Feb 18, 2022
Statement Regarding Security at Library Locations
On Feb 16, we temporarily suspended in-library services at two libraries to proactively address complex issues that have been escalating over the past few weeks. This decision was made in support of providing a safe, harassment-free environment for all patrons and employees. While the library seeks to be a welcoming refuge for people, we cannot resolve the complex social, mental health and physical health issues we encounter. These are community issues that the library cannot address alone.
Incidents that involve physical contact between the public and employees are rare. The move to contactless service at two locations became necessary because employees have been targets of increased and inappropriate verbal threats and harassment. There has also been a greater frequency and severity of incidents happening between members of the public in recent weeks. Recently, there have been media reports of some specific incidents involving library employees. Due to the characterizations of these events, the facts are:
- An employee was grabbed from behind in broad daylight in an adjacent parking lot in 2021. The employee pulled away and was not physically harmed. The motivations of the perpetrator are unknown. The library provided support to the employee and made changes to our security patrol and worked with the property owner. The employee chose not to file a police report.
- Following an altercation in 2020 between a person who refused to wear a mask and a security guard, an employee was assaulted as the person left the library. The police were involved, and the location was closed temporarily following this incident. We worked closely with and provided support to the employees involved.
SPL takes its commitment to a violence-free and harassment-free workplace very seriously. The central library has four full-time security personnel positions. We continuously monitor incidents and make adjustments, as necessary, to improve security. Our response includes a temporary suspension of services and access for individuals. The Saskatoon Police Service is called to respond to incidents that exceed the ability and authority of library employees and security personnel.
We are currently focusing on solutions to make our community stronger, healthier and safer. We are working on devising a temporary service and security approach at the Frances Morrison Central and Dr. Freda Ahenakew Libraries that will help mitigate issues while we develop longer-term strategies. SPL leadership has begun meetings with civic and community partners, including the Saskatoon Police Service, the Saskatoon Fire Department, public health officials and others who have offered their support and assistance.
We are grateful for the community support as we work through these difficult times and look forward to resuming in-library service on Feb 28.