Library has increasing concerns on security

Oct 1, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

Riverton's library is a crossroad for diverse segments of the city.

Within a mile of its doors there are five schools, a homeless shelter, and the Center of Hope detox center.

And increasingly, the demographics of the area are becoming a growing security concern, according to Shari Haskins, the library's manager.

"The detox center has had a huge impact on the library," she said. "It is not unusual to deal with drunks on a daily basis in our library and on our grounds."

In the last month, there have been a number of incidences that could have "easily gone south really quick," she said.

"It has been one hell of a month," she said. "I will inevitably have a staff member that will get hurt. It's going down that path."

Students pour into the library after school each day. Haskins, said the busiest time comes after 4 p.m., right as school resource officers are leaving work.

Haskins told the Fremont County Library Board last week that the Riverton Police Department does its best to have a presence at the library, but she said it's a hard problem for her staff -- almost all part-time workers -- to handle.

Haskins said she now feels like she spends a lot of her time just trying to keep her staff safe.

"My staff is amazing for what we deal with on a daily basis," she said. "They don't say it, but I can see sometimes that they're afraid."

Fremont County Commission-ers have required the county libraries to cut budgets and staff in the last two years as tax revenues have dropped.

Library officials have pleaded that the Riverton library's increasing role as a community focal point makes staff reductions impractical. However, those concerns have largely fallen on deaf ears.

"I don't have the staff or the staff hours" to handle the security concerns, Haskins said.

Nor do those staff members have the training to know how to handle the diverse concerns, she said.

The county library director, Janette McMahon, said that despite the "escalating issues," patrons shouldn't feel they should avoid using the facility.

"The library is safe, but we want to maintain that," she said.

Fremont County is closing the courthouse Oct. 9 at the request of the Courthouse Security and Safety Committee, which will conduct mandatory safety training for all courthouse employees.

McMahon said that J.R. Oakley, who chairs the security committee, also is now working with library officials on ideas to reduce security concerns at the Riverton library.

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