Association of Research Libraries
Research Library Issues 289 2016
Thinking about the Unthinkable: A Personal
Reflection on the June 1 Incident at UCLA and Library
Responses and Roles in Active Shooter Situations
Virginia Steel, University Librarian, UCLA
The first text from the UCLA campus alert system, “Bruin Alert,” on June
1, 2016, was sent at 9:49 a.m. and said, “Police activity. Avoid area around
Engineering IV.” Four minutes later a second text was sent with the
message, “shots fired, lock down.” This was the beginning of what would
turn out to be a day of surprise, shock, and tremendous uncertainty
mixed with moments of fear and sadness for the entire UCLA campus. In
the end, what had at first been thought to be an active shooter situation
turned out to be an incident of workplace violence that resulted in
the murder of a faculty member and the suicide of one of his former
students. This instance of workplace violence had a profound impact on
the UCLA Library while it was happening and in the weeks and months
since then. This article describes some of what went on in UCLA Library
facilities during the lockdown, and it offers some practical suggestions
for preparations and responses to similar situations.
The Lockdown
June 1 was a typical busy day at UCLA during the week before finals.
The campus and the eight library buildings were bustling with students
studying, writing papers, and meeting with their peers to work on
assignments. Library staff members were attending to their normal
responsibilities, although many librarians were either in meetings or
out of their offices for a variety of reasons. No one in the library had any
reason to expect anything out of the ordinary that day.
When the first two campus alerts came through, the general reaction
of everyone, including library staff members, was to be stunned and
uncertain about what to do. The texts instructed us to lock the doors
to all campus structures, but doing this turned out to be more difficult
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