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.


June 13, 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 of this writing on the day after (March 27, 2021), the Saturday afternoon stabbing incident at the Lynn Valley Library in North Vancouver, BC, Canada looks horrific. An as-yet-unnamed suspect in his 20s stabbed seven people with some type of knife or edged weapon, including a woman who died. All of the survivors had to be taken to the hospital. An early video outside the library shows the suspect being arrested by the RCMP and it appears he had injured himself in the incident. (It's common for attackers who use knives to hurt themselves, mostly on their hands and arms.) Police officials say they believe they have the lone perpetrator in custody and are "searching for a motive."

If we had to guess, it seems like the motive will center on a serious mental illness. Perhaps schizophrenia, involving voices or visions, with a command hallucination that compelled this person to stab a group of strangers in the library. This will all be left to his defense attorney and the court-ordered psychiatrist to determine. 

As with mass shootings and other public attacks, where the motive is not domestic violence-related, a robbery, a gang retaliation, or a drug sale gone bad, the primary motivation for these random attacks is the desire for revenge. The attacker believes someone has treated him or her poorly, for whatever reason, and now this person needs to retaliate in the worst possible way.

It is the media who starts the earliest focus on the motive (and subsequently, the police and prosecutors, to make their case in court). The public will ask the same questions: Why did this happen? What would make someone do such a horrible thing, in the library, of all peaceful places?  

Perhaps the motive, in this case, is irrational religious beliefs; terrorism; perceived mistreatment by a library employee; a confrontation with another library patron; anger at parents or siblings for the way the attacker was raised; or a homicide-suicide plan that was stopped before this person could carry out the second part.

An edged weapon (most commonly a knife, but also a razor, box cutter, carpet cutter, ice pick, or sharp object used to stab or slash) is a common carry for many street people. This is especially true with the chronically, long-term homeless (who need to defend themselves from assaults or robbery attempts) and mentally ill people (who may not be able to acquire a firearm because of legal, financial, or dysfunctional reasons). These sharp items are easy to hide, light and portable, cheap to get, available anywhere, noiseless, require almost no skill to use, and are therefore, deadly weapons all.

In your library, you may come across patrons who carry knives on a sheath on their belts. This could be a folding knife or a fixed knife, which does not fold. Some people carry tactical knives, which can be opened with one hand at the flick of their wrist. (These knives have largely replaced the classic "switchblade knife" popular in 50's teenage hoodlum movies). Since edged weapons are so flat, they can be hidden almost anywhere on a person's body, or in clothing, pockets, purse, backpack, wallet, or pocketbook. Not everyone who carries into the library is dangerous. It is their intent, with that knife, that we care about. Do they look like a construction worker or an irrational person? A tradesperson or a threatening person? Context, in these observations, matters.

One of the oldest sayings in law enforcement is, "It's the hands that kill." So if you are ever dealing with patrons who are acting irrationally, making threats to harm themselves or others, or seem about ready to explode into violence, pay close attention to what they are holding or carrying. Even if they are trying to hide an edged weapon, you may still see them holding something cupped in either hand.

Most people are righthanded (only 13% are lefthanded in the US). As such, most angry people seeking to use any type of weapon will hold it in their dominant hand. Play the percentages and focus on what they are holding in their right hands first.

Since a knife or other cutting/slashing object is a proximity weapon, your best defense when confronted by a person holding one is distance, and a lot of it. (People only throw knives in the movies.) You need to treat a patron armed with an edged weapon just as you would if they had a firearm: use Run – Hide – Fight. Get as far away from this person as possible, as quickly as you can, and take as many co-workers and patrons with you. Use all available proxemics barriers to put between you and the armed person to block his or her path to you as you escape: desks, chairs, counters, carts, half-shelves.

If you can get to a Safe Room, with as many colleagues and patrons as you can move there, do so. Lock or barricade the door and call 9-1-1 as soon as you can. Like with an active shooter, describe what this "armed attacker" is doing, to the police dispatcher. Wait from this position of safety until the police arrive. 

If you have no choice but to defend yourself from an edged weapon attack, you can already guess your wrists, throat, and chest are your most vulnerable, life-ending targets. Try to grab whatever protective hard object you can: a chair; a notebook, hardback book, or a thick paperback; a keyboard, laptop, or tablet; to put between you and the knife and those areas of your body where you have the most arteries. You can survive being slashed – as long as it's not across your throat or wrists. You can survive being stabbed – as long as it's not to your heart or lungs. Space and distance are your first choices; protective objects are your next if you cannot flee the scene.

In our work in threat management, my colleagues care much less about motive, because it is discovered after the event, and therefore cannot be used to stop the event. We care more about interrupting the opportunity for harm.

As an example, consider that the US Marine Corps uses a three-part concept to talk about how we respond to a terrible, terrorism event, like a bombing. Each part is significant. There is "being on the Left of Boom," which is what we see and do before the bomb goes off, to stop it from happening. There is "Boom," where the bomb has just detonated. And there is "being on the Right of Boom," which is how we respond in the aftermath of the bomb going off. Obviously, our military branches and protective intelligence groups, like the US Secret Service, want always to be Left of Boom, stopping horrible things before they happen. As a threat management practitioner, I have spent my adult life trying to keep people Left of Boom.

Based on this incident, where the subject used an edged weapon to commit a homicide and injure or try to kill six other people, I have these threat assessment questions for the library staff:

  • Did they see some warning signs in this person's behavior, in the months, weeks, or days before his attack?
  • Had they ever seen him carry or display an edged weapon?
  • Had he been asked to leave the library because of his negative interactions with staff or patrons?
  • Had the police ever been called the library to deal with him?
  • Did this person ever make overt or covert threats to harm himself or others? 
  • How did they interpret those threats? Rambling, nonsensical, not serious, or quite serious?

All this points to an adage in threat assessment and management that my colleagues and I follow: "A useful predictor of future threatening or violent behavior is past threatening or violent behavior." 

While we can never "predict violence," predict the future, or ever predict human behavior, warning signs of either overt or veiled threats need a full security assessment from law enforcement or a trained security specialist.

As of this writing, we don't know if this person attacked only patrons, only library staffers, or both. We feel badly for the victims, no matter if they were visiting or working. The library is supposed to be a safe space for all. I will continue to my efforts to make that true.

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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.