Southdale Library Fights Back!

In December, Southdale Library workers learned that Library Administration, led by interim Library director Janet Mills, was completely eliminating their building security presence with no input from library staff. Faced with a unilateral decision that left many workers feeling unsafe and worried about patron safety in a large, multi-level building, they knew they needed to act.

Southdale workers signed a petition, pushing for a meeting between Southdale staff and Library Administration to hold Administration accountable for their bad decision. In February, over 25 Southdale workers attended a special meet and confer, where they pushed for truthful answers to their questions, voiced their concerns, and showed Administration what it looks like when a worksite stands together in strength and solidarity.

This fight isn’t over. Southdale Library workers will be speaking at commissioner meetings, writing letters, and reaching out to the Library community. Southdale Library workers will need YOU to support them in the coming days! Below, read excerpts from Librarian and founding Local 2864 member Scott Hanson’s letter to County Commissioners and the Library Board, which lays out many worker concerns: 

We have been told that a reason for our losing Security is because we have sent in so few Incident Reports. Until very recently we were discouraged by our then local managers from sending in Incident Reports. Those we did write were filtered through them, and many of the Incident Reports were minimized, suppressed and even deleted. So, we’ve had a culture of not writing them.

This is just too big a public facility not to have security. Other County builds this size have security. It’s impossible to know what’s going on in many parts of this building, let alone the rest of this huge property.

When staff need to deal with non-compliance, it interrupts and distracts from helping patrons who want our help. It forces us into a type of situation we are not adequately trained or equipped for and takes us away from tasks we want to do and are qualified to do.

There should be an interim step before police are called without putting employees in threatening, harmful positions. There’s a big gap between library staff intervening and having armed law officers step in. Security staff are very effective in curbing or eliminating problem behaviors; this is their job and what they are trained to do. One of the big problems with this change is how the decision was made without SD staff input. The Library administration is asking workers to trust a decision they've made about safety, when it is very clear that worker safety is no longer for us a top priority.

Reasoning that our security personnel are more needed at other locations is not an acceptable excuse. It's not okay to pit buildings against each other and they can't just make one library less safe to make another one more safe or to save money. ALL of the libraries need to be safe and they need to find the money to do that.

The staff who actually work with the public every day and every hour Southdale LIbrary is open are telling management what is needed is security staff. But instead, Management, who rarely or mostly never spends time on a regular basis with the public, is telling us we are wrong. The only reason not for us to have security is to save some money. Make our safety and the safety of our (large) public your top priority. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We want to be proactive.

We were told at our special Meet & Confer that the Library wanted to put the money saved in taking away our Security into more [other] ‘library services.’ There’s no point in doing that if we’re so busy worrying about and dealing with security and closing issues to help provide those library ser-vices in an appropriately concentrated fashion. Security staff have been an effective part of our team that works with the public. They get to know the patrons, the building, the staff, and the activity patterns. They rely on staff and we rely on them; we have each other’s backs.