Coos County Libraries

The Coos Bay Public Library in 2017.

COOS BAY — For almost a year now, the Coos Bay Public Library has required security personnel on-site to keep behavior in check.

Since then, Library Director Sami Pierson said staff have had time to go about their jobs without interruption.

“Being a public building, all sorts of public come in and we had a lot of behavioral issues,” Pierson said. “Staff was spending a lot of time on that rather than library things and we’re not trained to handle a lot of what was going on and police were here quite a bit.”

Though there was no one incident that changed the library board’s mind about needing security, Pierson explained that it was more of a never-ending series of incidents.

“The number of times we called police varied from week to week,” she said. “Some weeks we called a couple times a day, while some weeks we never had to call.”

But she said that staff members were dealing with fights, people yelling and abusing them, while others would smoke on city property which isn’t allowed.

“Those were the common things going on and sometimes if we asked them to leave, they would refuse,” she said.

That was when the board began looking into what could be done and decided last summer to contract with CNB Security at what Pierson said is less than $900 a month.

Now people who visit the library are either greeted by a uniformed guard or even helped in with their book donations.

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“There is one person here during our open hours,” Pierson said. “It’s been great. Our staff has been able to get back to library business and not foot patrolling. These folks are trained to deal with these behavioral issues. They spend their time patrolling the outside and inside and also help people bring books to cars. They are generally helpful.”

Though the Coos Bay Public Library is the only one in Coos County to have contracted with a security company, Pierson said the practice is becoming more and more common with libraries in general.

“It is a huge help to staff so we can concentrate on what we’re supposed to be doing,” she said. “Everybody who comes into the library feels better too because if something happens, someone is here to deal with it.”

On Wednesday, security officer Ken Deschler was on the job and explained that when he arrives for the day, he circles the building in his vehicle looking for anyone who might be sleeping, camping or smoking.

“My day generally consists of issuing warnings and politely giving decisions, one of two choices, giving them the option to think their way out of it,” Deschler said.

Though he can’t arrest people, he calls Coos Bay Police if there is criminal activity.

“I give warnings every day,” he said. “Yesterday I issued six, not just for sleeping or camping but general rules for the library like no sleeping and no food. I greet everyone. There isn’t a pattern in my mind to judge someone. Anyone can come in and disrupt the library, homeless or not.”

For Pierson, she just wants to see the library be a safe place for everyone.

“We want it to be welcoming,” she said. “Hopefully this adds to that.”

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.