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.

Three library scenarios, three different responses for you to consider:

Scene A). A six-year-old and his five-year-old brother begin to argue over a book each wants to read. They both are tugging on it and end up rolling on the ground. Their parents are not nearby. You walk over and _________.

Scene B). Two college students from different schools start arguing in the library. You’ve heard that they both play on their respective football teams. One is the size of a refrigerator with feet; the other is the size of the double doors at a convenience store. They begin to throw punches. Your library does not have a security officer, or if you do have one, he or she is not a Jiu-Jitsu expert. You walk over and ________.

Scene C). Two men who you know to be chronically homeless and longtime alcoholics start arguing in the library. Both men are sitting at different tables, about twenty feet apart. Their verbal disagreement has been going on for about 30 minutes. It started in low tones but by now they are screaming at each other. They each get up from their seats and begin to move closer to each other, slowly at first, but then picking up speed. You know them both by name. You walk over and ________.

As always, when discussing possible safe and secure solutions to Scenes A, B, and C, the acronym the kids like to use applies - YMMV - Your Mileage May Vary, meaning there is no perfect answer. (Wise consultants like me - and I have real scars on parts of my body to prove when I once wasn’t so wise - say things like, “Well, it depends…” when asked what they would do in library security situations with no easy answers.) But as in life, some answers are much better and more useful than others. Let’s take a quiz and then review:

Scene A: You walk over and . . .

  1. tell the kids to stop fighting, stand up, apologize to each other, and agree to share the book.
  2. grab each kid by the shoulders, pull them up on to their feet, and tell them they are in violation of library rules.
  3. pull each kid apart, scold them about fighting in the library, and escort them to the library front door and tell them to leave.
  4. watch for a bit and decide to ignore it. Boys will be boys. They will work it out. It’s not your job to break up fights.
  5. make an announcement over the library PA, requesting the parents of these boys please come to the Reference Desk immediately.

Scene B: You walk over and . . .

  1. watch the fight until one of them gets hurt. Then you go and call 9-1-1, requesting the police and ambulance.
  2. from a safe distance, you start yelling, “Stop fighting in the library! Stop fighting in the library! Stop fighting! Stop!” When they do, tell them to leave, one at a time, and not continue the fight outside or you will call the police. Visually check both for serious injuries that may require paramedics.
  3. get close enough to try and intervene by getting in the middle, between the two men. It’s your job to protect the library from damage and on your watch, this can’t continue.
  4. assemble several of your co-workers into a group and tell them you are all going over to break up this fight. There is safety in numbers.
  5. leave the area immediately, taking as many people as you can with you, moving to a safe place, to call the police, preferably behind a locked door.

Scene C: You walk over and . . .

  1. Observe and monitor the argument. Make sure they see you standing nearby. Your non-verbal presence can de-escalate things without you having to say a word.
  2. Ask them both to sit with you at a nearby table and you can all try to talk things out to a safe conclusion.
  3. Call them by their names and tell them to stop arguing and that you won’t allow them to get into a fight and scare everyone. Remind them that you have the power to ban them both from the library, but you won’t if one leaves quietly and the other leaves a few minutes after that.
  4. decide to just go about your business. They do this all the time and they won’t really fight this time, either.
  5. watch and wait until they actually start hitting each other. Then you’ll either go over and try to break it up or call the police from your cellphone as you stand there.

Best Answers: Scene A: 1, Scene B: 2, Scene C: 3. Bonus: I’ll take 5 as a reasonable answer for Scene B as well.

Let’s go over why certain other answers are just dead wrong, foolish, and even dangerous for you or other staffers or patrons.

In Scene A, (2) is wrong because we don’t ever correctively touch people of any age, unless it’s to defend ourselves from an attack. (3) is wrong because we don’t put young children out on the street in front of the library. (4) is wrong because we don’t stand around and wait for one or both kids to get injured or injure themselves. And (5) is wrong because it takes too long, it’s potentially publicly embarrassing to the parent, they may not hear the page, or even be in the library at all.

In Scene B, (1) is wrong because both fighters can get hurt or their brawl can even spill over and hurt someone standing too close. Neither scrapper may want the police involved (it’s called “mutual combat” in many Penal Codes) and an ambulance may not be necessary. (3 and 4) are wrong because you and/or your colleagues could get seriously hurt trying to break up a fight between adults, which you or they should never do. In this scenario, you and your co-workers need to be “professional witnesses,” ready to help create a Security Incident Report and/or call the police if the situation continues to escalate.

In Scene C, (1) is not enough or a response action by you. They may not see you and they will definitely need your help to tell them to stop, back away, and get told not to fight, so as to save face without having to look weak in front of the other person. Too early for (2) since they are both angry enough to be able to fight, even if they really don’t want to. (4 and 5) are just wrong because we can’t fully predict their future behavior based on their past behavior. They probably won’t continue to fight if you verbally stop them, but they probably will if you do nothing.

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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.