HomeCity NewsBurbank Library Director Resigns Amid Safety Conditions Outcry

Burbank Library Director Resigns Amid Safety Conditions Outcry

Library Services Director Elizabeth Goldman announced her resignation Wednesday, on the heels of a May 25 news report by the Leader about safety conditions for library workers and patrons, and a tense exchange between Goldman and the City Council on Tuesday about the report’s findings.

The resignation — announced via a statement by the city and effective July 5 — said that Goldman is “set to embark on a new professional journey outside the public sector,” and did not link the director’s departure to safety concerns.

“Serving the Burbank community has been a privilege,” Goldman stated. “The library’s achievements are a testament to the hard work and passion of our staff. I am confident that they will continue to steer the library towards an even brighter future.”

Elizabeth Goldman

Library staff continued to shed light on safety concerns at the Tuesday council meeting, again asking for increased physical safety measures at the library’s three branch sites, including functional security cameras and on-site security, as the frequency of incidents rises each year.

“I would suggest that one way we could [ensure safety] is making sure that all of our security cameras work and are monitored, so that when a librarian gets punched in the face, we have definitive proof of who did that and we can prevent them from coming into the library,” said library monitor Glen Dunzweiler.

Dunzweiler, who also called for on-site security Tuesday, works on a temporary basis and is supposed to de-escalate incidents as they occur, though he told the Leader previously that he doesn’t have the tools to handle dangerous situations and his job description is a “gray area.”

Most often, those incidents are verbal outbursts by patrons, which sometimes escalate into threats of violence. Other troubling activity recorded in library incident reports includes sexual harassment and hate speech, destruction of library property, death threats made against library staff and patrons, public masturbation and physical assault, which occurs about once yearly, Goldman said Tuesday.

She spoke about the safety concerns at the meeting, comparing the conditions in Burbank to those at other city’s library systems and cited the COVID-19 pandemic and evolving mental health challenges nationwide as contributors to heightened levels of stress at local libraries.

“I am acutely aware of this stress that these challenges cause for staff,” she said. “We are working every day to make the best decisions possible to support wellness and opportunity for our staff and public alike.”

Prior to her statements, a 24-year library veteran, Hubert Kozak, told the council that cameras have not been functional for years at the Buena Vista library branch, adding that there are no cameras installed at all at the Northwest branch. The cameras at the Central branch, he said, are rarely switched on and produce blurry images in the few times they are used, calling them “useless from a security point of view.”

Kozak cited a quote from the May article in the Leader. When the Leader asked the city if the camera systems were operational, the city replied, “functional security cameras are operational during library service hours.”

“Is this what passes for telling the truth in this city? Is this the public transparency that citizens living in Burbank should expect from city officials?” Kozak asked.

Led by Councilwoman Zizette Mullins, council members pressed Goldman and City Manager Justin Hess on the security camera issue following her remarks Tuesday.

“There is a citywide physical security project that all departments are collectively working on, and that will resolve the security cameras,” Goldman said.

In addition to those citywide efforts, Mayor Nick Schultz asked that Hess report back on library-specific safety efforts “on the earliest feasible timeline.”

First published in the June 8 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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