Association of Research Libraries
Research Library Issues 289 — 2016
Research Library we kept the front doors locked but had staﬀ standing
just inside to open the doors if students came to seek shelter. And come
they did, for at least an hour after the ﬁrst two alerts. Some knew that
they needed to ﬁnd a place to be safe, while others wandered somewhat
aimlessly and didn’t really know why the campus buildings that were
normally open to them were now closed and locked. The students who
came into YRL or Powell were directed to areas away from the front
doors, but the general sense of anxiety and disbelief made many of them
reluctant to leave the lobby areas. It appeared that other students had
had training in active shooter situations; they found areas away from the
doors and crouched under tables with the lights oﬀ and interior doors
closed and locked (if possible).
Many students commented as they came into the buildings that they
considered the libraries to be safe places where they could take refuge.
The Young Research Library ended up with an estimated 800 students
inside, and Powell Library had approximately 2,000 students throughout
the building in every possible space, including classrooms, oﬃces, group
study rooms, and the large reading room. The other libraries—Science
and Engineering, Geology, Arts, Management, Music, and the Louise M.
Darling Biomedical Library—ended up with dozens of students each.
In every case, the front doors were eventually locked, and the staﬀ who
were on hand (sometimes these were student employees) ﬁgured out
places to hide out of sight. And while some of the staﬀ had been through
active shooter and emergency preparedness training, some had not.
Fortunately our enterprising student employees had the presence of
mind to check Google to ﬁnd out what to do and followed the advice they
found there to shepherd the students in their facilities to safer locations.
One of the greatest uncertainties of the day was not knowing whether
it was the right thing to ask staﬀ to stand at the door to let students in.
We didn’t know whether there really was an active shooter situation. No
shots were heard, so it seemed safe, but it was a real risk. And many of the
students who came into the library were carrying or wearing backpacks,
which could have concealed weapons. Was that really a violin case, or did