We were all reminded of the central role public libraries play in our communities when an LIU Post professor wrote an opinion piece for Forbes recently that advocated closing all of them. After a fierce backlash, the piece was removed from the business media website. Long Islanders, in particular, spoke up about how their libraries are significant community spaces of civic engagement and education.
We also have been reminded lately of the importance of safety and security in such public spaces. School and workplace shootings showcase the critical need for an immediate response if such a dreaded emergency happens.
As it has done with public schools, Suffolk County has given all of its 56 libraries the option, free of charge, to implement the Rave Panic Button alert system, a smartphone-based application to be used for active-shooter or other life-threatening situations. It’s not meant to replace 911 calls, but it’s another tool to call for help.
The system is simple to use, simple to set up and works very well, according to the director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. It offers a peace of mind and security to both visitors and staff.
In Nassau, however, while public schools can take advantage of the system without charge, the 54 public libraries must pay a onetime fee of $450 each to Rave’s developer to connect to emergency responders. That shouldn’t be so. The Nassau Public Library System is very concerned about security. “People are coming in all day and all night, and libraries generally have less security than schools,” said director Jackie Thresher. As Suffolk has done, Nassau County should absorb the initial cost for libraries that want the app. All of our public spaces must be as safe was possible.