Harrassment of Toronto Library workers is totally out of control
Toronto Library workers are facing harassment on the daily, from shouting and being spat on to having books thrown at them. It's gotten out of control.
Since 2020, the harassment of library workers has escalated due to health protocols being put in place inside libraries, says Brandon Haynes, president of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union.
A University of Toronto report found that 84 per cent of library workers surveyed experienced verbal intimidation, such as shouting or disrespectful name calling.
Haynes says he's heard of one incident where someone took a wine bottle and began hitting staff with it.
"Library workers feel invisible sometimes. The job comes with risks. Even when people are reminded to wear their masks, we encounter people spitting or assaulting them," said Haynes.
Since in-person library services resumed, security guards have helped de-escalate some of these situations, acting as extra enforcement for the use of masks and maintaining branch capacity, says a staff report.
The city librarian has recommended that The Toronto Public Library Board hire on more security guards and expand their budget to $2 million to support safety and compliance with health protocols in branches.
Haynes says many library workers feel security guards are beneficial, but also need more assistance from them when incidents do happen.
Library workers in Toronto are trained in de-escalation, but if a guard doesn't have the skillset to interfere, they're often left to address the problem on their own, says Haynes.
Overall, Haynes believes putting more money toward security guards, won't solve the problem of harassment.
"Preventative measures need to take place," said Haynes. "We need to look at the design of branches, staffing levels, or improve isolated areas where people work and make the space more safe, before an incident might happen," he added.
Haynes tells blogTO that the Toronto Public Library Board needs to value the experience of their library workers, instead of simplifying the problem as being a societal issue not specific to libraries.
"Library workers want to feel that they're not left out. Security guards are part of it, but we need more commitment from our employer on this issue," said Haynes.
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