Misuse of Library spaces

We had a very interesting conversation in class last week. Aside for discussing webinars, we talked about an issue that the Ann Arbor Distinct Library is currently dealing with. The downtown branch has been dealing with patrons using the library as a place to do heroin. The article was featured in Mlive (read more here) and its become an even bigger issue because the library is contemplating whether or not to add a playground in near by area. If heroin or any other drug is an issue within the walls of the library, I can only imagine it becoming an even bigger problem in an open unsupervised space.

Our class discussion centered on the ethics of librarianship and is any of the ALA Code of  Ethics could be applied in this situation. But honestly this is a catch 22 for the library.  Obviously something needs to be done because that behavior is not acceptable in society, let alone in a library that is frequently used by children. So the idea of increasing security or having police officer stationed at the library was thrown around. However a library is meant to be a safe space, where people a not under surveillance or feel threaten by authoritative figure. Not everyone who uses the library comes from a culture where police officer are helpful or there to protect. Its unfair to those patrons who want to use the library as a space to explore, learn and discover interesting things, to be subjected to constant police presences.

Its difficult to say what the library director or staff should or could do because this is bigger than a library issue. This isn’t unreturned books. People are overdosing on drugs… and that is a community wide problem. Where can people in Washtennaw seek help for drug addiction? What is Ann Arbor going to do about its drug problem? Stopping people from selling of going drugs in the library doesn’t equal the illumination of drugs in the area because those who participate will find a different area to conduct this activity.  If this problem is going to be solved it has to be a community and legislative initiative.  Otherwise it will continue to grow and be an issue.

What will we do?

Til next time… Shhhh



  1. Catch 22 & sweeping a problem under the rug?

    As you say, drug use is an issue bigger than the library, it is a issue that needs to be addressed at a community (and societal) level. How do you engage an entire community in a discussion about an issue in their community? Maybe hold a town hall discussion. And where do you hold a town hall meeting? In a safe public space perhaps, like a library? So we are back to where we started.

    Blaming an individual for bringing a larger community issue to light is not the best course of action but unfortunately, I think the blame game has become a bit of the norm in American society.

  2. It’s interesting how this situation just goes to show that the library really does have a huge role in educating the community. It’s just that in the case of bringing heroin usage to light, many community members don’t seem to know or accept that it is really happening. Josie Parker’s commitment to telling the truth of the situation in a calm and non-accusatory way is commendable–hopefully people will start listening!

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