Calgary Central Library to deter loitering by installing metal screens

To deter loitering and drug trafficking, the Calgary Public Library will install metal screens in the alcoves outside its downtown branch.

‘They’re much more friendly than chain links,” says library CEO Bill Ptacek

Loitering and drug trafficking has become an issue in the alcoves surrounding the Calgary Central Library. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

The Calgary Central Library attracts a lot of people — but not all of them are there to check out a book.

Earlier this year, police rounded up more than two dozen people accused of selling drugs right in front of the building.

Now the library is hoping to solve the problem by making changes to its design. Working with the Calgary Police Service, the branch plans to install metal screens in its exterior alcoves.

"They're much more friendly than chain links," said Calgary Public Library CEO, Bill Ptacek.

Ptacek described the screens as "fins" or "little pieces of metal and they're kind of orientated in a way that you can't get through [and] you can't get in the area, but they let sunlight in, but as you're going along Macleod they'll project an image as you look at them."

A preliminary, conceptual drawing of what the metal screens could look like that the Calgary Public Library is planning to install in the alcoves outside its downtown location. (DIALOG)

Alcoves lure loiterers

There was a time when the 1960s white archways surrounding the Central Library were closed off with chain link fences, but Ptacek said they were removed to give visitors to the library a more welcoming view.

He said loitering became an issue in the alcoves shortly after the building across the street made some changes to its own design.

Calgary Public Library CEO, Bill Ptacek. (Calgary Public Library)

"They did some things to their exterior and really discourage people loitering there so a lot of the folks that used to hang out at Rocky Mountain Plaza moved across the street to the library."

Ptacek said there really is "no reason to be outside the building" and everyone is welcome inside, as long as they are civil and lawful.

​The project, designed by architect from DIALOG, will cost under $50,000 and is being funded through the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) infrastructure budget.

The CEO of the Calgary Public Library says the alcoves outside the central downtown have been attracting loiterers and unlawful behaviour. (Google Street View)

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener