Yellowknife public library security beefed up

The library entrance and circulation desk. Yellowknife Public Library photo
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The Yellowknife Public Library will have an increased security presence for the foreseeable future says library manager John Mutford.

The library deals with incidents including selling of drugs, abuse of staff or patrons, fights and physical altercations. 165 people were also banned from the library last year. A violent incident in late 2018 was particularly alarming Mutford says.

“A violent incident in late 2018 resulted in 800 dollars worth of damage, left many witnesses shocked and triggered formal concerns about staff safety.”

In an effort to combat these issues, Mutford says security has been present since last Saturday.

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“There’s a security guard present now for all opening hours, and increased presence of (municipal enforcement) officers, especially during times identified as peak risk.”

The security guard will not be in place forever says city administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett.

Other interventions include increasing the length of time people are banned, installing more security cameras and closing the library earlier on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when there are less municipal enforcement officers available.

The library remains a very popular and well-loved place in Yellowknife. Over 200,000 unique visits to the library took place last year, around 10 visits per resident.

As one of the last truly democratic spaces in a city, Mutford stressed the need to remain inclusive and open.

“Complementing safety is diverse and welcoming programming because we don’t want to have a big military state there.”

Plans includes bringing therapy dogs into the library, training staff on violence de-escalation and a community campaign for next October when the weather worsens and incidents tend to ramp up.

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