Cook Library updates safety plans for Vernon Hills, Libertyville branches
Aspen Drive Library manager David Archer (left) looks through the library's new emergency manual with retired Illinois State Police officer Michael Sliozis, the consultant on the manual. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 2:11AM
VERNON HILLS — New security training is now happening at both branches of Cook Memorial Public Library, after a nearby robbery raised questions about safety two years ago.
“The library wasn’t open at the time but our staff inside still didn’t know how to handle the situation,” said David Archer, manager of Aspen Drive library.
Three young men broke into the La Tienda del Pueblo Mexican grocery store, at 115 E. Town Line Road in Vernon Hills, in May 2011 and attempted to rob the store. After police arrived, two of the men fled out the back door and were cornered behind Aspen Drive Library.
Although the men were caught, library administrators said they remained concerned about safety and reached out to Libertyville resident Mike Sliozis. The retired Illinois State Police officer has experience in conducting independent safety audits on buildings and organizations.
That summer, Sliozis analyzed the Vernon Hills and Libertyville library campuses.
Archer said he was in shock after reading Sliozis’ 25-page report.
“When we first embarked on this endeavor to review and update our policies, I don’t think we realized how needy we were,” Archer said. “A lot of the suggestions were things we didn’t realize or think of.”
Sliozis recommended policies for missing children incidents, water leaks, power outages, theft, domestic violence, natural disasters and external threats.
“Back in the good old days all you had to worry about was tornadoes,” Sliozis said. “Now we commonly look at what to do if you’re located near a major road and there’s an accident resulting in a chemical spill. How do you keep the people inside the library safe?”
The answers, Sliozis listed, are to lock the doors, turn off air conditioning or heating ventilators, and then close external vents.
But Archer said two other problems grew from that solution: Who’s in charge and what if an engineer is not in the building?
“A facility needs a decision-maker,” Sliozis said. “Responsibilities have to be delegated immediately. You can’t waste time finding someone at home or determining who is ranked higher.”
Cook’s previous policy put the ranking administrator in charge, however, Archer said most administrators work standard business hours.
“There is a reference librarian in the library at all times,” Archer said. “We decided that whoever is the sitting librarian will be the go-to person. That desk is also centrally located and easy to get to.”
The library’s new 100-page emergency manual details directions for handling 15 categorized situations. All directions are also accompanied by photographs and guides to key areas of the building.
Throughout February, all of Cook’s 106 workers must read the new manual, and take corresponding open-book and interactive quizzes.
“I’ve seen their new book and for a quasi-public institution, they did a great job addressing situations and making the content very user-friendly,” Sliozis said. “I’ve not seen anyone else construct manuals to this level of effectiveness. I’d like to take some credit for it, but I only identified weaknesses and possible solutions. They chose the course of action and build the manual on their own.”