San Francisco librarians rally outside of city's main library, demand more security guards and safety measures

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - On Tuesday, April 9th, hundreds of librarians and other library personnel rallied in front of the city's main library demanding the city hire more security guards.

In addition to hiring more security guards at all of the city library branches, they want the city to hire more full-time employees. According to KALW, there are almost 4,000 government positions that need to be filled as the city staffing crisis continues. The staffing issues are particularly pressing at the various libraries where employees work not only as librarians, but also as social workers, caretakers and even security guards.

Library worker and chapter president for the SF Librarians' Guild Nicole Germain said, "We want to tell the city how important it is to have a security guard at every single location because not only do the library workers deserve to be safe, but so do the residents of San Francisco." She said that security guards are desperately needed. 

She, herself has had very scary experiences. Germain said, "I have had very severe incidents. I had a strong duty to protect the children." Several of the demonstrators at the rally said that library workers have been forced to intervene in dangerous situations that at times, can turn physical. 

Germain shared one of her experiences, saying, "So, one day, it was a typical day after, after school we had a multitude of children coming in. As I was doing my rounds, you know, in my security duty, I noticed a half-dressed man, mentally unstable, wielding not a book, but a weapon."

Fortunately, in that incident, Germain was able to de-escalate the situation and the city has since placed a security guard at the Portola branch library, but there are still more than a dozen San Francisco branches without security guards. Germain said, "So, what do we need? We need a guard at every branch! We have, yes, we have been fighting for this since 2019. We have spoked to the Board of Supervisors. We have brought this to labor management. We've brought it to bargaining three times."

She added, "This is the third time we are bringing this to the bargaining table. Second round we got three guards and I am one of the lucky ones who got one. This year we are trying for more and they are telling us, 'No, no guards are needed' and we believe that is false."

Currently, the unions are in the middle of contract negotiations with the city and various sectors are asking for many things, but nearly all of them are frustrated with the city's hiring process. Kristin Hardy, regional vice president of SEIU-1021 said that the city's hiring process can take up to an entire year. 

She said, "And by that time, by the time you call the applicant, they've already accepted a job somewhere else. So, it's just a revolving cycle, which causes the vacancy to go on longer and longer." The union said that instead of speeding up the hiring process, the city prioritizes working with private contractors, which actually tend to cost more money.

Hardy said, "We have some contracts that we've identified through the Department of Public Health that are over like $24 million. That's been going on since 2014. Just keeps getting renewed, renewed, renewed because of the staffing problem."

Since getting the security guard at the Portola library, Germain said that her staff and the patrons feel a whole lot safer. She said, "Not only do my staff feel safe, but also the patrons. We have kids, teachers, many of them have come up to me and said, 'thank you.' Having that guard in the branch, it brings the cortisol levels down."

District One Supervisor Connie Chan was at the rally, showing her support for the cause and saying that she plans on discussing the issue with the board. Chan said, "This is not San Francisco. We should not let this go this far. They are librarians, they are not security guards, they are not police. I think we need better protocols in public spaces, including our libraries." 

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