Abington Library Likely to Get Security Cameras

It's a busy day every day at the Abington Free Library. Teachers, students and families check out books and browse the Internet. It's common to see tutors instructing students and senior volunteers occupying the tables. 

Last Tuesday, the library had 1,900 visitors in a day.

"We are a public building, like a mall," said library director Nancy Hammeke Marshall. "With more visitors, tempers are shorter than they used to be."

Last week, a book that someone damaged was found in the men's bathroom. Over the past year, the cars belonging to library workers have been vandalized and library staff has experienced a number of argumentative visitors. Incidents like these have prompted Marshall to ask for surveillance cameras to be installed inside the library.

"The library is a safe place to be 99 percent of the time. People are courteous and wonderful. We're just covering our bases," said Marshall.

After 18 years as the library director, Marshall says she has seen it all. She underscores that while the disruptive patrons are small in number, the cameras would help protect the staff, the library's contents and the majority of visitors who use the library -- people like Devin Sweeney and her children.

"I don't know what I'd do without the library," said Sweeney, a teacher who lives in the township.

Sweeney uses the library as a go-to activity to get her two small children out of the house. They get tired of the sprinkler and water balloons, she says. Her daughter Rose has a teen reading buddy as part of the Abington Reads program. 

"I love reading," said Rose Sweeney, 6.

North Penn High School teacher Jonathan Rockey also frequents the Abington Free Library.

"Every once and a while there's a weird confrontation," said Rockey. "I'm not opposed to the cameras because it's kinda sad that you to resort to it. That seems to be a trend in public life."

Shameka Bowser comes here to work on her resume and study for the final portion of her dental hygienist exam. 

"I've never felt unsafe, but you do live in a world where you have to worry about what people will do," said Bowser. "You can't even go to the movies anymore."

Marshall's surveillance camera request went to township manager Michael LeFevre who passed it along for consideration. The Abington Public Affairs Committee, a sub-committee of the Board of Commissioners, discussed and approved the proposal during their committee meeting last week.

"It's not a done deal, so to speak," said Peggy Myers, president of the Abington Board of Commissioners. 

The proposal will go before the entire Commissioners Board at its next meeting this Thursday. 

"We don't have a problem approving it, but we need more information about what we are approving it for and the magnitude of the problem," said Commissioner Wayne Luker. 

Luker said he also needs to understand more about who is covering the estimated $10,000 cost.

According to Myers, the money would come from Abington Township's contingency fund. Each year, the township allocates a portion of its budget to cover unanticipated expenses.

Marshall plans to contact other libraries in the Commonwealth to acquire their best practices on video surveillance as the Abington Free Library develops and finalizes its plan.

A few weeks ago, the entire 45 member staff went through active shooter training. With a growing emphasis placed on safety at the library, for supporters of the idea, adding surveillance cameras seems to make a lot of sense.

"The feeling was, with the world we live in, this was a necessary move. I was surprised we didn't already have them," said Myers.

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