Apr 10, 2024 - News

San Francisco public library workers want more security guards

people holding signs

Library workers rallied at the Main Library on Tuesday. Photo: Courtesy of SEIU Local 1021

San Francisco public library workers are calling for security guards at every branch throughout the city, but library officials maintain that only some need them.

Why it matters: Library workers argue public safety issues have put employees and patrons alike at risk, and that security guards help to de-escalate situations.

  • A library workers rally Tuesday came amid ongoing contract negotiations between the city and library workers, as well as other San Francisco workers represented by Service Employees International Union 1021.
  • Currently, 12 of the city's 27 branches have security guards, in addition to the main library, according to library spokesperson Michelle Jeffers.

What they're saying: "At a branch without a guard, I had to approach a patron who was swearing at other people," Jessica Choy, a part-time librarian, said in a press release. "He ended up kicking in a glass door."

  • It would've been better, Choy said, to have a trained security guard handle that situation instead of "hoping librarians are able to handle potentially dangerous situations alone."

The other side: Jeffers told Axios via email that the city's libraries "are much safer today than they were a decade ago," pointing to how security incidents were down nearly 14% year-over-year as of February.

  • She added that dedicated security is not necessary at every branch, as seven branches didn't have any security incidents during that period, and six had just one incident.
  • In March, there were 114 reported security incidents throughout the city's library system, Jeffers said.

Between the lines: Amid the racial unrest of 2020, the advocacy organization Library Freedom Project called for libraries across the nation to divest from police and examine why there are police or private security guards in libraries.

  • In San Francisco, the city employs public library security guards, who are unarmed, and also receives support from social workers and armed members of the sheriff's department, specifically at the main library.

What to watch: Having dedicated security guards at all branches is part of the bargaining unit's demands during negotiations.

  • Labor contracts for library workers, as well as other city employees, are set to expire at the end of June, and they have already expressed a willingness to strike.
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