So when I was on my way home from the little flash mob that couldn't Saturday, I ran into the mom of Linda's best friend from her New Frontiers days, Mrs H, at the bus stop. We were chatting and catching up, and she leaned out to look around nervously and said she was nervous even though "he's still in jail."
Obviously I was more than a little concerned, and her explanation really didn't help any. See, Mrs H is the classic working poor--she and her kids live with her mom (I'm not sure whether she & her husband are still together), and they lack internet access at home. So she's one of the non-hobos who go to the library to use the internet (there are a few!). She's also pretty gregarious, as evidenced by the fact that she and I have an actual conversation whenever we run into each other. She's pretty friendly, in other words.
Unfortunately, she befriended the wrong fellow at the library, and one day he pulled her into the sixth floor bathrooms (there is almost never anyone on the sixth floor; since the reorganization I think the only thing up there these days is genealogy and Texana, and the latter at least has its own room) and the story goes pretty much exactly where you'd think it does after that.
So I'm pissed, for reasons both obvious and not. Obviously I'm mad because this gal is a friendly acquaintance and you don't ever want something like that to happen. Also, the story doesn't seem to have made it to local media (though I could be wrong there, as I don't do TV). It's an isolated incident, and she said the guy is still in jail--apparently he finished up with her and went right back to the library-ing, as detectives found him in the building still.
This is a reiteration of the "any time, anywhere" fact of crime. To anyone. It seems that it's legal to carry in libraries here, but of course a person who can't afford an internet connection isn't likely to be able to afford a gun, CHL permit, & classes. And honestly it worries me for the librarians too, who are likely not allowed to carry as a condition of their employment (although, I really hope I'm wrong, and they're all heavily armed). There are security guards at the library, but only a few and they don't patrol very much at all, though I believe they're supposed to. (And, ahem, my ex used to work for the security agency the library uses--they don't even expect their employees to be able to button their own shirts, so I doubt their mall cop skills.) And even if they do patrol, once again it's a numbers game. They're going to be on the floors with the most people.
The only precautions I can think of are proscriptive. Don't talk to strangers. Don't go to the sixth floor of the Central Library. Don't go to the library at all. No one wants to live a life dictated by fear, and with that comes a great deal of risk. Kudos to her; she is pushing through that fear (she said she went to a counseling session at the Rape Crisis Center & it wasn't any help). I guess the rest of us just need to be aware and be careful. I hope there's some requirement in place to warn at least the library employees about what happened, but I let my mother know the last time we talked, and she said she'd make sure the reference librarians she knows hear about it too. Chances of something like that happening again? I don't know. I do know the possibility has always existed, and there's a fairly good chance it's happened before and was successfully kept quiet.