Jackson County Library officials have decided to hire a security guard to deal with unusual problems at the Medford Central Library

A few months ago, one man struck another for no apparent reason at Medford's Central Library.

Then last week, a 13-year-old girl who was distraught after running away from home had to be calmed down.

These and other problems have prompted library officials to hire a security guard for all hours of operation to deal with situations beyond the scope of a librarian.

This is really not what the library staff are trained to deal with, said Meghan O'Flaherty, Medford library manager.

Jackson County Library Director Ronnie Budge defended the decision to hire EBM Security Inc. of Medford in April for about &

36;45,000 a year, despite recent budget cutbacks that resulted in reduced library hours and fewer staff members.
— She said a security guard will allow librarians to devote their time and energy to helping customers instead of quelling disputes.

The security guard, for example, was able to calm down the 13-year-old girl and call police to pick her up. On another occasion, he stopped a man who was spitting on the stairway and made him clean the mess. Just recently, he dealt with a man who appeared to be unconscious outside the building but was drunk. And he caught another man looking at pornography on the Internet and told him to stop or leave the building.

Our goal is not to arrest anyone, said Warren Osborn, chief of security for EBM. Our goal is to make sure everybody has a safe and pleasant visit.

So far he has been able to talk people into following the rules. But Osborn does have pepper spray and handcuffs in case someone really gets out of line.

The biggest part of my job is negotiation, he said.

On Wednesday, a youth wheeled a bicycle into the library and knocked over a trash can.

Osborn reminded him that bicycles aren't allowed in the building and gently escorted him to the door.

Since April, he's stopped teen arguments, prevented someone from stealing library materials, helped an autistic child get home and assisted someone whose motorcycle had been stolen.

O'Flaherty said that with fewer staff, it has become more difficult for librarians to patrol every corner of a building that is five times the size of the former Carnegie library. Also, the number of patrons at the circulation desk has increased by 30 percent.

We don't have the supervision capability that we used to have, she said.

Even at the former facility, O'Flaherty said librarians would have welcomed having a security guard because of similar problems.

Library patron Aaron McCord said he liked the idea of a guard, particularly because the library is such a public place.

It doesn't seem like people are good at policing themselves, said the Medford father of two. I think to have security and keep people safe is the most important thing.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail