Skip to main content

Academic Library Building Design: Resources for Planning: Safety and Security

ACRL and LLAMA have joined forces to provide a basic framework for architects, planners, and librarians embarking on the planning and design of libraries for higher education.

Safety and Security

Safety and Security

updated March 2015

Safety has become an issue of great importance in libraries in recent years. There are a number of resources to assist with safeguarding patrons, employees and property. In the 21st century this topic also extends to internet safety and security. Many libraries are establishing resource guides with in-depth information related to safety and security. An excellent example can be found at Wayne State University Library’s web site which has an abundance of resource material. Other good examples are at Boston University Library and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

There are at least four subtopics to the general topic, which are: (1) precautions to protect patrons and staff against acts of violence; (2) safeguarding collection materials from theft/vandalism; (3) internet protection; and, (4) procedural safeguards and response plans for natural and man-made disasters.

This wiki will treat primarily subtopic 1, personal safety (patrons and staff) precautions against acts of violence, and subtopic 2, precautions to protect against theft, as these two aspects are what primarily affect patrons. Subtopic 3 is generally best treated in forums associated with IT, while subtopic 4 has a well-established body of literature referred to as disaster preparedness or disaster planning. A fifth topic, workplace safety, which deals with occupational safety hazards, is most commonly considered with employment issues.

For libraries that do not yet have a robust set of policies and procedures, one good way to get started is to first read a short general treatment of the subject with hints for addressing low-hanging fruit. An excellent treatment on library safety can be found with this short read by Steven Bell, in the September 2012 issue of Library Issues. . Warren Davis Graham’s Black Belt Librarian: Real World Safety & Security, published by ALA in 2012 is also a quick read.

A very useful and motivating step in establishing a security program in an academic library is to establish a set of web pages on the public side of the library’s web site with basic information on safety and security within the context of one’s parent institution. Examples include publishing a clear code of acceptable conduct with consequences for violations; links to campus safety resources such as police sponsored student escort services; routines to follow in reporting loss of property (i.e., lost and found and theft reports); pages giving applicable statutes prohibiting theft or mutilation of library materials; and/or pages noting special access procedures usually enforced for special collections. At a minimum every academic library should have a page with tips on personal safety and security. Good examples, in addition to the above library links, can be found at the University of Georgia at Everglades University

Public libraries are often out in front of academic libraries on this subject, and much can be learned by perusing public library sites for tips and guidelines. An example of a well-constructed site on safety/security in public libraries can be found at and this article is useful as well


 Much has been written, spoken and sadly witnessed with “active shooter” situations in public buildings in recent years. Tips and videos on preparation and response to active shooter situations can be found at:

Additional Resources on Library Safety and Security can be found at:

American Library Association: A very comprehensive bibliography at

The Rare Book and Manuscript Section of ACRL has promulgated updated “Guidelines Regarding Security and Theft in Special Collections.”

Peer reviewed journal: Library & Archival Security

Albrecht, Steve. Library Security: Better Communication, Safer Facilities. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2015.

Jackson, Jerlando F. L. and Terrell, Melvin Cleveland. Creating and Maintaining Safe College Campuses: A Sourcebook for Evaluating and Enhancing Safety Programs. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publications, 2007.

Kahn, Miriam. The Library Security and Safety Guide to Prevention, Planning, and Response. Chicago: American Library Association, 2008.

Robertson, Guy. Disaster Planning for Libraries: Process and Guidelines. Waltham, MA: Chandos, 2015.

Wilkie, Everett C., Jr., ed and compiler. Guide to Security Considerations & Practices for Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collection Libraries. Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries, 2011.

Note: The Committee wishes to thank Mr. Jonathan LeBreton, Senior Associate University Librarian, Temple University Libraries, for his valuable contributions and editing in the development of this page.