After VTA shooting, San Jose library workers worry they’re next | #itsecurity | #infosec


Stopping fights, finding bloody clothes and calling the police: All in a day’s work for San Jose Public Library employees.

Library workers are concerned for their safety following the May 26 mass shooting at a VTA light rail yard that left 10 dead including the gunman. One employee started a petition demanding library leaders and city officials address workers’ worries.

Benjamin Martinez, a library employee since 2005, said he and his colleagues have to break up fights, calm agitated patrons and escort out problematic ones on a regular basis, on top of coordinating work schedules and addressing daily operational issues.

One time, Martinez said he found clothes soaked in blood in the library’s bathroom after a lunch break.

“The libraries are designated safe places,” Martinez told San José Spotlight. “But sometimes it’s hard to feel comfortable working there.”

With branches spanning across the city, the San Jose Public Library employs almost 600 workers and welcomed more than 4 million annual visitors prior to the pandemic.

For several years, two full-time security guards and one part-time guard roamed among the library system’s 24 branches. Over the course of the pandemic, that dropped to one.

When situations become confrontational or violent, workers call both library security and the San Jose Police Department. Employees say officers offer little help, as they either respond late to calls or not at all.

This leaves library workers fending for themselves, said Jenny Mai, a librarian at the Tully branch. After a spike in violent crimes targeting Asians in the Bay Area and the mass shooting at VTA last month, anxiety in the libraries is running high.

“Our security guard has made good efforts, but he can’t be everywhere,” Mai said. “We have a lot of Asian staff and patrons at our branch… I’m scared that something bad would happen.”

A San José Spotlight analysis of the police department’s calls for service data in 2020 shows more than 980 instances where police were called to library branches and their surrounding areas. One hundred and seventy of those calls were to downtown’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, many for disturbances and welfare checks.

Out of all the calls, officers couldn’t locate suspects about 90 times. Police took reports approximately 90 times, made about 20 arrests and issued eight criminal citations. In 485 instances, police responded but didn’t take a report. More than 160 calls were canceled.