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The Secret Life of a Public Library Security Guard By Dana Bialek
Making the rounds at the Portland Public Library means sporadically checking inside the bathroom. It’s not uncommon for security guard Marko Petrovich to uncover suspicious materials, like hypodermic needles and beer cans. Then the gumshoe work begins: Whodunnit? And sometimes whoever done it is still doing it. Long occupancy is call for suspicion. Spend too much time in the john and Petrovich will wind up in there with you, asserting in broken and unabashed English that “you not take shit forty-five minutes.”'
It’s in the bowels of the library where people really sneak around, though. The biography section is tucked deep in the basement, a thicket of high shelves and narrow aisles — a natural hotspot for dubious behavior. There might be drugs slipped between the life stories of Fredrick Douglass and Stephen A. Douglas, and the orange carpeting seems to call to people looking for a nap or even sex, Petrovich says, lowering his voice to a whisper. Troll around with him long enough and you’ll discover that folks do all kinds of things in the library. In a city of more than 66,000, there might be as many as 2,000 visitors every day. Indoor spaces that are actually open to the public are a rare find, and in a city like Portland, Maine — with months upon months of winter and an immense homeless population — the library becomes a living room of sorts. Keeping good guard of the library is delicate work. One must disrupt as few people as possible. Keeping the building safe and comfortable while at the same time truly public can be a precarious balance.