Public libraries are inviting public spaces that can offer both privacy and solitude. Unfortunately, this also makes them the perfect spot for those seeking a place to use illegal drugs. According to the Associated Press, the characteristics of public libraries leave them vulnerable to these types of situations, “They’re free of charge and open to everyone, and no transaction or communication is required.” As the country is in the midst of a heroin/pain-killer epidemic , libraries have lately seen cases of drug users overdosing or passing out in library spaces.
“In Norfolk, Virginia, a 47-year-old man died after a patron found him in a library restroom. In Batesville, Indiana, and New Brunswick, New Jersey, police revived others in library restrooms using a popular overdose antidote. The body of a homeless man who frequented the Oak Park Public Library in suburban Chicago might have been there for days, fully clothed and slumped on the toilet in a restroom on the quiet third floor, before a maintenance worker unlocked it on a Monday morning in April. The empty syringe and lighter in his pockets and the cut soda can in the trash pointed to the cause, an accidental heroin overdose.”
“In Eureka, California, a librarian found an unresponsive man with his lips turning blue. Law enforcement officials in the area equipped the library with a supply of Narcan, the overdose antidote, and so Kitty Yancheff injected it into the man’s leg and arm just before he finally regained some degree of consciousness.”
While your library may not need to consider dispensing Narcan, it might be worth it to develop procedures related to overdoses in the library. Local law enforcement and social workers can offer training and advice. In addition, remember that the library can likely best provide service in this arena via its traditional role of providing information, especially in the areas of substance abuse and drug addiction treatment, rehabilitation, related diseases, social services, and more.