Life in Ames, Iowa is pretty low-key with low crime rates, especially violent crimes. Some residents even leave their cars running during the winter while they quickly run into a store, and some leave their houses unlocked. The Iowa State University campus has been considered one of the most beautiful campuses in the country due in part to its landscape architecture with green space and abundance of trees. It is far from an urban campus and many roads through campus limit automobile access.

Early photograph of Beardshear Hall in winter.

Early (1910-20) photograph of Beardshear Hall in winter.

But even though this is a small college town, we still prepare for emergencies, think about safety and security issues, and hope that nothing serious will ever happen. Well, last month the fire alarm went off and it was not a false alarm, then the bomb squad was called in for a suspicious package not too far from the library, and then we had a police car chase which ended with gun shots, again, not too far from the library. This is more activity than I have experience the entire ten years I have been here. Needless to say, these events have given us the opportunity to revisit our emergency procedures and start implementing policies that we have been discussing for years.

One policy in particular that has been floating around is the requirement of staff badges. The Department of Public Safety (campus police), supported this practice when we asked them about it, particularly because we do not lock staff areas during business hours. Anyone can walk in and we should certainly be questioning individuals we do not recognize, but we have a lot of student staff that turn over frequently. Badges would also reinforce staff presence around the library as we walk through public areas.

As a pilot project, Access Services implemented test badges for both staff and student workers. Staff raised concern over the inclusion of full names and departments so the lowest common denominator was selected. The badges simply state Iowa State University Library Staff and have a small picture of the individual or, in the case of student badges, a picture of the library. There were also concerns over lanyard vs. clip vs. magnet since hanging badges can get in the way, which is certainly the case in the conservation lab, and magnets interfere with pacemakers. The only thing staff could agree on was to stay away from pins.

Generic student badge

Generic student badge

Preservation Department staff have been participating in the pilot program on a volunteer basis. Cindy, one of our supervisors, has really taken it to heart and used the badges as an example of change in a leadership training class she is taking. She defended the need for their implementation and talked about ways to develop staff buy-in.  She also told me that she encountered a student in the restroom who was having trouble controlling nose bleeds because of the dry weather. When she offered assistance, the student glanced at her badge and nodded. Who knows if the staff badge influenced the student’s reaction, but at least the student had a positive interaction with a person she could identify as library staff.

Just yesterday, it was announced by the Dean that starting in March, all staff who have regular contact with the public and/or work out in public areas like the stacks will be required to wear badges. Some staff have already expressed their belief that the policy does not go far enough, and that the badges should be worn by all library staff, volunteers, and students, and include first name. Others only believe that they should be worn by those who assist the public while they are assisting the public.

What is the policy at your library? If you are required to wear a badge, what information is included?