Metal detectors, bag searches greet library patrons as new security measures start
Library patrons go through bag checks, metal detection in procedure that started Monday
Visitors to the Millennium Library in downtown Winnipeg had to show more than their library cards Monday, as they went through new security screening measures.
New procedures, announced earlier this month, require visitors to undergo a bag check and hand-held metal detection screening before entering to improve safety.
"There was a mix of reactions but overall, [people were] generally understanding why this was being put in place — not necessarily happy about it, but understanding that we were doing it to improve safety," said Ed Cuddy, manager of library services.
The process went smoothly and without incident, with many patrons gaining a new understanding of issues that have been brewing in the last couple of years, Cuddy said.
"It's been a bit of a surprise to the community because there's not a huge awareness of the kinds of issues we've been dealing with at Millennium Library."
In recent years the number and severity of incidents has increased, mainly with people bringing in prohibited items, such as weapons and alcohol, and confrontations with staff, Cuddy said.
"Violent incidents, incidents involving people that are intoxicated or using other substances, where there has been significant threats to staff and security."
The decision to implement the new procedures wasn't made lightly, he said.
"We didn't want people to get the impression that the library is not a safe place. I think it is, but it can be safer."
Kids with their parents won't be screened, but all youth over age 13 will be.
People with prohibited items will have to remove them before heading into the library, and those who decline the screening will not be allowed in.
Lockers to be installed
The library has two crisis workers on staff and works closely with social agencies to make sure those who need to access the space can do so without incident.
"We're not trying to prevent anyone from entering the library. We're just trying to prevent these items from coming into the library with people because it does present a risk."
The security measures aren't meant to deter people from accessing the space, and there are plans to install free lockers where patrons can leave their belongings before entering, Cuddy said. He hopes to have them installed in the next week or two.
"It's a reality that a lot of people that are on the street carry a lot of their possessions with them, and they don't have the option to leave them at home or in a car."
The library lobby will still be open for people who want to warm up or wait for the bus, and anyone who doesn't want to go through security can pick up items on hold before or after regular library hours using the Millennium Smartlocker in the Skywalk.
The new security measures cost $30,000 and no new staff were needed.