Boike says safety of customers and staff is her primary concern

    Although Crookston City Council members this week put off a decision because they want more details on equipment and costs, it would appear that the Crookston Public Library will have a security camera system in place sooner rather than later.   

    It's not that vandalism or other negative behaviors or incidents are spiking at the Crookston branch of the Lake Agassiz Regional Library system, said Branch Supervisor Chris Boike. It's just that there have been and continue to be enough negative things happening that she wants to do whatever is feasible to to make library visitors young and old, as well as the staff, feel as safe as possible.   

    And spending a few thousand dollars on a security camera system seems pretty feasible to council members who discussed the matter at this week's Ways & Means Committee meeting.   

    When the issue was first discussed a couple years ago, the cost was in the $8,500 range, and that didn't include the labor necessary to install it. Since then, camera technology has not only improved it has gotten less expensive. Add to that city IT Director Philip Barton being able to lead the setup and installation process, and it appears that eight cameras could be purchased for around $5,300. If the original equipment budget was the maximum, Barton said 15 cameras could be purchased for $8,500.   

    No one thinks 15 cameras are necessary, however. Boike mentioned 10 might be a nice number, in order to put some cameras inside the building as well as outside. The Polk County Historical Society, which is leading restoration efforts at the old Carnegie Library next door – now known as the Carnegie Building – is dealing with vandalism issues as well and has expressed an interest in contributing some money to the project, especially if a camera or two mounted outside the library could be aimed at the Carnegie Building. It's possible the Friends of the Library could put some money toward the project as well.   

    A couple years ago, most would have figured that the library would have security cameras by now. But money that had been set aside for the project was instead put toward the cost of a new boiler at the facility, a need that arose unexpectedly. There's $4,000 in the library's capital budget for 2014, Finance Director Angel Hoeffner said.   

    The library is a city-owned building, and as part of the city's agreement with the LARL system, the city is responsible for maintaining the building.   

    At Large Council Member Bob Quanrud, while suggesting that the issue be tabled for a couple weeks, said money isn't his concern at this point. He said he'd like to know how many cameras will be needed and how they might be configured before he votes on anything. He also said he'd like to know if the PCHS and FOL will indeed be contributing to the project and, if so, how much they'd put toward it.   

    "An important building like that, maybe spending a little more than $5,300 is necessary," Quanrud said.   

    So what's been happening at the library? Boike said the most recent incident involved graffiti in the bathrooms. She also said a number of customers have reported a marijuana smell in the bathrooms, especially since cold weather has settled in. Although cameras can't be placed in the bathrooms, she said at least when an incident like that arises, surveillance footage would show who has come and gone from the building at specific times.    

    Over the years, beer has been poured in a book drop outside, a couple people have tried to hide in the building at closing time, windows have been broken and exterior vents have been damaged.   

    "It's just an overall safety concern," Boike said. "We have people who drift in and out of Crookston and many of them come to the library. We have unattended youth at the library and because of our location, it's just a growing concern. We want our customers and staff to be safe and we want the building and its contents to be secure."