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San Francisco Public Library workers picket, demand increased safety

San Francisco Public Library workers picket over safety
San Francisco Public Library workers picket over safety 03:48

Workers with the San Francisco Public Library walked the picket line Tuesday in hopes of getting city leader's attention. They said the city's drug and homelessness crisis is spilling into the public libraries, and they need more security help. 

Nicole Termini Germain has been working in the library system for more than 30 years, she says over the years things have become worse and she fears someone is going to get hurt.

"We were not trained to do this type of work in library school," Termini Germain said.

Termini Germain brought a stack of incident reports with her, saying she has dozens from the past month.

"We could fill a whole library with all these incidents," she said.

Termini Germain works as a branch manager at the Portola Children's Library. They bargained for a guard back in 2022, after she said they had an incident that could have become a tragedy.

"I have nightmares about this incident," Termini Germain said. "To this day, I will never forget it."

She says it was a normal day, school had just let out and the library was filled with small children.

"Then I saw a half-dressed man clearly mentally unstable, wielding a weapon," Termini Germain recalled. "He was walking around the library, cussing at people and threatening to stab them."

Termini Germain tried to call library security and they were across the city. She called 911, but they didn't respond quickly enough.

The burden to get rid of the man and keep the children safe, fell on her.

"I got him out there and he started threatening a large group of preschoolers who were sitting on the floor, and he was cussing at them and threatening them with this weapon," Termini Germain said. "I, feeling that strong sense of duty to protect the people, stepped between the man with the weapon and the children. I stood between them and I said, 'No thank you.' If he had not left, I may not be standing here today."

San Francisco Public Library workers picket over employee safety, April 9, 2024. CBS

While the workers protested outside on the Main Library entrances, around the corner several people experiencing homelessness were camping on the street.

An unhoused woman named Jasmine believes library workers shouldn't be specifically concerned about people in her situation.

She says they may actually need the library the most. 

"If a homeless person on drugs is going to the library, I salute them, at least their trying to stimulate their mind." Jasmine said.

In a statement the Michelle Jeffers, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Public library, says that security issues have been improving and library leaders don't believe all of their 27 branches need security.

"Our branch libraries are much safer today than they were a decade ago," Jeffers said. "Security incidents are down 13.8% year-over-year this past February, and SFPL had 7 branches with zero security incidents and 6 branches with one security incident during that time. In the month of March, we had a total of 114 security incidents across the system, out of some 320,000 visitors to our libraries that month. Statistically speaking that volume is very low, especially when you consider that our libraries are all open seven days per week, for a total of 1,462  weekly hours of operation."

Still, Jeffers said they are prioritizing security.

"We have also not shied away from investments in this space, the Library has budgeted $7.8 million in the FY24 budget for safety and security investments," Jeffers said.

But Termini Germain said if conditions on the streets outside of the libraries don't improve, it may keep some people away.

"I know a number of people who will not bring thier children to this main library," Termini Germain said. "I'm a parent, and that breaks my heart. I don't even want to bring my children to the main library."

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