Edward Kristan | Movers & Shakers 2020–Community Builders

As a homeschooled kid in Gurnee, IL, Eddie Kristan found his lifeline at the Warren-Newport Public Library (WNPL). "The library provided me with books and a safe place to read and watch media," he says, recalling how he read all seven banned-at-home Harry Potter books there. But even more importantly, the library gave him the human contact he craved.

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

Safety & Security Supervisor, Warren-Newport Public Library, Gurnee, IL

DEGREE

BA, Lake Forest College, 2012; MLIS expected August 2020, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

FAST FACT

Has been the bingo caller for the library’s Bingo in the Books fundraiser, doing the job much better than the former profit-eating pro

FOLLOW

@EdwardJFKristan (Twitter); @giantlibrarian (Goodreads)

Photo by Bob Schatz

 

Safety and Empathy

As a homeschooled kid in Gurnee, IL, Eddie Kristan found his lifeline at the Warren-Newport Public Library (WNPL). "The library provided me with books and a safe place to read and watch media," he says, recalling how he read all seven banned-at-home Harry Potter books there. But even more importantly, the library gave him the human contact he craved.

Now, as the security supervisor at that same library, he tries hard to make it a safe place for the staff and roughly 1,800 patrons who seek its services every day, without losing sight of its value as a "community center for any and all information needs," he says.

Before Kristan started working at WNPL, security meant kicking out patrons for both major and minor issues. According to Executive Director Ryan Livergood, Kristan turned the department and his team "upside down" and built relationships with public service staff as well as formerly "troublemaker" teens, people with mental health issues, and others. And everything he does is imbued with core library values.

Kristan says he’s wrestled with how to balance safety with service, setting up procedures for active shooter, missing child, fire, and tornado drills "to make sure staff are confident and prepared," not "traumatized."

The key to all issues, for Kristan, is empathy. "If somebody needs to use a speakerphone because they’re hard of hearing, you can get them to a private study room or the vending area or the lobby instead of just shutting them down," he says. "I’m approaching this person to facilitate [their needs]," adding that his method "changes your voice, and it changes your appearance." Under Kristan, suspensions are way down—two or three a month tops rather than nightly occurrences.

Suspensions are saved for serious infractions—using demeaning, foul, or abusive language directed at staff and other patrons, for instance, or vandalism. But even then, his approach is nonconfrontational. "As soon as [people] feel shamed or talked down to, it’s going to escalate," Kristan says.

While there are plenty of ugly incidents he can’t de-escalate, the support of Livergood and the staff keep him going. "I love my job. It can be crazy, but the people here are my family. And because I’ve been able to be a part of the positive mission of the library instead of just the reactive mission of security, I wouldn’t want to do anything else," he says. Even when he gets his MLIS, he wants to "stay open and…be the librarian my community needs." 

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