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


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

As one of my friends, who has the unenviable job of cleaning airplane bathrooms between flights, likes to say, “People are nasty.”

The shelves in your library or your oh-so-inviting book drop seem to draw things you wouldn’t want to discuss at a party. What solid or semi-fluid objects have been “donated,” abandoned, or discarded at your library?

You may have been an eyewitness to these things - meaning you saw them personally - or you may have been an “earwitness” to them, meaning you heard about them, or they have taken on mythical status in your library, and are passed down to the new-hires like so much iconic-symbolic-allegorical lore.

Here is a list for you to choose from. (Try not to be too disgustingly-specific in your descriptions.) Please put your answers in the comments below this post! (Here's the LINK if you're coming from somewhere else.)

1. Needles or drug paraphernalia (pot pipes, empty baggies with powdery residue).

2. Items soiled with bodily fluids/solids (diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons, condoms, tissues).

3. Hate-filled or threatening notes (written in crayon, typed, carved into something).

4. Graffiti-covered books (tagger “art" or gang signs).

5. Bullets, knives, sharp objects, weapons.

6. Mice, rats, spiders, insects, snakes (living or dead).

7. Expensive stuff (jewelry, watches, cash money, big uncashed check, winning lotto ticket used as a bookmark, rare coins, car keys).

8. Other

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  •  2: "Items soiled with...". a few of the noteworthy items i've either witnessed in person or tertiarily handled questions/fallout over the years:
    a) raw turkey in bookdrop. the whole thing, smooshed to fit.  it seems to have been dropped off the evening/night before thanksgiving. by the time staff found it several days later, everything in the bookdrop (a lot of stuff) was ruined and the smell was horrific. 

    b) mucous (boogers). over the course of a year or so, someone had been leaving bloody boogers in multiple sections of novels returned on the rollers, always during rush hour when staff don't have much time to spot check inside the books. It took a long time and concerted effort to catch the person who i kept hearing referred to as "The Booger Bandit."

    c) cat urine. it was all over a book so it was billed. pet-related incidents are common, but the interesting thing here was that the customer denied that it had been damaged upon return, insisting that a cat had somehow gotten into the bookdrop. it's a double-door system with a long chute, and there had been no cat found by staff inside the closed bookdrop closet. customer doubled down, said that it must have disappeared somehow, like magic. magic cat? yes, says the customer. then they decided that a certain librarian was out to get them and had gotten into the bookdrop, pulled out their return, and urinated on it. with cat urine. i just took notes on everything the customer said and handed it off up the chain of command, don't have enough hands for the amount of facepalm needed on that one.  

  • I have thankfully not found anything imminently harmful like drup paraphernaila, but when city public works moved a trash can next to our bookdrop (which was just across the parking lot from a busy bowling alley) the amount of beer bottles (some with beer inside) and food wrappers increased. It was easliy fixed. 

    The saddest thing I have ever found was a litter of kittens, young enough their eyes were still closed. Two of the four made it to the vet's office. Sadly none survived. I cannot for the life of me figure out why the owner of the cats thought it a good idea to put them there. (and no, no momma cat could have opened the drop by herself) cry

    • cry Those poor kittens.

  • 1. Needles or drug paraphernalia (pot pipes, empty baggies with powdery residue).

    All the above: Pot, meth, pills, crack, various pipes, used needles, full and empty alcohol containers, mostly in the stacks, but occassionally found on the ground or in landscaping. I walked into a cloud of meth smoke in the restroom.

    2. Items soiled with bodily fluids/solids (diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons, condoms, tissues).

    All the above, but dealt with by either janitorial and/or building maintenace. Mostly blockages caused by:clothing, needles or other items shoved down into toilets. A serial cough drop user who stored used drops in-between pages.

    3. Hate-filled or threatening notes (written in crayon, typed, carved into something).

    Yes, notes threatening staff and other patrons.

    4. Graffiti-covered books (tagger “art" or gang signs).

    No books, but walls, signs, benches, lamp posts and fences tagged.

    5. Bullets, knives, sharp objects, weapons.

    Stick with axe and hunting knife duct-taped to form a home-made "halberd". Various sharpened sticks.

    6. Mice, rats, spiders, insects, snakes (living or dead).

    A mouse caught in the sorter. I had to review the video to determine if it was accidental or intentional. It was accidental--no idea what possessed the mouse, making him decide to jump onto the sorting belt.

    7. Expensive stuff (jewelry, watches, cash money, big uncashed check, winning lotto ticket used as a bookmark, rare coins, car keys).

    New iPhone, large uncashed paycheck, cash, credit cards.


    • Good lord! Chris, where are you located? That is some serious stuff you have going on!

      • I'm in a suburban library system in California. The community is ranked one of the safest, best places to live overall. However, the location that generates most of the incidents is in a core neighborhood, and within walking distance of a shelter. Some of it could be attributed to that and the issues faced by the unsheltered. Most of the incidents are from the last 5 years, and coindentally so has evidence that methamphetamine and fentanly use has increased locally. I also think we receive an overflow of people from a larger metro area adjacent to us, as authorities put pressure on them to the point that they migrate to us.

        Oh, and I forgot to mention the arson. It started with us finding evidence of small fires around the facility. Then, one night, someone continually tossed burning books down from the elevated parking into our chiller/HVAC system until it caught the enclosure on fire. Luckily, it was far enough from the library building and it did not spread. It was caught on security camera and it burned for at least 30 minutes before someon called the Fire Dept .

        There are also more serious incidents and some with pending legal cases that I've left out for obvious reasons.

        I will also mention that the two adjacent library systems have dealt with far worse, so we consider ourselves lucky in that respect.

        I feel guilty for sharing all these bad incidents, and the negative associations it creates with libraries. Hoever, if there's anything positive about this, I will say that it illustrates that we have some of the best staff, who handle incidents professionally, while maintaining excellent service and remaining compassionate and caring people, despite the challenges.

  • We had a full bag of apple pie filling dumped in the book drop.  What a mess!  The book drop was sticky for months!

  • By far the weirdest and most disgusting thing I've found in a book was a piece of raw bacon! Oddly, I was taking a library class several years ago and this question came up. I thought I had the weirdest things, hands down. Turned out that 3 other people in the class had found raw bacon in books, too! Bacon! tongue-out

  • When I worked in a public library some teenage troublemakers tossed a lit sparkler into the book drop. It singed some books but luckily didn't start a fire. We also had a very overdue book returned coated in chocolate cake. 

    Another time, in a combined elementary/middle school, a student came in with a ziplock baggie full of ice cubes. She had walked into a pole in the playground during recess and the ice was for her forehead. As her class was leaving I asked her, "Where's your baggie?" She had no idea. We found it (full of water) inside an upright I Spy book on the shelves. 


  • Once a group of very sneaky students came into our school library with raw eggs, which they snuck in between the books on the shelves. When we pushed the books up straight you can imagine the mess! We never found out who did it either.

This reply was deleted.

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.