Intoxicated users will be asked to leave A3
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.