inability to report to work for my daily schedule. (My branch is closed indefinitely.) I have especially found "Interacting with the Homeless" and "Stress Management for Library Staff" as the most help to date. I have been doing daily meditation as a stress reliever and taking time to find happiness despite all that is taking place in this world.... having this opportunity to listen to your thought-processes is very invigorating and life-changing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart." - Danielle from MD

"[Y]ou've expanded our minds and helped us greatly with your generosity. Thank you for all that you do, I appreciate it immensely." - Valerie from TX

"Thank you very much for your work and very good webinar." - Donna from IN

"I appreciate your vast knowledge on patrons and safety situations." - Mary from IL

"I've long wanted to explore your work, and have enjoyed and learned from 4 of your webinars so far, with plans to view them all. They are excellent! I am charged with leading our staff around issues of safety and security in our rural system, and you are a clear and dynamic voice in our field. I really appreciate your experience, knowledge, and presentation style, down to talking fast to get the most information into the time of the presentation! Hopefully, I'll be able to obtain the new edition of your book soon, as I hope to keep these themes as relevant currents for the duration of my career." - Kimberlee from CA


"Thank you for your wonderful `Safety and Security in the Library' presentation. I so appreciate that you were able to join us virtually this year and share your knowledge on these topics with our library staff. I look forward to exploring some of the resources you shared with us."

"Thanks so much for recording the presentation. It was fantastic!"

"Thank you, Dr Steve, for your presentation today. It was very helpful and insightful. Your subtle humor also lightened the mood."

"I wanted to reach out and thank you for all the information that you gave in your webinar on conducting a library facility security assessment."





Watch Dr. Steve Albrecht on video and onstage, as he presents his safety and security workshop, "Dealing With Challenging Patrons" to a live library audience. 45 minutes for unlimited staff showings at a one-time $495 fee or included in any all-access pass program.