Toronto Public Library’s plan to spend $ 1 million more on security not enough to fight violence: union

As the Toronto Public Library seeks to hire many more security guards at the city’s branches, library workers say this is not enough to tackle the widespread harassment and violence they face on a daily basis.

The board will vote on Monday to ask the city to increase its budget for security guards from $ 1 million next year to $ 5 million, an increase of 37% from 2021 and 225% compared to 2013.

Guards enforce COVID-19 rules such as wearing masks, managing queues and patrolling the building, says a staff report to the blackboard. They also help library workers defuse tense situations with customers, which a recent survey found is on the rise.

But Brandon Haynes, president of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union, said that while security guards are an integral part of protecting staff and customers at the city’s 100 branches, library workers need a lot. more support from management to prevent hostile incidents from happening in the first place, protect their own well-being and recover from trauma.

“They feel a lot of exhaustion. They feel they are not being heard,” Haynes said. “And at this point, that’s enough. Let’s treat this as a major crisis and not just a reactive response.”

Brandon Haynes worked in the library industry for 17 years before becoming union president. (Shannon Martin / CBC News)

Library workers call her daily, struggling to cope with “psychological scars” from their experiences at work, Haynes said.

“We had people spitting at it. We had people punching,” he said. “We hear from a lot of workers who feel neglected. They don’t feel the support that I think they deserve as library workers for the city of Toronto.

Workers say they are harassed daily

CBC News spoke to four Toronto library workers who described patrons making racist comments and threatening them and their colleagues with sexual violence and weapons, including knives, and lashing out violently when they are asked to wear a mask. Their experiences are similar to those of three other librarians interviewed by CBC News earlier this month.

Christie Paschakis, branch manager of a western library and union president, said she and her predominantly female staff face daily verbal abuse and sexual harassment and aggressive behavior. ” more serious “every week.

“Customers tend to think that they can intimidate you more, that they can push the boundaries because you are female,” said Paschakis, who has worked in the library industry for over 20 years.

“It’s not nice to constantly have to deal with a lot of this kind of misogynistic tendency and sexism.”

Library worker Jinkie David said she and her colleagues often feel on edge because this kind of abuse can happen anytime during a shift.

“It’s very triggering because you don’t know when the next incident is going to happen,” said David, who also serves as the union’s health and safety representative. “Unfortunately, they are sometimes back to back. There is no time to escape.”

Staff trained to deal with incidents

Toronto Public Library human resources manager Brain Daly said in a statement that all violent or harassing incidents are “totally unacceptable.” But he also indicated that – as libraries welcome everyone and operate in a “complex and turbulent world” – difficult situations will inevitably arise.

“It’s not new to libraries, but the world is getting more and more complex and it’s impacting libraries like all other public organizations,” Daly said.

“As such, we recognize that incidents between customers, or between customers and staff, will continue to occur despite every effort to reduce and eliminate them.”

The Toronto Public Library says workers undergo extensive training to defuse hostile situations with members of the public. (Katherine Holland / CBC)

He said library workers receive extensive training in dealing with rule violations, including resolving disputes and disputes, and management is working with the union and health and safety committees to support staff. and ensure their safety.

“While there are too many incidents and our goal should always be zero incidents, we have seen a positive impact from the efforts we have undertaken over the past few years,” said Daley.

Haynes and the other library workers CBC has spoken to are asking for higher staffing levels – in the hope of “security in numbers,” as David put it. They also say they need more mental health support and recognition from management that in very stressful situations training won’t always work and they always suffer harm.

The most recent data from the Toronto Public Library is from 2019, when it documented 248 violent incidents, roughly the same as the year before, but more than double those reported in 2016. This is roughly $ 1. 4 violent incident per 100,000 visits, a rate that has remained constant over the years, notes staff in their report.

But incidents are likely underreported and some staff are discouraged from documenting their experiences, Haynes said.

He added that more recent data would better show how the pandemic has sparked incidents of violence and harassment.


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