British Columbia

Okanagan Regional Library strengthens security following 'sharp increase' in incidents

Security guards will soon be on site throughout the day at two branches of the Okanagan Regional Library following a sharp increase in drug use, intoxication and disturbances.

Drug use, intoxication and disturbances noted at both Vernon and Kelowna branches

The Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library has seen a 130 per cent increase in security incidents over the past year, according to the library CEO. (Google Streetview)

The Okanagan Regional Library is increasing security for the next six months after a sharp increase in drug use, intoxication and altercations among patrons.

At the Vernon, B.C., branch alone, the library says there was a 130 per cent increase in reported incidents in the last year, including two overdoses in one week in the library washroom.

Both the Vernon and Kelowna branch will soon have a security guard staffed as part of a six month pilot project.

"We're here to serve everyone. We're just not accepting illegal behavior," said Stephanie Hall, library CEO.

"I've seen [library staff] in tears worrying about some of the patrons. The daily grind of all these interactions does take a toll."

'Have to keep the library safe'

Hall said, in particular, staff have noticed what they term "a big uptick" in drug related issues, including the use and selling of drugs on site.

Starting in January, security will monitor both branches throughout the day.

"We do want people to feel welcome. At the same time, we have to keep the library safe for all the different users," she said.

She said the success of the program will be measured by the mental health of library staff.

The pilot project will cost roughly $25,000 for each branch.

With files from CBC's Daybreak South

About the Author

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.

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