Skip to main content

Two Saskatoon libraries temporarily limit access while moving to a 'harassment-free environment'


Two Saskatoon libraries have moved to limit public access for the rest of the month due to concerns over the harrasment of staff and patrons.

Beginning Wednesday, the Frances Morrison Central Library and the Dr. Freda Ahenakew Library will move to "contactless service" and no longer allow patrons to freely roam the shelves of books.

In a statement on its website, Saskatoon Public Library (SPL) said in-library services at the two locations will be paused “while we make operational changes that support our goal to provide a safe, harassment-free environment for our patrons and employees."

“We appreciate the support of our community and our many partners as we respond to this challenging time,” the statement says.

The service changes will remain in effect until Feb. 28. Holds pick-up, Grab & Go bags, faxing, scanning and printing services will still be available. The changes will not affect SPL's seven other locations.


Saskatoon's library workers are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

 A representative for the union's local branch told CTV News that recently workers have experienced violence.

"A library worker who asked a patron to wear a face mask was punched in the face. There was an attempted abduction of a library worker when she was leaving work at night," CUPE representative Rhonda Heisler said in an emailed statement.

"Some workers are afraid to go to work and many have varying degrees of anxiety stemming directly from their workplaces."

Heisler said while workers at library branches have "historically been exposed to abuses" the pandemic has made things worse.

"It is more prevalent in the more central Saskatoon locations," Heisler said.

Library workers regularly face drug overdoses and are forced to call police due to illegal activity or "unruly behaviour," Heisler said.

"But our selfless library workers continue to work in these situations because they love helping Saskatoon residents."

According to Heisler, one library worker is an unsung hero for saving a patron's life by administering Naloxone during an overdose.


Saskatoon Library CEO Carol Cooley said the temporary change is related to COVID-19.

"Throughout the pandemic, we've been adjusting our service levels … this is just another adjustment," Cooley said in a phone interview with CTV News.

Cooley said there isn't a specific incident that led to the move and pointed instead to what she said staff are facing generally

"Mental health, anxiety and stress-related patron issues which we believe are a result of the pandemic and the issues related to vulnerable sector people accessing services," Cooley said.

Cooley said it is too soon to say what changes might be put in place but said she was in meetings Wednesday afternoon where the issues were being actively discussed.

"We just need to make some operational changes so that we are able to provide in-person library service," Cooley said.

"We're taking some proactive measures to provide a safe environment for patrons and employees."

Cooley said while they are not required to administer naloxone, staff members receive training in how to deliver the life-saving drug.

She said administering naloxone is "quite common" in libraries across Canada.


When he tried to walk through the front doors on Wednesday, an employee greeted him and told him he wouldn’t be allowed inside. It left Waldbillig puzzled and concerned.

“It’s a priceless resource,” he said. “They have given me hope and given me tools.

“I just like the peace, the quiet and the tranquillity.”

Waldbillig said speaks with outreach workers daily at the library.

“I open up to these people more than my own friends. I’ve cried in front of these people. You forge bonds,” Waldbillig said.

“I’d have to say I’m alive because of these people. They go way beyond their capacity in order to find the answers I’ve needed.”

Waldbillig said he can understand why some of the staff have serious concerns.

He’s said fentanyl and crystal meth abuse problems in Saskatoon find their way into the downtown library, but he couldn’t point to any one specific incident that may have caused the library to move to contactless service. Top Stories

Stay Connected