Public Library Safety & Security Toolkit

Calgary Public Library – Teen Gaming Centre


Incident Tracking & Reporting

Once an incident does happen, library staff need to know how to deal with the situation both in the moment and after the fact. This section gives examples and directions on how to report and track incidents. It provides examples of the type of software some libraries are using to manage and track incidents, including observations about the system and who’s responsibility it is to fill out. Another relevant resource highlighted in this section is a checklist for post-incident action steps.

Where Incident Tracking & Reporting Fits in the Library Journey

Incident tracking and reporting fits into various stages along the library journey. Most apparently, it fits within the incident response stage as reporting and tracking an incident is in response to an incident happening. It also fits into incident recovery as staff and management can use the incident tracking software to report to other branch and regional staff. By keeping a record of those involved in an incident, this also fits into incident prevention, as looking through the reports can help prevent those who are suspended from using the library services (both local and regional depending on the suspension type). Staff debriefing is also an integral part of incident follow-up.

Key Considerations

During an incident, it is important for library staff to know what to do, who to call, how to report, and who’s role it is to report. It is equally important for staff to be on the same page about every aspect of an accident including definitions and vocabulary. When developing or selecting a tool to manage and track incidents and suspensions, some key considerations are:

  • Privacy requirements in policy and legislation –  Edmonton Public Library regularly reminds staff that information included in incident reports are subject to FOIP and could one day be read by the customer.
  • Staff permissions – who is allowed to view or edit what parts of an incident and suspension?
  • Notifications – who should be notified when an incident occurs? Is this configurable by incident type?
  • Suspension expiry – do suspensions automatically expire in the tool after a specified end date? Is there manual work required by staff?

Examples & Templates

A handful of off-the-shelf software solutions for incident and/or suspension tracking are in use amongst Canadian libraries, including:

Hamilton Public Library

Hamilton Public Library has created a software called the Incident Management System, an online reporting system to track and record incidents. The main benefit of having an online system is:

  • Better communication and the potential for timely follow-up;
  • Ability to create views that enable sharing of appropriate information to staff;
  • Ability to sort and view in different ways; and
  • Ability to generate reports.

In their observations about the system, Hamilton Public Library has said that “equipping staff with more information – has been helpful. In the absence of timely and accurate information the staff rumour mill gets a lot of energy. Better transparency and communication have reduced that a lot. We also have a responsibility to equip staff with the information to ensure we maintain a healthy and safe environment and to effectively manage risks associated with customer behaviour”.

The Incident Management System has different components to relay all the information to all staff. These sections include:

  • Incident landing page – Incidents can be viewed by location, category, and date.
  • Active bans page –This page is available to all staff, but they are not able to go see the details of the actual incidents. Staff can see a picture and the name of the person involved in the incident, when available.
  • History of violence – To comply with Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act HPL keeps a list of people who have acted in a way that would indicate they either threatened violence, have had a weapon, or acted in a violent way.
  • Incident report form – This is what staff complete when recording an incident. Staff are advised to be factual and avoid editorializing when recording incidents, they are subject to Freedom of Information Requests.
  • Staff actions tab – This tab provides staff with the ability to indicates actions taken.
  • Review tab – Is reviewed by managers, health and safety coordinators and a security supervisor. All can leave additional comments.
  • Senior Leadership team review – On Mondays a small team of people meet to review the incidents from the previous week. The Team includes (Director Finance & Facilities, Security Supervisor, H & S Coordinator, Assistant to the CEO). Incidents right up until the point of the meeting can reviewed by the Team. The Security Review makes recommendations for SLT (formerly called Administration) to consider and discuss at the Tuesday weekly meeting. On Tuesdays SLT formally approved actions and the Admin Assistant to the CEO issues banning letters.

Calgary Public Library

For post-incident follow-up, the Calgary Public Library has an approach that ensures staff have an opportunity to debrief from these situations as soon as possible following the incident. It includes:

  • What is a debrief? – It is time for staff to be off the floor and go over an incident with the staff involved and a supervisor. Debriefs typically last between 5-15 minutes and allows time to discuss how the incident played out, time for different people who were involved to share information and share how they are feeling about the resolution or lack of resolution as well as look at next steps.
  • The purpose of the debrief – to ensure staff have time to process an incident, prevent rumination, and help staff better shed the effects of incidents to prevent it from building up and affecting staff in more significant ways.
  • Who should be involved? – The onsite supervisor can help to identify a situation where a debrief would be helpful and arrange coverage for staff to be off the floor for a brief period. Anyone involved in the incident can and should be part of the debrief and the onsite supervisor should help to facilitate.
  • Where should you debrief? – Let staff decide where they are most comfortable. Options include a private room, staff rooms, back-of-house open spaces. Do not debrief on the floor in public spaces.

Guiding questions for debriefing include (note that not all will apply in every situation):

  • How are you feeling?
  • Let’s go over what happened.
  • What went well?
  • What could be improved?
  • Were there other supports you needed during this incident?


Confirm that procedures were followed and staff did their best. If procedures were not followed, review the reasons, judgement calls and other factors that led to the decisions. Validate these decisions as best as possible. Acknowledge staff were attempting to make the right choices for the situation. A debrief is not the time for training. Any training that needs to happen can be part of a different discussion. Confirm that support is available through various programs. Contact Human Resources if needed with any additional questions or follow-up requests.