November 30, 2008

Horror in the Library

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Although this story took place at the University of Illinois, it could conceivably have occurred at any college campus. A sex offender carrying a three-inch folding knife was recently arrested at 2:30 in the morning in the university’s undergraduate library. The scary part? He may have been living there for a few days behind movable bookshelves.

The offender was a 21-year old non-student. Police originally believed he had been living there for a while since security guards had seem him in the building for a few days and noticed a blanket by the movable bookshelves that was presumably his since he had a blanket with him when he was arrested. But the library stated that since library staff and security guards walk through the building several times a day, it would have been impossible for him to live there. Since then, the University Police said that as of now, there would be no way to tell whether he had been living there or not. So at best we are left with ambiguity.

The point is, however, that, it is not inconceivable that something like this would happen. Friends of mine have joked about spending the night or living for a few days in the library stacks. I am not someone who trusts there are cameras covering every single area I walk through, or that, if there were, security guards are constantly attentive to every single camera. And no matter what security measures are put out, we must be honest and admit there are ways to thwart or avoid them. Develop a better mousetrap, and you will inevitably get a smarter mouse.

But even if a miscreant couldn’t find a way to live in the library, could something like this still happen? I have been in stacks during times of day or night when I was the only person in the room. If I had been attacked then, what would have ensued?

When I heard about this story, I felt it would be of particular interest to students, many of whom spend much of their time in the library, and perhaps more so in the next few weeks as finals approach. It is not my intent to scare you, but I leave it to you to decide how to react.