Humanities Librarian University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte, North Carolina
Background: During the spring 2019 semester, an active shooting took place in a building located next to an academic library on campus. Five students were injured and two were killed. Many library staff and faculty were on campus at the time and sheltered in place; including several that had students with them during the incident. This paper will discuss the library’s response after the shooting and activities and programming to support library staff and students as the new school year began. The paper will also give perspective and advice on how to potentially respond to an event like this
Description: The library was open the day after the shooting to allow patrons to pick up items they abandoned during their evacuation and to allow students to study. Broken doors, abandoned electronics, and half-eaten snacks created an unsettling tableau of the past day’s panic and uncertainty, which made it difficult for library employees to work that day. Library leadership identified the need for employees to undergo optional active shooter training and receive more targeted support from campus counseling. Campus counseling services focused on helping employees identify students in crisis and how to guide them to proper resources for assistance, along with supporting co-workers showing signs of post-traumatic stress and trauma. Several librarians identified a need to have organized activities to welcome students back on campus and reintroduce the library as a safe space at the start of the new academic year.
Conclusion: To help reestablish the library as a safe space for learning, community, and growth, a student engagement committee was formed of library faculty and staff. This committee takes a holistic approach to support student wellness and will work alongside campus partners to plan events that encourage self-care, community, and fun. Staff and faculty have continued to be encouraged to participate in on-campus counseling that has been provided by the university. One library faculty member is serving on the campus Remembrance Committee, which is planning activities and making decisions about the campus’ response to the incident.