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Hartford Library Gets Task Force's Recommendations

By STEVEN GOODE | The Hartford Courant

November 04, 2008

A task force formed this summer to study safety and security issues at the main branch of the Hartford Public Library has sent its recommendations to the library's board of directors.

They include posting clear rules of conduct in visible areas of the library, improving policies governing the conduct of library visitors, closing the Arch Street entrance to better monitor library traffic and free up a security guard, enhancing Internet filters to block child pornography and other subjects not protected constitutionally, better monitoring of bathroom facilities and the youth services room, installing security cameras at the front entrance and media center and anti-theft devices in library material.

The task force was formed following a Courant investigation published in May that detailed security and public safety problems at the library, including drinking, drug use and sexual activity in bathrooms, threats made to staff members by library visitors and the theft of CDs and DVDs. The investigation also detailed the viewing of pornographic materials, including child pornography, by patrons.

Library board President Geraldine Sullivan said Monday that the board had not had an opportunity to discuss the report and did not expect to do so until its upcoming retreat or the December quarterly meeting, but that she was pleased with it.

"I thought it was very thorough. These are real and manageable recommendations," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that although some of the recommendations might not make it through the process as the board discusses them, she hoped that it could start implementing some of them before the end of the year.

Michael Gannon, who was chairman of the task force which also included library board members and employees, a library professional from outside of Hartford, a social services and human resources professional and a neighborhood group representative said Monday that some of the recommendations, such as posting rules clearly and providing staff with polices for managing conduct, have already been implemented.

Gannon, director of social responsibility for The Hartford, said that the task force also studied other urban libraries, such as Los Angeles and Seattle, and tried to copy some of their solutions.

Gannon said that the group also did its best to come up with solutions that required little or no funding, but did recommend spending money on preventing theft. The report concluded that about 5 percent of the library's collection is lost annually and that 50 percent of that loss is categorized as missing and presumed stolen.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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