There’s a new face at the Puyallup Public Library — but he’s not a librarian.
Earl Tidd came on board as the library’s security guard in the beginning of April, hired after the city of Puyallup allocated $30,000 for a first-time security guard pilot program.
The city contracted with Pierce County Security, and that’s when Tidd was called.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to get bored,’” Tidd admitted. “There’s no such thing as bored at the library.”
“When I first started, I was very surprised,” Tidd continued. “It was very eye-opening on what goes on behind the scenes and what the librarians had to put up with.”
Tidd noticed unruly and loud behavior, patrons leaving belongings in the library and other patrons staying in the public restrooms for longer than a half an hour. Tidd dealt with everything from drug abuse to “rude teenagers.”
“A lot of teenagers are really good. It’s just 3 percent, 4 percent, and they’re the same ones every day,” Tidd said.
Right after Tidd showed up, both patrons and staff began to notice a change.
“What I have seen is what I would call regular problems, or regular folks who make problems, just aren’t coming here anymore,” library director Patty Ayala Ross said. “And that happened the first week.”
“We don’t find too many more syringes, even out in the parking lot,” Tidd added. “Now it seems word’s out that they got a library sheriff, and they just sort of move on.”
But it’s more than just a feeling — library trespasses have decreased dramatically since Tidd came on board. In February, the library administered 37 one-day trespasses, three seven-day trespasses and three 45-day trespasses. In March, there were 30 one-day trespasses, two seven-day trespasses, one 45-day trespass, one 180-day trespass, one one-year trespass and one five-year trespass.
After Tidd’s arrival, there were eight one-day trespasses, one seven-day trespass and one 45-day trespass in April.
“I heard the word 'hero' applied to me, applied to Earl, applied to city management because the staff can do their work — they can do what they’ve been hired to do, which is help our customers find the information and the books that they need,” Ross said. “I think they felt that this was all on them — this was all on their backs. That’s not really fair, in some ways, to expect that library workers be in the business of security.”
Having a security guard is a big benefit for the community, saving taxpayers money in the long run, Ross said.
“(A guard) is much more inexpensive to city residents than to call the police for every little thing that happens, which is basically the position we were in,” Ross said. “We’d much rather them be out there doing police work instead of dealing with teenage behavior, which is something security is certainly able to handle.”
Tidd is on a part-time schedule and patrols inside the library and outside, including the parking lot. Pioneer Park is not his jurisdiction, but even seeing him patrolling can reduce unwanted activity there, he said.
“They don’t know when I’m going to be here, which I think is the most helpful part. When they see me, they continue walking,” he said.
While having a security guard is considered a pilot program, Ross doesn’t think there will be any problem continuing it, given current stats and positive feedback.
Tidd is a Bonney Lake resident and has worked in security for four years after retiring at 62 from a 16-year career as a bar owner.