San Jose Librarians: We're Afraid We're Next

23 Jun, 2021 Liz Carey


San Jose, CA ( – Just weeks after a San Clara Valley Transit Authority employee entered his workplace and opened fire on his coworkers, librarians for the San Jose Public Library fear they might be next.

From breaking up fights to finding bloody clothing in bathrooms to escorting disturbing patrons out of the building, librarians feel their position as frontline workers is making them vulnerable to attack.  

Benjamin Martinez, a library employee, recently started a petition on asking the city of San Jose to prioritize protecting library employees at the city’s 24 branches to prevent them from becoming the next victims. 

In his petition, Martinez said, “Library staff have been expected to take on the brunt of navigating around disturbing, aggressive and violent incidents. The lack of support and accountability from both city and library department administration has resulted in multiple staff being harassed, threatened and assaulted throughout the years. The recent horrific event is a continued reminder of the jeopardy we as public servants, as well as the patrons and their families we serve, are subjected and made vulnerable to.” 

“The libraries are designated safe places,” Martinez told the San José Spotlight. “But sometimes it’s hard to feel comfortable working there.” 

Martinez told the paper he and his coworkers have not only taken care of separating violent patrons but also worked to get dangerous ones out of the building. 

Amber Hargraves, a library employee, said she’s one of the ones who is afraid. 

“I love working at the library and with the community. Unfortunately I don't always feel safe at work,” Hargraves said in response to Martinez’s petition. “I have had my life threatened, I've been spit at, verbally attacked, and sexually harassed. I've had canned food and computer monitors thrown at my face.” 

The San Jose library has more than 600 employees. Previously, two full-time security guards and one part-time guard patrolled the branches. Since the pandemic, that number has dropped to one. 

Now, in confrontational or dangerous situations, workers call library security and the San Jose Police Department. In many cases, employees of the library said, the police respond late or not at all.

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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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