Teton County Library wants you to know you’re on camera.
At least if you’re in the parking lot. The library has had video cameras trained on the exterior of the building for several years, but the Library Board just approved a video surveillance policy at its July 18 board meeting.
“I’m going through all of our policies,” Library Director Dawn Jenkin said. “It’s all about transparency with the public from the perspective of the library, as well as patron privacy.”
Jenkin, who is still new to the job, has been reviewing the way the library conducts business and evaluating whether any of its policies are in need of an update. When she discovered the library had cameras but no public policy on them, she wrote one.
The policy lays out the reason for the cameras: “to discourage illegal behavior and policy violations, to enhance the opportunity to apprehend offenders, and to provide recorded data relevant to the control of Library security and operations,” and it gives the public an idea of when the information might be used. Since the cameras are only on the parking lot and the yard outside, only activities or incidents in those areas will be caught on video.
Facilities Maintenance Coordinator Kevin Chatham is the only staffer besides her who can see the images, Jenkin said. Chatham checks every morning, she said, mainly to discourage use of the parking lot as a campground or place for people to work on cars or barbecue.
“Space is at a premium in Jackson,” she said. The parking lot “is there for our library patrons.”
Other than being used as an internal tool, the video data can be shared with law enforcement if approved by Jenkin. She said one recent incident highlights the type of occurrence that would qualify. A man drove his car up onto the sidewalk, nearly hitting the building before coming to a stop.
In that instance video could help law enforcement determine what happened and how to proceed. However, Jenkin stressed that no video cameras are inside the library, so patrons are not being filmed while they search computers or check out books.
“We’re not filming anyone inside the library,” she said. “This is really for safety in the parking lot.”
Having worked at other libraries, Jenkin saw the need for a video surveillance policy. She cited a pair of libraries she has worked at. One had a board that didn’t want cameras at all, but its nearness to the police station meant it still had video coverage, and another that was in a high-crime urban area, where “no one questioned the cameras.”
In both cases, she said, video was important in keeping people safe and the library available for patrons, which is why she likes having the cameras, but also why she felt the need to create the policy.
“Understandably we have a great community and people feel safe,” she said. “But we’re a tourist community, too.”