Students fearing the stacks of Perkins Library can study more easily, thanks to $27,000 in new safety changes implemented at the end of spring semester.
Spurred by an attempted attack in a single bathroom in February, library officials used recommendations from a Duke University Police Department survey to determine what changes to make.
Perkins has installed locks on the outer doors of all single bathrooms, hardwired the lights in larger bathrooms so they cannot be turned off, installed half-dome mirrors in elevators and in stairwells with blind corners, repaired outside lighting, trimmed shrubs and trees around the building and installed phones on each floor of the stacks.
Ashley Jackson, head of library access at Perkins, stressed the importance of students being aware of their surroundings. "It is very important that students take advantage of these changes, especially using locks on the single bathrooms," he said.
Last Feburary, an attacker reportedly entered an unlocked third-floor library bathroom, turned off the lights and attempted to restrain a female student who was then able to fend him off. Signs have been placed on single bathroom doors reminding students to lock the doors behind them.
Some students said they were not aware of the new changes.
"The stacks can be a little creepy, especially the small study rooms," said junior Anna Froneberger. "It would have been nice to know [about safety changes]."
But the additions have not gone unnoticed by all. A note received in the library suggestion box reads, "Thank you for putting a lock on the fourth floor women's bathroom; it is much appreciated by those of us up there working when no one's around."
Rebecca Gomez, head of the interlibrary loan department, said that she also felt safe at her job, but offered a suggestion for future changes to ensure employee safety in particular.
"Often when we come in through the back door on weekends or at night there are no lights on," she said. She also noted that she has to walk far to and from her car, which can be intimidating after dark.
Jackson said there have been no serious incidents in the library or its branches. He added, however, that there have been minor thefts, reports of suspicious characters and people exposing themselves in the stacks.
Similar changes are beginning to be implemented in the branch libraries on a smaller scale. Although no future changes are scheduled in Perkins, Jackson said security concerns would be considered as Perkins gears up for major renovations next year.
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"The new areas will be more open and visible and allow more space for older sections," he said. "Also, the lights will be centrally controlled in all public areas."