Changing times and changing demographics have resulted in the main branch of the Guelph Public Library putting a security guard in place.
Starting last week, one person from the city-contracted GardaWorld Security is now on site at the library’s Norfolk Street location during business hours.
The same security firm also monitors the downtown Guelph transit hub and train station.
“It’s not an unsafe place, I want everyone to realize that. But we just want everyone’s behaviour to be on the same level playing field,” said library CEO Steven Kraft.
There was no particular incident that brought about the change, Kraft said, just some issues and the library wanted to make sure things were safe and secure for staff and customers alike.
“It’s just that some of our regular customers had noticed some safety issues. Theft of cell phones, purses, personal items. Things like that,” he said. “So that was sort of the beginning of things. We felt this might be a good way to address the situation.”
Like many downtown public washroom facilities, the library has also seen occasional evidence of drug use.
“We want everyone to behave in a civilized manner and it makes it easier for everyone,” Kraft said.
“The library is an obvious democratic institution and we want to keep it a welcoming place for everyone.”
Kraft first brought the potential need for security to the library board’s attention two or three years ago and it’s gotten to the point it was deemed necessary, he said.
“It’s sort of been an evolution.”
The problems are not unique to Guelph.
“This is something libraries have been struggling with across North America. It’s not just unique to Guelph. Communities like Kitchener, Toronto, Cambridge - pick your city,” Kraft said.
“Libraries are dealing with it in different ways. Some have been playing the long game and try and institute or hiring a social worker or something like that to try and deal with some of these problems. Maybe that’s something we should consider too.”
Kraft said this is a pilot project for one year and the hope is that “things will resolve themselves” and security won’t be necessary down the road.
“But we’ll see how this works out,” Kraft said.