The changing face of our libraries and the resilience needed to work in them

The changing face of our libraries and the resilience needed to work in them

OPSEC has the privilege of working with our Librarians across New Zealand.

One thing we have learned with this relationship is just how risk prone and dangerous a
Librarians job can be. Over the last year, Police were called to hundreds of incidents of
violence, abuse, and inappropriateness at our libraries. There are almost two per day in this
country and they are the ones reported.

This is why a good amount of the $92 million dollars spent on Christchurch’s new central
library, which is due to open in October, has gone towards security. You can read more
about that here.

We often hear that Libraries are “The Communities’ Lounge”. They’re warm and
comfortable, provide a welcoming ambiance with wifi and internet access and, are free of
charge. Librarians also have a natural openness and willingness to help everybody and this
increases their responsibility to a wider and more vulnerable section of our community.

However, it can be a double edged sword exposing staff safety to those taking advantage ie:
bullies, criminal opportunists, drug dealers and sexual harassment. Librarians also regularly
become vulnerable when trying to manage fighting patrons or citizens who may be
emotionally or mentally unwell.

In our opinion, Librarians are some of the toughest workers in the community but, they are
also human and like you and I, can become anxious, stressed, angry or unsafe when
encountering those disruptive, disorderly or violent situations.

For this reason, it is important they undergo deliberate and specific personal and team
safety training, bespoke to their environment and situations.

Strategies that strengthen team support and reliance during these hard moments will keep
Librarians safe and help them to de-stress and recover without self-blame or the unwanted
anxiety of being judged. These are critical team skills that contribute to the overall physical,
mental and emotional wellbeing of the team and its individuals.

If your team or organisation has to deal with tough or aggressive situations then maybe a
chat with your local librarian could be the expert you were never aware of.

Otherwise, email us at info@opsec.co.nz or call us on 0800 999 677 and we can arrange to help
your team today.