Concerned By Library Director’s Behavior

To The Editor:

Concerned about the happenings at Booth Library since Director Shawn Fields took over on July 1st, I attended the library focus group session on August 24th. Unfortunately, I came away with additional concerns. I am deeply concerned about the work environment of the staff. I am perplexed and disappointed about losing Andrea Zimmermann from that staff. And I certainly don't think making big changes when brand-spanking new to a job shows much wisdom.

But what I find completely unacceptable is something the new director related to us. Recently Mr Fields conducted personal safety and security training with his staff – with “our” staff. I asked him if I understood correctly that he personally had conducted the training (he confirmed he had) and if he is qualified to do so. While no doubt he believes himself to be qualified, I remain unconvinced. His decision to conduct this “training” surpasses unprofessional and moves into the realm of negligent and even dangerous. While Mr Fields may have received extensive personal safety training himself, he should not have assumed the role of instructor for the following reasons:

1) How can we be sure that what was taught to our library staff is, indeed, recommended procedure by actual security experts? What if Mr Fields taught methods that conflict with accepted practice?

2) Could Newtown be liable if a crisis at the library were to be exacerbated by poorly trained staff? Imagine the almost comical answer to the question, “Who taught your personal safety class?”: The library director, of course!

3) I am certain this “training” was done without proper care and sensitivity. Extraordinary caution should be used with a population that has experienced a traumatic event, in order to not further traumatize those being trained. When I asked Mr Fields to please remember he doesn't fully understand what Newtown is experiencing, he countered by describing a violent and gruesome crime to which he had connections. It was inappropriate and insensitive to tell such a repulsive story and it certainly didn't illustrate to me any level of understanding. In fact, it illustrated the very lack of sensitivity to which I had alluded. If I were a member of the library board, I would be asking a lot of questions of the staff about that training.

I encourage thorough safety and security training of our library staff and I applaud Mr Fields' stated intention of providing further training in the future, conducted by professionals. But that doesn't negate the dismally poor judgment and recklessness demonstrated in conducting the first round of “training” on his own.

It is my hope that the C.H. Booth Library Board realizes what is clear to increasingly more library patrons: Mr. Fields is not a good fit for Newtown. We expect our library staff to be treated with the respect, professionalism and courtesy they deserve, enabling our beloved library to remain the warm, friendly, comforting environment – even refuge – that it has been for so long.

Respectfully Submitted,

Wendy Leon-Gambetta

Sawmill Ridge Road, Newtown                   August 27, 2013

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