The long-awaited New Central Library opened its doors on Nov. 1 in Calgary’s East Village.

However, its close proximity to the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre Society — a mere eight-minute walk away — poses the question: How will the New Central Library keep its most vulnerable populations safe in their space in the midst of the opioid crisis?

Sarah Meilleur, director of service delivery at the Calgary Public Library, says it’s a situation they have been dealing with for years.

“In many ways, some of the programs and services we provide — access to technology, WiFi, computers, upgrading courses… All of those things serve our city’s most vulnerable patrons,” says Meilleur.

She says they have taken experience from previous incidents in libraries across the city and prepared in advance for the New Central Library.

All libraries in Calgary’s downtown core have standardized safety procedures, including first aid responses and calling 9-1-1 in an emergency. Security guards at the libraries are also equipped with intranasal naloxone in case of overdoses.

“We have a fantastic security team that works in partnership with our staff to make sure that we always have a welcoming and safe environment for anyone that comes in the door, [and] that does sometimes include people who are under the influence.”

At the moment, library staff are not trained to use naloxone, but Meilleur says they’re keeping a close eye on the safety of their patrons.

“We have had nothing that has indicated that we should expand our response,” says Meilleur, two days after the new library’s opening. “If we were going to do that, that would be something that we consider very carefully before we roll anything like that out.”

By comparison, Mount Royal University has started training some resident advisors on how to use naloxone. Naloxone has been available at the university’s licensed pharmacy since the kits were available for stock at pharmacies. Recently, it has also become available on campus.

Shayla Breen, vice president of the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU), says security should still be the ones administering naloxone in case of an overdose.

“We don’t encourage [resident advisors] to be using them. We first and foremost want security to be using them but in an emergency, they can use them, of course,” says Breen.

Breen completed naloxone training a few months ago and, at the time, there were no reported overdoses on campus or residence.

“The training was phenomenal. They walk through what harm reduction is, why we provide this training and why we have things like safe consumption sites in Calgary,” says Breen.

In the midst of the opioid crisis, Breen recommends naloxone training for all Calgarians. This way, everyone can learn why this awareness is important, along with how to revive someone from an overdose.

The New Central Library is open seven days a week and has an on-site coffee shop, study spaces, child minding, a nursing room, an interfaith room and Indigenous art installations.

Editor: Simran Sachar |

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