Millennium Library reopens Friday with limited service
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The Millennium Library will reopen to limited services Friday, but full access is still weeks away in the wake of a stabbing death this month in the downtown building.
On Thursday afternoon, the City of Winnipeg confirmed a “phased service resumption” will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, when patrons can pick up books and other items they reserve online, as well as return items.
While the public will not be able to enter the main library area, folks who need to warm up during cold weather will be able to do so in the lobby.
Michael Jack, chief administrative officer, said full service is not expected to resume until an unspecified date in mid-January, to allow more time to consider and implement new security measures.
The downtown branch has been closed since Dec. 11, when 28-year-old Tyree Cayer was stabbed to death inside the building. Four teenage boys have since been charged in his death.
“Staff safety and the members of the public, users of the library feeling safe… those are the paramount priorities, and we want to make sure we get it right,” said Jack.
The city will complete a risk assessment and safety audit of the facility. It will also explore the library’s layout and “a permanent redesign of the lobby that supports a controlled environment without the use of hostile architecture.”
Jack said the mention of “hostile architecture” doesn’t reflect a decision to rule out any specific security options. He noted controversial screening with handheld metal detectors and bag searches, which were in place from 2019 to 2020, haven’t been ruled out.
“I really do want to clarify that no option is off the table. But we have the need to strike a balance that may not be the same balance that is struck at a Liquor Mart or going into a (Winnipeg) Jets game… We don’t want a library that completely sacrifices accessibility at the alter of safety,” said Jack.
Some groups protested against the past airport-style library security measures, arguing they violated privacy rights and created a barrier to using the facility.
“A lot of people are passionate about the accessibility of that library. Many people are passionate about ensuring the safety of the people that use the library and our staff… There are always a lot of competing elements, a lot of competing discussions that we need to have about this,” said Jack.
While extensive renovations won’t be completed within the next few weeks, Jack said some adjustments to the library’s entrance could be in place before the public is fully welcomed back in.
“We know we likely need some different type of configuration that doesn’t just allow for a completely unimpeded free-for-all.”
“Staff safety and the members of the public, users of the library feeling safe… those are the paramount priorities, and we want to make sure we get it right.”–Michael Jack
The city CAO said he expects some changes will create new costs, which will likely include hiring some form of added security presence.
“That is very likely going to be part of the first phase,” said Jack, adding the new hires may serve as “community safety hosts” who are trained in trauma-related crisis work and can help connect vulnerable folks with resources.
Coun. John Orlikow said it’s unfortunate the city’s flagship library will remain largely closed to the public for roughly a month.
However, he said the time is needed to ensure the city can thoroughly consult with the community on security changes, add any staff or other resources needed to make the space safer, and help address trauma staff have endured.
“It’s taking the time it needs to take. We have to consult with the staff. We have to allow them the opportunity to (deal with) their experiences… Then, you’ve got to move into other areas, such as what can we do to make it safer.”
Orlikow described the COVID-19 pandemic-style reopening option as a way to ensure some library services can still be used as that work continues.
“We do understand that people are missing these services, I think there’s a common collective (thought that) we need to reopen,” he said.
The union that represents Winnipeg library staff supports both the gradual reopening and the effort to make the library easier to monitor.
“(We) would rather have more of a funnel entranceway, so (staff) can monitor who’s coming in. Within the library, there’s a lot of areas that don’t have open sight lines,” said Gord Delbridge, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500.
“(We) would rather have more of a funnel entranceway, so (staff) can monitor who’s coming in. Within the library, there’s a lot of areas that don’t have open sight lines.”–Gord Delbridge
Delbridge said the safety issues extend beyond the building itself, linking a rise in addictions, homelessness and poverty to security challenges. He said the city can’t be expected to entirely address those larger issues without support from senior levels of government.
“The issue here is not just with libraries, it’s an issue within our society. Our municipal government shouldn’t have to carry the full burden,” said Delbridge.
During the partial reopening period, patrons will have a small access point to reach a staff desk, where they can pick up and return reserved items and sign up for/receive library cards.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
Updated on Thursday, December 22, 2022 2:12 PM CST: Fixes typo
Updated on Thursday, December 22, 2022 5:53 PM CST: Writethru, adds images