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.

UPCOMING EVENTS

May 9th, 2024

BLOG POSTS

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

Let’s start by defining the “professional library security incident report” as:

“a document created by an investigative process that captures the scene of a security incident at your library; that serves as a historical record; and that accurately describes the facts, identifies evidence, any victims, witnesses, and the actual or suspected participants. It should include their actions and statements, which might initiate a human resources response, or demonstrate the need for security improvements, process improvements, or policy changes at the library. These reports can help limit our liability and demonstrate security professionalism. Professional security reports demonstrate our knowledge of the law, the library Code of Conduct, security policies, and patron behavioral issues. It can help us see how crimes, medical incidents, accidents, and patron behavioral problems should be investigated, documented, and managed.”

That’s a long way of saying they have value and should be valued by the library organization.

Security Incident Reports (SIRs) have legal, historical, evidential, and statistical importance. They help Library Directors and/or library security managers or the site supervisors for contract security officers to prove or disprove what happened at a specific time and place. They make it easier for library leaders to make policy decisions, operational changes, and enhance staffing, hiring, protection, and service to the organization, staff, patrons, and the community.

Report writing is a learned skill. Security employees or staff who complete SIRs will need guidance, templates, ongoing training, and help to create the best representation of what may have happened, on the actual page.

Many eyes will read what gets written on a library SIR. Inside the organization, this could include the Library Director, security directors, guard force supervisors, HR representatives, library board attorneys, risk managers, county safety officers, and city/county media relations. Outside the organization, this list gets even longer and could include insurance adjusters, police, prosecutors, judges and juries, expert witnesses, plaintiffs’ attorneys, or civil or criminal defense attorneys.

Consider the following writing tips for all employees who have to write a Security Incident Report, starting with the most helpful, important rule:

Use the Triple-A Rule to improve your reports:

Keep your Average Sentence Length to about 15 to 20 words. Longer or shorter is okay but this word number guideline always leads to the highest comprehension by the reader. It’s easy to stay at this 15-to-20 words per sentence mark if you stick to one idea or activity per sentence.

Avoid Jargon. Write like you talk and don’t talk like a cop or a bureaucrat on paper. It’s not a vehicle; it’s a car. Stop writing “approximately” and just say “about.” Don’t say “I utilized” when “I used” is better.

Write in the active voice. Don’t write, “The paramedics were called and treatment was provided to the injured patron, who was then taken to the hospital.” Write it with the subject and the action right up front: “We called paramedics for the injured patron. They treated her at the scene, before taking her to the hospital.” Active voice sentences have more power and tend to be shorter.

  • Memorize the correct version of these common grammar usage errors and keep them out of your reports: their, they’re, or there; you’re or your; then or than; it’s or its; to or too; further or farther.
  • If your incident notes are an inaccurate mess, fix that immediately. See how other employees create well-organized notes and copy their approach.
  • Develop shortcuts for notetaking. If applicable, note the times of arrival for everyone after the incident/accident took place. Circle these letters so you know later who did what, when: V for victim, W for witness, S for Suspect/Subject, M for me (you said it, asked it, or did it), L for Library, P for Patron, LE for Police/Sheriff, F for Firefighter, EMT for Paramedics, SG for Security Guard, E for Employee.
  • Little details can have a lot of importance. People involved in Security Incident Reports may try to claim things later that didn’t happen, get payment for damage that wasn’t there, or file questionable or even false court or insurance claims. Get the names and IDs of all on-scene first responders, the lighting conditions at an accident scene, and the names and contact information for all witnesses. Quote exactly if someone refused medical treatment at the scene.
  • Know when to ask more open-ended questions (used to get the person to tell his or her story) and fewer closed-ended questions (used to get yes/no answers). “And then what happened?” is an open-ended question. “Is that all you can remember about the event?” is a closed-ended question. Both are necessary, but you’ll get more information using open-ended questions.
  • Know the elements of a crime and make certain those are described as being met in your report. Crimes require intent on the part of the doer. Some events are not crimes: an expensive watch that gets left in the library public restroom and is not there when the owner returns is not a theft case, it’s a lost item.
  • Know the important difference between an eyewitness and an “ear witness.” Some people saw things; other people heard about things from others. It’s a critical distinction in security incidents and subsequent reports.
  • Understand who is the audience reading your report; one of your objectives is to pass along key messages in a manner the reader will easily understand.
  • Readers of your report may include law enforcement, legal counsel, internal auditors, insurance representatives, HR, directors, managers, and supervisors.
  • Ensure we have sufficient detail in the report, consider using models like the four C’s and the five W’s plus H: Complete, Clear, Concise, and Correct along with the What, When, Where, Who, Why, and How.
  • Your report is a reflection of your professionalism, so turn on spell and grammar checks if using a computerized application to write your report. Read and re-read your report before submitting it, and consider both the structure of your report as well as its content. If a layperson cannot understand your report, then adjust as necessary to make the report more easily understood.

The stakes are high for poorly written Security Incident Reports. As any attorney will tell us, “You can’t go back in time and `add it in after it happened.’” Choose your words well.

My thanks for the help with this piece goes to Dubai-based security practitioner John Cowling, a fine Aussie gent. He specializes in corporate security, transportation protection, and crisis management.

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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

Additionally:

"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."

WEBINARS

PODCASTS

BLOG POSTS

DEALING WITH CHALLENGING PATRONS - UNLIMITED STAFF TRAINING VIDEO

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.

PURCHASE HERE