In Case of Campus Shooter, Alkek has a Plan

todayOctober 22, 2015 48

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Kasandra Garza
News Reporter

Alkek Library. Photo by Daryan Jones
Photo by Daryan Jones

Alkek library is the size of seven football fields and had more than 11 thousand students walk through its doors on the first day of classes this year. In the event of a campus shooting, Texas State University Librarian Joan Heath said why she  thinks the library could be a target and steps staff and students should take if the situation were to occur.

Heath said a plan was developed about five years ago in the case of a campus shooter, where the library staff worked with the University Police Department for what she refers to as the “active shooter program.” Officers met with different units in the library and discussed an active shooter situation and watched a film to physically see how to handle the situation.

According to Heath, staff periodically reviews the active shooter program to stay “refreshed” on safety. Heath said things discussed during the “active shooter program” include being aware of your environment in the library and taking notice of where your exits are.

Basic guidelines library staff was told to follow are to get out of the area if possible. If that is not an option, the next step is to hide. Heath said as a last resort, staff was told to fight, and as soon as you reach an area of safety, staff was told to contact police.

“If you become aware that something like this is going on, their advice is run. Don’t stick around. And that’s hard when you know people are using your building but you can’t help them you know? Have an escape route. So you need to know, what are your options? Leave your belongings, just go. If you have to, just hide. As a last resort, only if your life is in imminent danger, fight.”

Heath said that as far as she knows, she is not aware of any staff members planning to carry weapons once concealed campus carry goes into effect.

However, when it became apparent that concealed carry was likely to be passed, staff voiced their concerns and asked if the library can be part of an “exemption” where weapons will not be allowed inside. Though she passed the information on to University officials, she is still unaware if the exemption will be granted.

“The library is just like class rooms, I think the way the legislation was written, there’s limits to how far the university can block certain areas. I think we will have to just follow what the law is and train our staff the best we can.”

Heath said the one incident that caught staff attention was when a former colleague at Alkek library was shot and killed by a coworker in a library at San Antonio Community College Northeast Lakeview in October 2008.

“That’s pretty close to home when someone that a number of us worked with was killed in the workplace. Libraries are open places. Anyone can come into the library. We want anyone to come into the library but sometimes, unfortunately, you can get unusual behavior.”

Heath said although students should go to UPD for information regarding how to stay safe during a shooting event, the best advice she could give is to be aware of your surroundings.

“If I were a student in the library or anywhere else on campus, I would be aware of where you are. Train your mind and think where would I go? And try and leave? If you can’t, then hide. And if you absolutely as a last resort, just fight.”

However, Heath said a shooting can happen in any building on campus, because the library is “open,” makes it a target.

Heath said even if students and staff are uncomfortable with campus carry, it is going to be law the university and library has to follow and all that she can do is train staff to handle a shooting situation as safely as they can.

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