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The Queens College Lock Shop,

by Ralph Johnson, retiring Security Equipment Manager, Queens College

Queens College comprises a 76 acre campus of 34 buildings in varying sizes from 120 to 234,000 square feet, plus six off-campus buildings, including the president's residence and the Louis Armstrong House.  With a student population of about 17,000, it is one of the larger colleges of the City University of New York.

Shop Door  The first thing that a visitor notices is the door.  It is not a standard door, but a vault door, the better to preserve the contents of the room, which is the lock shop of Queens College.

The lock shop has the responsibility for all door locks (about 6,600), desks, file cabinets, vehicle locks, etc.  There are two of us who function as locksmiths, myself and Husni Darwish. The shop is about 500 square feet, well lighted, with storage cabinets for the many supplies needed to maintain the function of all the locking devices. Since the hardware varies from original Sargent hardware in place when the college was founded (1937) to the most recent construction (1994), all appropriate brands must be stocked. Also, whenever a building is renovated, existing locks are salvaged to provide parts for other locks on campus.
Shop along north wallShop along south wall
These are two views from the doorway of the shop, showing the workbenches, desks, and key cabinets, which hold pattern keys and stock keys for issue as needed. The shop has eleven key machines, ranging from an ancient Keil #3 (now used only to cut bit keys) to Ilco and Keil key copiers, an HPC 1200 for cutting by depths, and Abloy Disklock, Best, Medeco and Illinois Lock Co. machines for specialized keys.
Behind the key machines The frequently used blanks are stocked behind the key machines (on a former IBM card sorter turned sideways); additional stock is behind cabinet doors elsewhere in the shop. Code books and literature are also stored behind the key machines for quick access.
Shop entrance and Husni Darwish This is a view from the rear of the shop looking towards the door. On the left is Assistant Director of Security Husni Darwish, and on the right is a visitor, Robert Kwarta, Manager of Reprographics.
Me at my desk Here I am at my computer. Being the department's computer expert, I write applications for the department's three other computers (used by the secretarial staff), as well as for the lock shop. We are hooked up to the Internet through the college's local area network.

All key locations (hook number, building, room, department, etc.) are in a database, and indexed in several ways, so determining which key opens which door is easily done. There is another related database of key information (hook number, keyway, bitting, etc.) so any unmarked key can be identified, and resultant opening information found. This database is also used when a new key is to be generated, to determine if a particular bitting is already in use. Regular backups of the databases are done, and hardcopies are generated quarterly for additional security (with all those doors and keys, I wouldn't want to type all that information in again!)

Key requests are sent to the Security Department office, and then to the lock shop. Authorized signatures are compared, and if proper, keys are taken from stock (or cut as required) and taken to the office for pickup by the persons for whom they were requested. When leaving employment, persons are required to return keys, and a fee is charged for lost keys. To assure that keys are returned, salary checks are held until appropriate fees are paid. Our secretaries enter the information into another database, which is stored on a server on the network, thus the information is available to the lock shop to determine ownership of found keys, who has access to rooms, etc.

Of course not all our time is spent in the shop. We're constantly called out to rekey doors, repair locks, unlock cabinets, etc. We have no vehicle of our own, but transportation is provided when needed.
qclibph2.jpg (27303 bytes) The clock and bells on the Benjamin Rosenthal Library are also the responsibility of the lock shop, so there's an occasional trip for a time check and to listen if the bells are chiming properly. The clock and bells are at the top of the tower (the tenor bell is visible, above and to the left of the left clock face). There's nothing like leaning on your safety belt six stories up while adjusting a bell clapper to take your mind off locks!
belltowr.jpg (14652 bytes)

Being part of the security department, we're sometimes involved in other activities, such as parking administration, special events such as graduation ceremony in June, homecoming, etc. I also composed and maintain the Security Department's web pages on the College's web site. One thing is certain: there are no two days alike here.

Overall, the lock shop of Queens College functions in the background, but its job is vital to all at Queens College.


It was last changed on September 04, 2001 .

Copyright 2009, New York Association of In-house Locksmiths, Inc. All rights reserved.