CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman County Library Board met on Wednesday, Jan. 24, to discuss potential new security measures on the heels of a recent trespass being issued.
Cullman County Public Library Circulation Manager Laura Benton said an unhoused regular library patron who had been visiting the library since September had recently begun exhibiting erratic behavior about once a week, beginning in November.
“We told him about The Link (of Cullman County) and encouraged him to take regular showers and wash his clothes,” Benton recalled, noting that the library staff strived to treat him as compassionately as possible.
“When I came into work on Nov. 20, I was informed by our Saturday workers that a patron had called the police on him,” Benton stated, saying since she personally hadn’t seen any erratic behavior on the part of the patron, she believed he was being dealt with unfairly.
“He started showing erratic behavior in December. We started to encounter a bad episode almost once a week,” Benton explained, then shared an upsetting moment of witnessing the patron attempt to shove a pencil in his ear to, in his own words, “kill the pain.”
Benton said law enforcement was called, and when his Social Security number was run, a warrant for his arrest was found. He was arrested but two days later returned to the library.
“He came in on Monday, Jan. 8, with a bad episode,” explained Benton. “He was using very explicit language.”
A patron made a video of the behavior and sent it to a police officer, and the Cullman Police Department responded. The officer on scene offered to trespass the patron since there had been repeated issues nearly every week, to which Benton eventually agreed.
In response, Board Member Tanya Allcorn reached out to Dr. Nancy C. Pack of Alabama Public Library Service for professional policies to refer to in dealing with any future potential security conflicts.
“She (Pack) was extremely sympathetic,” explained Allcorn, noting that she was sent resources including a PDF file of a safe workplace handbook as well as a conflict resolution guide for library patrons which she expressed should be printed for staff to review.
Board Member Jill Meggs chimed in with a word of encouragement to Benton and the staff at large, saying, “I want to say, our staff handled that situation wonderfully. They handled it with compassion, but also made sure to keep themselves and our patrons safe.”
In other business:
- The board adopted the minutes from its December 2023 meeting.
- According to Meggs, the board has received many resumes from qualified applicants seeking the currently open director position. The board has interviewed two applicants, with one more on deck to be interviewed this week. Meggs spoke confidently about the qualifications of the applicants, saying, “We are hoping by next week we, as a board, can extend an offer. And let’s all hope they accept!”
- The board discussed granting parents and guardians who homeschool “teacher status” which will allow them to check out up to 25 books for up to four weeks. Allcorn stated, as a homeschool mom herself, she could understand the need but requested some sort of verification process to be in place. Meggs concurred that it would be a good idea to check in with APLS’ policies and build from there.
The next Cullman County Library Board meeting will be held on Thursday, Feb. 22 at noon. The public is invited to attend.
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