“I know how they move, how they look at me, how they are expression in the face,” he says. “People can’t lie to me much.” But they can make a scene. To be an officer of the library is to be a steward of it.They must be civilized and caring toward the space, its resources, and, most importantly, its patrons.
Two years of service was mandatory in Yugoslavia, but Petrovich came from a string of military men — a grandfather, his father and uncles on both sides.
So at age fourteen, Petrovich enrolled in a four-year military academy.
There’s also an array of security accouterments holstered to Petrovich’s belt: flashlight, baton, handcuffs and pepper spray. Petrovich moves through the library with an assertive military posture.
Petrovich, thirty-six, is one of a handful of full-time security guards at the library, but he’s the only one adorned like this. It’s easy to imagine him as a young sergeant in the military out on patrol, in charge of others.
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. Keeping the building safe and comfortable while at the same time truly public can be a precarious balance.He grew up in what was then the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a conglomerate of six republics on the Balkan Peninsula including Serbia, his motherland.It was his dream to become a police officer, but his family preferred the prestige of the military.Enforcement is a defensive act, not an aggressive one, and Petrovich learned the distinction between the two at a young age.“My grandfather telling me one day, ‘You are soldier but you no murderer,’” he recalls.Petrovich will say to them: “You know, man, how many times I talk to you? You out.” While there are plenty of people on permanent suspension, shorter time-outs are more common.