Are Libraries Safe Places?

October is Library Month.  To celebrate this, we are focusing on CUPE members who work in Alberta libraries. This story comes from Terrill Budd who works in Calgary, AB.  Marle Roberts

Most people believe that public libraries are the safest of places. The biggest danger they think they are face is being shushed by grey haired woman in a bun.  My library is a large and busy place.

We are situated in the downtown of a large city close to two homeless shelters and a light rail transit line.  The building is filled with all types of people – business people picking up their books, families coming for story times and to pick up books and movies for the weekend, students from the local college studying and people killing time until the local shelter opens.

Unfortunately, we also have drug dealers selling drugs inside and outside the building. The impact for my library is an increase in theft and violence.    Library staff deal with men and women who are either drunk or high.  They are unpredictable and dangerous and if we are really lucky they will fight with one another and not with us.  The police regularly patrol our building and rarely leave without talking to someone they believe is dealing drugs on the property.  We often have to reassure patrons who have had their laptops or wallets stolen.  We are experts at walking them through reporting a crime and replacing their ID.  Sometimes we are lucky and find their personal documents in the trash since the thief is really only interested in cash.

The answer to the question, are libraries safe places? Yes, they can be.  But this is because library workers work hard to make them that way.

Terrill Budd
Calgary Public Library
Chair of Alberta Library Employees Committee