Thursday, April 7, 2005

18 small fires at UH library
prompt new security steps

Video cameras will be installed
to deter further acts of arson

Security has been tightened at the University of Hawaii's Hamilton Library after 18 small fires were set inside the facility by an arsonist.

Signs have been posted throughout the library appealing for help from students and others using the library to report any suspicious behavior to a staff member.

The fires have been scattered through stacks of the library areas called Phases I and II, which reopened last week after repairs from the October flooding of the Manoa campus.

UH spokesman Jim Manke said police have been investigating since a stack of newspapers was set on fire March 30 in the Asian Collection on the fourth floor.

Other incidents have mostly involved books set on fire, he said, adding that they either were discovered before they got big or they burned themselves out. "It never got to the point of evacuating anyone."

"It appears that someone is trying to get attention through these malicious acts of vandalism, and frankly, we're not sure just what the point is," said University Librarian Diane Perushek.

After putting so much effort into restoring library services, she said, "It seems really unfortunate to have to divert staff time and inconvenience library users because of the ill-intentioned behavior of what appears to be a single individual.

"The reality is that there is real danger in these actions, and we are forced to institute new security measures to make sure we don't have to deal with a larger problem."

All persons entering the library now are required to sign in and provide a photo identification card, and a video surveillance system is being installed.

More security officers have been hired, and all of them are receiving updated fire safety and arson response training.

The library has a temporary two-way radio communication system and a system of air horns to sound for emergencies until a permanent alarm system is installed.

A contractor's proposal for the system has been approved, and it is moving through the procurement process on an expedited track, Manke said.

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