Mayor, councillor hope downtown library can resume services next week
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One month after Millennium Library closed due to a stabbing death on its main floor, two elected officials still hope it can reopen sometime next week.
“We have to make sure that when we prepare to open it up, that it’s safe, that our staff will show up. That’s when we’ll open it up. But we definitely understand… the library is critical for a lot of people’s lives, so we’re definitely working as hard as we can to get it open as soon as we can safely,” said Coun. John Orlikow, chairman of council’s community services committee.
The city’s flagship library 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.
The downtown library reopened to limited services on Dec. 23, which allowed patrons to pick up books and other items they reserve online, as well as return them. Folks who need to warm up during cold weather can also now do so in the lobby.
Orlikow said ensuring a safe environment is critical at the library and has been the subject of frequent meetings between managers and staff throughout the closure.
“We’re definitely moving forward. We’re getting some ideas on the table,” he said.
The councillor said the city has worked on an internal risk assessment and is now ready to seek a consultant to complete a safety audit of the library. He expects that will be done through a sole-source contract to expedite the work.
Despite the lengthy closure so far, Orlikow said he still hopes a target to fully reopen the library in mid-January, ideally by next Thursday, will be met.
“I’m unhappy about how unsafe the library has been, I’m unhappy about how our staff feel … How to resolve those issues so that we can reopen as soon as possible is where we’re at. I do know that people rely on that library as part of their daily lives, their weekly lives… I’ve been really pushing hard to get it open as soon as possible. It’s taking longer than I’d expected or hoped,” he said.
Orlikow does not support the city waiting until the safety audit is completed to fully reopen the facility.
“That would be a month or two, at least, and I’m not that keen on holding the library closed for that long,” he said.
Mayor Scott Gillingham said progress has been made in meetings among elected officials, library staff, the city’s chief administrative officer and others.
“Our staff is actively working on this and has been for weeks. There is a desire to reopen the library as soon as possible and so there’s a lot of activity, a lot of dialogues happening, within the department, within the CAO’s office as well,” said Gillingham.
The mayor said he expects security changes will come in phases to limit any further delay to setting an exact reopening date.
“We need to reopen as soon as possible and so we’ll put preliminary security and safety measures in place and those measures may or may not change once the final audit is done and recommendations come out of that audit,” he said.
Both Gillingham and Orlikow said specific new security steps have not been ruled out or finalized at this point. Gillingham said he’s also still “hopeful” that the library can reopen by the middle of this month.
“This is a very, very active file. Everyone is working very hard to get the library reopened as soon as possible. I’d still like to see it reopen by mid-January and I think every effort is being made to meet that timeline,” he said.
In an email, city spokesman Adam Campbell confirmed work is underway on the safety audit for Millennium Library, noting more information on any new safety measures “will be released in due course.”
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.