A security guard supervisor for the University Library, Brett Byrd is prepared to handle about any problem that arises in the main Library or any of its satellite facilities, such as disruptive patrons and students trying to sneak out with magazines or books. But, in what may seem like an unusual mixture of occupations, Byrd also is an ordained, independent clergyman. When he’s not keeping library patrons and materials safe and secure on the Urbana campus, he officiates at weddings and hopes one day to have his own congregation.
Tell me about your career.
I’ve been in security since 1977. I graduated from Farmer City-Mansfield High School in 1976 and started out as an assistant security supervisor with the News-Gazette. I was there about 10 years, hiring and training people and patrolling the buildings. At that time, I also worked security for Mercy Hospital, which is now Provena Covenant Medical Center, and was on call for them.
I’ve been with the university for about 12 years, maybe a little longer. I started out as a security officer with the Campus Police working out of Kenney Gym. I was there probably about six years. I left the university and went into the private sector, where I ran the local branch offices of two detective agencies – Diamond Detective and Executive Security Specialists. I was a manager/supervisor for them. About four years ago, I came back to the university as an extra help guard and was on the Civil Service list to become a supervisor. I got a job offer and took advantage of it.
I patrol the libraries, just like my two guards do. I have two other guards who will be coming aboard soon and am getting ready to hire a third.
We’re on duty whenever the library is open. We take care of the graduate, undergraduate and all the satellite libraries. We patrol as far north as Grainger Engineering Library to as far as south as the Law Library, as far west as the library’s Oak Street facility and the Physics Lab on the east.
We do a lot of walking on patrols – up to approximately 12 miles a day.
What kinds of things do you typically take care of?
We’re here to deter problems, such as theft, by walking the hallways and corridors and making our presence known. If people see a guard, sometimes they’ll think twice about doing something. All of our guards carry radios that are cell-phone-compatible. But we still have problems once in a while. Someone may tear a page out of a book and try to leave a library with it, and the sensor strip will set off the alarm at the door. Or we have to deal with people causing disturbances.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Seeing the people. Getting out and about. I don’t have to sit behind a desk all day.
The most difficult thing is dealing with a disruptive library patron who doesn’t want to cooperate with us, and then we have to call the campus police in. We have a very good rapport with the campus police. We handle pretty much any problem ourselves. If a person refuses to identify himself, then we call the police to assist us.
When and why did you become a clergyman?
I just had this calling. And one day in June 2004, I was sitting by the bedside of my wife, who was in the hospital at the time and passed away a few weeks later, and decided I just had to do it.
I’ve conducted weddings at people’s houses. The last wedding I officiated was an outdoor wedding that was held at a vineyard in the Carbondale area.
What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not working?
In the summertime, I like to go to the public pool in Rantoul and to Crystal Lake Park to fish and boat. I work out in my yard a lot. During the wintertime – I don’t like the snow – I just like to stay inside and drink coffee.