(WSVN) - 7News has learned about a number of disturbing — even sexually explicit — incidents inside Broward County Libraries. And one librarian is not being quiet anymore. 7’s Vanessa Medina has our special assignment report, “Check This Out.”
“Masturbating in library.”
“Viewing pornography and taking photos of the screen.”
“Exposed genitals to customer.”
These are three of the hundreds of incidents that have gotten people suspended from Broward County Libraries.
7News has obtained documents outlining lewd, disruptive, sometimes violent conduct going back more than a decade.
Elizabeth Rafael: “Surprise me? No, in the day and age we live in, but we’ve never had that experience here.”
But this librarian has had that experience. She says these types of activities are not new to her and believes staff and customers are at risk.
Donna Chase: “Somebody has to say, ‘What is going on?’ That it is not safe. We have logs and logs and logs of disruptive customers that come into the library. You know, it is not an unusual occurrence. It is an everyday occurrence.”
Donna Chase is the wife of 7News legal analyst Howard Finkelstein. She has also been a Broward County Librarian for 15 years, and says librarians should not have to police the facilities.
Donna Chase: “We do stand up and we do back each other up. But that shouldn’t be our job.”
Last month, an incident shook Chase and other staff at the West Regional Library in Plantation on a Sunday, when there was no security guard on duty.
Donna Chase: “When he was told to stop singing, he became agitated and started cursing and screaming and yelling racial epithets.”
Police were called to escort the man out of the library.
The 39-year-old, who has served time in prison for aggravated stalking, allegedly called back with threats.
Donna Chase: “‘I’m gonna ‘f’ you up, I’m gonna come get you. You’re dead.'”
Then, there’s the man who was tasered by police in 2015. According to a police report, he threw chairs inside the library and screamed, “…I’m Isis, the Egyptian God, and I’m all-powerful.”
This year, library incidents include “sexual misconduct” and “disruptive and abusive behavior.”
Laura Connors: “We are a safe place.”
Laura Connors is the Acting Libraries Director.
She points to the fact that incidents occur with just a tiny fraction of the 7.6 million customers who visit the county’s 36 branches per year.
Laura Connors: “We are a public library. We are open to everyone. We are not a school library, where people have to show an ID to come in. We open up the doors and the public comes in. And that’s our purpose.”
As for viewing porn on public computers, filters block certain websites, and a code of conduct prohibits viewing them.
Laura Connors: “Do people do it occasionally? Yes. But our staff is also instructed, as are our security guards. It’s not a major problem, no.”
Security guards had already been on patrol here at West Regional Library six days a week. But now, Sundays have been added, too. And, while not all libraries have security guards, the director says Broward County spends $1.3 million a year on their salaries. According to her, that’s more than Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties combined.
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