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.


May 9th, 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

Perhaps you‘ve seen the recent story where a library in Englewood, Colorado - a suburb near Denver - had to close for a serious cleaning because people who smoked meth in the building contaminated the restrooms. This follows a similar problem at a Boulder, CO library. According to an online news report in the Colorado Sun, from January 17, 2023 (https://bit.ly/3XEFBCg), both libraries have had to do a serious de-contamination of the walls, counters, fixtures, and exhaust fans.

The article says that this microscopic, unseen exposure is a real health risk: “Health officials say meth residue can be an irritant, causing symptoms like an itchy throat, a runny nose and bloodshot eyes.” The problem here is that like similar chemical reactions, you wouldn’t know you have been exposed until you feel the symptoms.

For help in this issue, I have turned to my Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) colleague, Keith Graves. Keith is a retired police sergeant from northern California, an internationally-known drug use and abuse trainer, and a longtime member of the California Narcotics Officers Association.

Keith says to be able to identify any substance on the interior walls of a facility, a trained technician “takes an alcohol-type swab and swabs the walls. The swab is then sent to a lab and it will quantify how much meth is present in that one section.” He says this process is actually more common than we might first think: “In some states, meth testing inside a home is mandatory before a sale of that home.”

For libraries and their employees, Keith says, “I think there is some validity to this. Everyone is going into the bathroom to smoke meth, but they aren't testing for fentanyl, which is just as bad. There are so many contaminants in meth that the smoke seeps into the walls and on to the bathroom fixtures. I do see a health concern.”

“A good example is the `Drug Endangered Children’ program. When we see a child in a meth user’s home, we swab the walls and show the courts and Child Protective Services that there was meth on the walls. We take those kids into protective custody because they were endangered by the meth in the atmosphere and on the walls and furniture. It’s the same exposure issue at the library.”

So what does meth smoke residue smell like? It’s hard to explain odors perfectly in words, but in general, burnt meth smells like ammonia, melted plastic, cat urine (Uh oh. Time to check my two cats for meth use), rotten eggs, metallic chemicals, solvents, or glass cleaner.

While I don’t have nearly as much drug knowledge as Keith Graves, I see and hear things and stay up to date on drug abuse issues because I still teach programs for public-sector employees known as “safety sensitive.” This designation means they hold a Commercial Motor Vehicle license (usually to drive semi-trucks or specialized construction vehicles), or they carry passengers, placarded HazMat materials, or are members of certain transportation or first-responder professions, like airline pilots, air traffic controllers, bus drivers, trolley or subway drivers, ship operators, police officers, and firefighters.

The Colorado meth exposures is the first I have ever heard of this problem in a library. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened or isn’t happening, just that it’s thankfully rare, both in the health effects for employees and patrons and in the media coverage. We don’t want your local media to start writing articles demanding testing at all libraries without proof that it’s needed.

This type of field-to-lab testing process can be expensive. And it’s not that we trade the health and safety of our employees and patrons just because of the cost, but we need to be realistic about whether there has been meth contamination or we’re only guessing there has. So, pay attention but don’t lose focus on the fact that this is still an extremely rare event.

What should library leaders and staffers do about this new problem? And we hope that it’s new because it’s not a widespread issue, where lots of libraries or public-use facilities are suddenly coming forward to talk about the problem.

Of course, our best proof of meth contamination is our employees or other patrons have seen and reported meth users smoking in our restrooms (or worse, the hidden spots in our library); the police have made arrests for meth use in our restrooms; paramedics have responded to our facility to medically evaluate a meth user having a psychotic incident (chronic use of the drug causes brain injuries that mirror schizophrenic symptoms); or - here’s a not-so-fun one - a meth user has filmed himself or herself smoking meth in our library and posted it online. (Starbucks has seen too many videos of people shooting drugs in their restrooms.)

These incidents would tell the library leaders to initiate a call to a bonafide testing/clean-up vendor to mitigate the problem.

Until any of these happens at your library, my best advice would be to do what we always do: observe and monitor any non-normal activities in our public restrooms (using regular staff checks, preferably with two staffers doing them together); pay attention to any kind of smoking behavior inside the library (regular cigarettes, marijuana joints, vaping); and continue to have the public-contact areas of your facility professionally and regularly cleaned.

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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.