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updated: 8/1/2012 4:26 PM

Cook Memorial officials weighing panic buttons for libraries

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  • The Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills could soon be equipped with panic buttons for employees that would alert police to emergencies.

      The Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills could soon be equipped with panic buttons for employees that would alert police to emergencies.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II/Daily Herald File Photo

  • The Cook Park Library in Libertyville could soon be equipped with panic buttons that would alert police to emergencies.

      The Cook Park Library in Libertyville could soon be equipped with panic buttons that would alert police to emergencies.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II/Daily Herald File Photo

  • Cook Memorial Public Library District Director Stephen Kershner

      Cook Memorial Public Library District Director Stephen Kershner

  • Video: Panic button demonstration

 
 

Cook Memorial Public Library District officials may purchase panic buttons for employees.

Library Director Stephen Kershner said he began thinking about upgrading security after the Cook Park Library in Libertyville was expanded and the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills Library was built. Those projects were completed last year.

Libraries are open places where hundreds of people come and go every day, Kershner said, and some visitors can be dangerous.

"At my first library job, we had encounters that turned violent," Kershner recalled. "There are safety considerations because we're open buildings."

The buttons likely would be wireless and could be placed at high-profile spots such as the reference or circulation desks, Kershner said. They often look like garage-door openers.

If a librarian were to activate one, an alarm would be sent to the district's security company and to police, Kershner said.

Kershner came to Cook Memorial about two years ago from the Pasco County library system in Florida, where he oversaw seven libraries as the assistant director for public services. Those buildings had panic buttons that alerted the local sheriff's department to emergencies, he said.

Libraries at the University of Maryland, Phoenix College in Arizona and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among the other facilities equipped with panic buttons for employees and visitors.

"We want to make sure we have a safe environment for everyone who uses or works in our public facilities," Kershner said.

Library board President Bonnie Quirke said she'd also been thinking about implementing new security measures. Last month's shooting rampage at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., made taking such steps paramount.

"As violence increases in public places ... I believe that this is very prudent and necessary," Quirke said.

Cook Memorial's buildings and grounds committee could discuss the plan at a meeting set for Aug. 16, Kershner said. The full board could debate the matter Aug. 21.

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