Hostility against Kingston, Ont. library workers a growing problem – Kingston

Kingston Frontenac Public Library officials are calling for help amid an increase in aggressive and sometimes violent behavior towards library workers in recent months.

Public libraries are meant to be a safe space to check out books, enjoy some quiet time, or maybe even meet a friend.

Lately, however, increasingly negative behavior towards staff, particularly at KFPL’s Johnson Street location, has raised concerns.

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“Cases of actual threats of harm to staff or other customers, cases of people, after being asked to leave or after leaving the building, kicking into the building or causing other property damage “said Laura Carter, Chief Librarian and CEO of KFPL.

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“Yelling, swearing, verbal abuse and derogatory comments, unfortunately,” added Jillann Rothwell, president of CUPE Local 2202, which represents Kingston Public Library workers.

Moreover, it is not just about verbal abuse.

Kingston Police had to respond after an incident at Central Branch turned physical.

“It was reported in the media that we had a real mugging that happened at Central Branch,” Carter said.

She believes the situation cannot be managed alone and the reason is clear: gaps in the social service system.

Carter adds that the solution involves unity across all departments and help from higher levels of government.

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“It’s beyond what the city can handle, it’s beyond what the library can handle, so come on up and then, kind of, the immediate thing we have to deal with at the library is to making sure people, staff and the public are safe,” she said.

“We are experiencing the fallout from various crises that are occurring in our community,” Rothwell added.

In the meantime, Carter says they’ve asked Home Base Housing to increase its daily library rounds by the organization’s street outreach team, but Carter says that might not be enough.

Amanda Brierley of Home Base Housing said calls of this nature are not only increasing at the library, but also at other places in the city where homeless people go for shelter from the cold.

“It’s much more important than ‘what can the library do to solve this problem?’ Carter said.

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