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Mild weather brings fewer incidents at Collingwood library

‘When the weather is severe, we have more people in our space which increases the potential for incidents,’ said library CEO
A code of conduct for use of the Collingwood Public Library is plastered to the wall in the elevator.

Incidents of violence and harassment at the Collingwood Public Library may have levelled off this past year, but all it could take is some severe weather to erase that progress, according to the CEO.

Included in a report considered by the library board at their Feb. 22 meeting, incidents of violence at the library are continuing, with 46 incidents recorded since October 2022. Incidents include assault, narcotics use and sexual harassment.

“They have definitely decreased from where we were in 2022 and have plateaued a little bit,” said the library’s chief executive officer, Ashley Kulchycki. “There are a lot of factors. One of the biggest is weather, and this winter has been mild.”

She said in the past, staff have seen incidents increase when there is bad weather.

“That has been our experience in the past. When the weather is severe, we have more people in our space which increases the potential for incidents,” she said.

The Collingwood Public Library acts as a daytime warming or cooling centre for those experiencing housing insecurity and has for many years. One of the library’s pressures remains the staff time dedicated to serving vulnerable individuals and the subsequent emotional burnout.

In October 2022, library administration launched an online form to make reporting incidents easier for staff.

From October 2022 to December 2022, 15 incidents were recorded. From January 2023 to December 2023, 28 incidents were recorded. In January of this year, three incidents were recorded. Of the 46 incidents recorded so far, 17 were verbal aggression, nine were physical aggression, 10 were suspected narcotics, two were alcohol, two were sexual harassment, one was possession of a weapon, one was theft and three were breach of trespass orders.

Kulchycki notes the incidents logged are sometimes between patrons, but also include incidents between patrons and library staff.

Library administration has taken steps to mitigate the increase in incidents they were seeing, which included hiring a part-time security guard from January to March 2023 for a pilot project.

According to the data in the incident report, the security guard assisted with one incident during their time at the library.

“We did find it beneficial,” said Kulchycki.

The library board approved $15,000 in the 2024 operating budget for security services. Currently, town staff are working through a request-for-proposals process to use one security service for all municipal needs, including the library and at the Pine St. transit terminal.

When asked how vulnerable communities who access the library are faring, Kulchycki said the number of people experiencing homelessness that library staff sees daily have levelled off.

“When we think of our population that’s unhoused, it’s a very transient population. We saw a lot of new faces in September, and we thought these were the new people we were going to get to know. To be honest, we saw those people for a couple of months, and in November, we saw different new people,” she said. “It can be hard to measure.”

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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