HONOLULU (KHON2) — The state librarian, Stacey Aldrich, said the COVID pandemic has led to disturbing behavior at several public libraries across the state.
She said some staff and patrons were verbally abused, people have pulled knives inside, destroyed laptops, staff cars have been keyed or their tires have been slashed.
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“We’ve had stabbings outside of our libraries, we’ve had like a librarian coming into work with feces smeared on the door,” Aldrich said to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, Jan. 13. “We’ve had staff who were attacked from behind, we had an attempted kidnapping at a parking lot and one of our libraries.”
Aldrich said 11 libraries, in particular, have had security issues in the last year. These libraries include the following: the Hawaii State Library in Honolulu, Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Liliha, McCully, Waikiki, Library for the blind and print disabled (next to Waikiki), Wahiawa, Kahului, Hilo and Kailua-Kona.
She asked the legislature for $1 million to improve current security and add surveillance systems too.
KHON2 spoke to several people who regularly go to the library, and they said they personally did not experience anything bad but support the libraries.
“We’re only here a certain time of the day; if they’re asking for money, they need it. I’m sure to make sure people have masks on and that kind of thing, but we’re only here in the daytime,” said Waikiki resident Martha Love. “I think that’s a good use of money actually.”
“I’m all for funding our libraries, it’s a precious resource to have,” said Morgan Lee, a McCully resident.
Ray Namuo, an Aiea resident, said she visits the state library often and that there were many homeless around pre-pandemic and it could have made some people uncomfortable, but not her.
“If they feel that this location does warrant that additional funding, then I’m all for it, especially if it will make the library safer for patrons,” she said.
Aldrich said there is security at 40 libraries, and some require two security guards at places like the Hawaii State Library and Kapolei.
“Sometimes we bring extra if having particular issues,” Aldrich said.
Aldrich said the current security contractor cannot provide appropriate staffing and staff are not always trained or skilled at interacting with the public.
“We continue to have problems with our current security guard company,” Aldrich explained. “In six months, we had over 123 incidents where we did not have a security guard and in some of our libraries, where we have to have a security guard.”
She told the legislature guards would not be needed 24/7 — just the times the library is open — and the surveillance would help at night.
“We have talked with comptroller about they’re trying to actually look at security guards for across the state to leverage resources instead of each agency going out on their own contracts, and we would be in support of that,” she said.
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Hawaii State Sen. Michelle Kidani said she would follow up with the comptroller on the proposal.