Millennium Library reopens services with increased security measures

Patrons walked through a metal detector Monday for their first chance in more than a month to freely explore Millennium Library.

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Patrons walked through a metal detector Monday for their first chance in more than a month to freely explore Millennium Library.

Several weeks after the downtown Winnipeg facility was closed due to a fatal stabbing, its doors were reopened with increased safety measures, including the presence of four additional security guards and two uniformed police officers.

“We certainly think this increases the safety. No building can be guaranteed to be safe, (but) we do think these are reasonable measures,” said Michael Jack, City of Winnipeg chief administrative officer.

The building was temporarily shuttered Dec. 11, after 28-year-old Tyree Cayer was stabbed to death on the main floor. The city began letting patrons pick up and return reserved materials Dec. 23; browsing for books and other library services weren’t available.

Four teenage boys have been charged in Cayer’s death.

On Monday, patrons began slowly but steadily returning to the flagship library, with the entrance’s metal gate partially closed on one side.

Some welcomed the ramped-up security.

“Downtown, there’s kind of a lot of threats, you never know what can happen. So anywhere where there’s increased security measures, I would say that’s always a good thing,” said Fengyi Huang.

While Kent Scott deemed the number of security staff and police to be “a little overboard,” he said the screening is warranted. “(The metal detector)… sounds like a good idea (in case) somebody’s carrying a knife or a gun.”

Terry Kruk believes heightened security is a “great idea” to prevent such violence from being repeated.

Bob Bidwell, who said he visits the library every day, hopes the new measures stay in place for good. “I think it should be permanent. Nowadays, just about any public building really needs security.”

However, others have spoken out against such plans for years.

The city previously imposed hand-held metal detector scans and bag searches at the library from 2019 to 2020. That triggered a backlash, with some arguing the measures violated privacy rights and created a barrier to using the facility.

The extra security measures were removed during COVID-19 pandemic closures.

They had also been blamed for a decline in the number of visitors to the library in the past; on Monday, Jack said it is likely to happen again.

“We know this will likely result in a drop in attendance in the first few weeks,” he said, noting the city has received a “mixed” response to the latest safety changes.

While the metal detector lineup appeared to move smoothly just after opening, by early afternoon, about two dozen people were in a queue that nearly reached the outer doors of the lobby.

A few people appeared to grow frustrated after being required by staff to walk through the metal detector multiple times, though delays appeared to ease by 2 p.m.

Mayor Scott Gillingham described the extra security measures as temporary but necessary.

“These are preliminary measures that will be revisited once we hear back on the safety audit… I don’t think anybody, ultimately, wants police to have to be in libraries, but that’s the position that we’re in currently,” said Gillingham.

GardaWorld Corp., hired to conduct a security audit of the library, is expected to provide preliminary safety recommendations within the next few weeks. Gillingham said its final report will also be expedited.

The new security measures will be assessed each day they are in place, Jack said, “with the hope of being able to use less obvious or less intrusive means going forward.”

More security at library won’t eliminate violence risk, stabbing victim’s mother says

The extra security will cost more than $10,000 per week, Jack said. The measures will exceed the existing library budget if they continue in the long term, requiring further tax dollars, he added.

The head of a union that represents Millennium staff said some employees deemed the heightened measures essential for them to resume working with the public.

“I’ve heard from staff that had said if (the city doesn’t) have security measures in place that they feel they are still in an unsafe work environment. Without metal detectors, without security, a lot of them were inquiring about the right to refuse… work,” said Gord Delbridge, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500.

“Without metal detectors, without security, a lot of them (Millennium staff) were inquiring about the right to refuse… work.”–Gord Delbridge

Delbridge stressed senior governments must help the city tackle social challenges that affect safety throughout downtown, such as homelessness, addictions and mental health crises.

“This is not just going to go away by putting a police officer… in front of Millennium (Library). We need to invest in our community.”

While nearly all services have now resumed, the library’s community connections space remains closed indefinitely. That space is designed to connect vulnerable patrons with shelter/housing, social assistance, mental health, addiction services and other supports.

— with files from Malak Abas

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

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 Monday, January 23, 2023 12:11 PM CST: Adds photos

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