In­tox­i­cated users will be asked to leave A3

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - NEWS - ALEX MACPHER­SON amacpher­son@postmedia.com twit­ter.com/macpher­sona

Saska­toon Pub­lic Li­brary man­agers say they are tak­ing steps to ad­dress what has been de­scribed as a daily oc­cur­rence at the down­town Frances Mor­ri­son branch — peo­ple un­der the in­flu­ence of drugs and al­co­hol walk­ing in and some­times caus­ing dis­tur­bances.

The li­brary has in the past been “wel­com­ing and ac­com­mo­dat­ing ” to in­tox­i­cated peo­ple, but that ap­proach “needs to change,” li­brary man­agers said in a memo to staff cir­cu­lated this spring.

“Our past prac­tices have been more le­nient with in­tox­i­ca­tion in the li­brary than we should have been ac­cord­ing to the leg­is­la­tion,” states the April 27 memo, a copy of which was ob­tained by the Saska­toon Starphoenix.

“For staff and pa­tron safety SPL will be aim­ing to not have in­tox­i­cated pa­trons in the li­brary. In­tox­i­cated peo­ple are un­pre­dictable and it is best to ask them to leave be­fore a sit­u­a­tion es­ca­lates.”

Ear­lier this week, the li­brary is­sued a state­ment out­lin­ing new and ex­ist­ing se­cu­rity mea­sures, in­clud­ing uni­formed guards present at all times, video sur­veil­lance, and a newly up­dated “pa­tron-in­ci­dent data­base.”

The state­ment came one day af­ter the Starphoenix pub­lished an opin­ion col­umn by Tif­fany Paulsen de­scrib­ing “a num­ber of peo­ple un­abashedly us­ing drugs” in the 23rd Street East fa­cil­ity’s base­ment.

The li­brary also plans to hire two full-time so­cial work­ers to as­sist with what Beth Cote, the in­sti­tu­tion’s direc­tor of pub­lic ser­vices, ac­knowl­edged is a com­plex problem that will re­quire com­plex so­lu­tions.

“We ask our front-line em­ploy­ees to look for signs of in­tox­i­ca­tion, to be cau­tious about mis­in­ter­pret­ing in­tox­i­ca­tion in the pub­lic but to check on peo­ple who seem to have de­te­ri­o­rat­ing be­hav­iour in var­i­ous dif­fer­ent ways,” Cote said.

Em­ploy­ees are then asked to call 911, the non­emer­gency po­lice num­ber or com­mu­nity sup­port of­fi­cers, “depend­ing on what the sit­u­a­tion is, whether it’s an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion or not,” she added. “But when it is clear that some­one is in­tox­i­cated, we ask them to leave the li­brary.”

City po­lice did not pro­vide sta­tis­tics about how fre­quently of­fi­cers are called to the li­brary, but Cote said staff called po­lice 10 times be­tween May 5 and June 5. Six of those calls came from the down­town branch.

“That is a num­ber that is con­sis­tent with other onemonth pe­ri­ods as well,” Cote said in a fol­lowup email.

Sources close to the li­brary said staff there deal with in­tox­i­cated peo­ple ev­ery day, of­ten more than once. Canadian Union of Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees Lo­cal 2669 pres­i­dent Pamela Ry­der said it’s “very com­mon.”

In an in­ter­view, Ry­der ac­knowl­edged the steps taken by man­age­ment to deal with po­ten­tially “dis­rup­tive and dan­ger­ous” sit­u­a­tions, and em­pha­sized li­brary work­ers’ de­sire to help with a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion.

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