Report: SF library unruliness occurs most during midweek afternoons 

click to enlarge The San Francisco Public Library has found that midweek and afternoons are when the most incidents that disrupt patrons occur. New penalties recently went into effect. - MIKE KOOZMIN/S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • mike koozmin/s.f. examiner file photo
  • The San Francisco Public Library has found that midweek and afternoons are when the most incidents that disrupt patrons occur. New penalties recently went into effect.

Months after the San Francisco Public Library tightened up rules for patrons, a new report has highlighted the areas where the library has been falling short in addressing security. But library officials say the report's 11 recommendations either have been or are being implemented.

The library had increased security and implemented new regulations following a rash of violent acts, a move that drew criticism from homeless advocates.

Amid the pressure to stamp out the disruptions among the bookshelves, library officials asked the City Controller's Office to analyze its security resources and strategies. Mayor Ed Lee had also paid a site visit in January, calling for improved patron conduct.

"The Library can improve its collection, tracking and analysis of incident data to more effectively deploy security strategies," a City Controller's Office report presented Nov. 6 to the Library Commission said.

The analysis found that the library failed to deploy security staff appropriately and had an inadequate number of staff members. And it found the most dangerous times at the library are in the afternoons, with a peak on Wednesdays.

"We found that the majority of incidents are concentrated in the afternoon hours. Fifty-three percent of incidents at the Main Library are concentrated between the hours of 2 and 5 p.m. and 81 percent of incidents are concentrated between the hours of 12 and 6 p.m.," analyst Celeste Berg of the City Controller's Office said. A similar trend occurs at the branch libraries.

According to the report, security is overstaffed in the morning and understaffed in the afternoon "relative to incident concentration."

"Even with improved staffing patterns, security requires additional resources to reach full coverage," the report states. "Other strategies, such as focusing attention on high incident areas like the restrooms and express internet stations, can help mitigate security incidents."

Library officials say they have made adjustments to address staffing issues and are seeing a difference. Though the library recently added two more security guards, the report recommends increasing the staff from 19.25 positions to 23.8 for "ideal coverage."

In general, the new rules, which went into effect in September, carry stiffer penalties such as a three-year suspension for a third offense of fighting or a three-month suspension for a first offense of using "threatening language."

Roberto Lombardi, director of library facilities, said that the library is now staffing according to the trends of incidents being concentrated in the afternoons.

No one seems to know the root cause of the afternoon unruliness.

"We haven't reached something conclusive," Lombardi said. "We don't know the exact reasons."

Berg noted that during the same time-period incidents also spike on Muni and police receive increased calls for service.

Since January, the library has employed incident-tracking software and the reports are accessible to all library staff.

"We don't know why, but Wednesday is the day when it goes up," Lombardi said. "That's the great thing about actually having this data, which we didn't have before, is it just blows the fog away and we can see exactly when we need to be staffed."

Lombardi noted that incidents have declined with the changes.

"We've had a very drastic decline of 46 percent between January and now," Lombardi said, but he added that it could be the result of staff engaging with patrons more effectively before it escalates to a reported incident.

City Librarian Luis Herrera vowed to keep updating the commission on the security issue. "We've made some great strides," he said.

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