By Kalinowski, Tim on January 15, 2020.
Lethbridge Public Library requested and received $90,000 per year additional funding to pay for a third security guard at the downtown Main library branch from city council during Monday’s public meeting.
The funding will remain in place for the next two years, and helps the library avoid service or hours cuts if forced to fund the third security guard position internally. Library CEO Terra Plato said an increase in incidents at the library over the waning months of 2019 prompted the move to hire more security in response to staff safety concerns.
“We did see an increase in incidents in the last few months in 2019 at the library so that really spurred us to take a really hard look at how our security model was working,” Plato confirmed. “We are following the model of best practices in other public libraries by adding security in this way. In total, we will have three security guards at all times at the Main branch. The $90,000 funds approximately one of those guards, and we will be funding two internally.”
Plato said the last four years at the library have mirrored closely what has been going on in other areas of the downtown, where the effects of the drug crisis have come under intense public scrutiny.
“Like the rest of the city, we continue to see a lot of public drug use and related things in the downtown,” stated Plato. “The problems we see happening in the city are also happening in the library.”
During her public comments to council, Plato said the library was dedicated to public safety and to remaining accessible to all peoples – that it was important to her and her board to avoid “gentrification” of the library commons.
“The public library is open to everybody,” she explained to reporters after. “There is always going to be a diverse clientele in the library, but we do have standards of behaviour. Those guards are really there to ensure those standards of behaviour are upheld and allow us to deal with incidents as they arise.”
Plato said she was grateful to council for acknowledging the library’s need in regards to public safety, and putting additional monies in to ensure its clients and staff can enjoy everything the library has to offer with fewer worries.
“We are very pleased that council found it necessary to fund this, because it means we won’t have to cut back our hours in order to fund the additional security that’s needed.”
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