NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The library will start locking the main bathroom doors and will install sharps disposal containers to deter drug use and discarded used needles in the facility.
The trustees met with Sarah DeJesus and Samantha Kendall of Tapestry Health on Wednesday to discuss different options in regard to combating drug use and overdoses in the library.
"It is not a daily thing but I think the staff wants to be more proactive and helpful," Library Director Mindy Hackner said. "We want to help the community get over this kind of problem without shaming."
The library has had a number of incidents and at least two people were given warnings and another a no-trespass order. The staff has had some training with the police chief but the library, like many across the country, is trying to maintain its mission as being open to serve the public while dealing with an opioid epidemic it's not designed to handle.
DeJesus said one of the more passive options would be to install a sharps dispensary disposal unit in the bathrooms that Tapestry would maintain. Tapestry, on West Main Street, operates North County's only needle exchange.
"We have installed them in other places and people tend to use them," she said. "We check on them periodically."
She said although this does typically decrease the number of sharps found astray in the bathrooms, it can come off as inviting.
"It is kind of a fine line because there are times when it gives the appearance of being a place where it is OK to use," she said. "I think for us, we know people are going to use drugs so we are always looking for the safer option and sharps are always safer in a container than on the floor."
Hackner said this was a fear of hers and the staff but noted the staff wants to extend help to those in need and went as far as to place the numbers of different counseling services in the bathrooms.
Trustee Don Pecor asked if it would be beneficial to train staff in administering Narcan and DeJesus said this, too, is an option.
Hackner said she has broached this subject with the chief of police, who didn’t think it was completely necessary. She added that she did not think the staff would have an interest in this and noted that with the police and fire station are in such close proximity, she did not see the need.
"We are so close. We did have one overdose here and before I even knew what happened we had six EMTs and several police officers here," she said.
The trustees asked if other libraries locked their bathroom doors and Kendall said she believed this was a practice in another city.
DeJesus added that it would allow staff to monitor the bathrooms, however, would make more work for the staff.
"I think locking the bathroom is your best proactive approach but it does add one more thing for staff to keep track of," she said. "Like who has the key, how long have they been in there, and at one point do you check on them."
The trustees agreed they would install a sharps container only in the primary main-floor bathrooms and experiment with locking the doors.
"We are more concerned with helping people and just knowing Tapestry is there gives the staff a tremendous boost," Hackner said.
They did not take a vote because the decision was not on the agenda but planned to next meeting.
DeJesus said Tapestry was happy to work with the library.
"We know people use drugs and unfortunately that is not stopping today, or next month, or next year so our goal is to keep people safe and alive while they are in that chaos," she said. "We want to help people get into treatment."
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Meranti leads the library trustees through the historic building to explain some of its issues.
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